I remember sitting in my first Bible study as a fifteen year old and feeling out of place. I’d been raised in a Christian home, I owned a Bible, I’d heard all these things before, and yet I had questions and feelings about the things I was reading. Everyone else seemed so sure, so confident, so in tune with Jesus, like they had him on speed dial. Their Bibles were marked up and dog-eared. While mine looked newish even though I’d had it since my baptism when I was 12. I was too scared to ask my questions, to reveal my doubt, so I shoved it away.
Fast-forward six years and I’m in college, my Bible is frayed and marked up. I know all the right answers to all the questions. I’ve this Christianity thing on lock, and yet there’s this nagging question in the back of my mind: is this enough? Am I doing this right? I’m trying to put forth a sure and confident front, but inside there are still questions and doubt.
Another six years and I’m married, I work for a Christian band, I love Jesus with my whole heart but to be honest there are still days I struggle being real with my Christian peers. And sometimes that fear leaks into my relationship with God. Some days I still feel like that 15 year old looking around at the kids in my Bible study wondering how they can seem so confident and sure about their faith. Sometimes it feels like I’m alone.
But I know I’m not. We just don’t like to talk about doubt in Christian community. We don’t like grey areas. We don’t like things that don’t feel black and white, or not having answers. It’s scary.
When I experience doubt, cynicism or fear I either ignore it— stomp it out, hide it in the closet, under the bed, pretend it doesn’t exist— or I brood over it privately keeping it alive. I do this because it’s too scary to share these things with other Christians. Because somewhere, somehow, having doubts and fears has turned into not being a good Christian. I’m afraid by sharing my doubt I’ll be shamed for not “just having faith.”
But Jesus doesn’t shame doubters. Instead he asks them to make disciples. Yeah you read that correctly. Let me show you what I mean.
“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)
This is the story: Jesus dies. He rises again. He gathers his friends. And some of them are like “Yeah I’m not sure.” But their doubt doesn’t stop him. Jesus doesn’t say “Okay everyone who is feeling great about everything can you step aside so I can give you a special assignment?”
He sends them all.
Okay here’s another story: Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at a well. They talk. She’s sarcastic and snarky. He’s patient and kind. Eventually he tells her things about her life and heart no one has ever known. She too gets sent back into town to tell her friends about Jesus.
“Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?’” (John 4:39)
Even after Jesus tells her everything she’s ever done she has more questions, not less. Jesus doesn’t shame doubters, he sends them into the world to share his love and truth. Why?
I think it’s because he knows that even doubters (like me) have an important story to tell. He knows some of us are going to have questions. He knows faith doesn’t come naturally to us all. There’s no shame is bringing him our questions, doubts and fears. He is big enough to handle them all, and there’s grace enough to work through the process of not knowing the answers.
So if Jesus doesn’t shame doubt, then why do we as the church?
Why is it that I get nervous butterflies that make my stomach a little queasy when I think about sharing these raw and vulnerable thoughts with the world?
I’m scared you’ll judge me. I’m scared you’ll think I don’t love Jesus. I’m scared you’ll think my faith isn’t rooted, strong or even real. I’m scared of what you’ll think.
But I know that if I feel this way, there there are others that do too. I’m tired of shoving my doubts and fears into a corner. Jesus doesn’t, why should I?
So today, day one of this seven day devotional, I want to create a new space. This place is for the ones who don’t have all the answers, and the ones who think they do. It’s for those of you praying “I believe! Help my unbelief!” It’s for Martha who’s afraid of what will (or won’t!) happen if she stops for even a second. It’s for Thomas who needs proof. It’s for Gideon who needs a sign. It’s for David who is afraid he’ll never climb out of the pit. It’s for Jonah who is the worst-best missionary. It’s for the thief on the cross who just wants to be remembered.
It’s because even if we as Christians sometimes lack grace and patience with one another, Jesus doesn’t. He’s standing, arms wide open, ready to sit down with you and talk it through.
You may leave with more questions instead of answers. You may find it scary and uncomfortable.
That’s okay. Grab your coffee, and let’s get ready to bring our real selves before the real God, resting in the truth that he already knows it all.
We don’t have to be ashamed.