Doubt has many faces, which can make it really difficult to identify and to combat. Knowing the various faces of our doubts, knowing what they look like and what they cause us to do, as well as knowing what is really at their core, is so key in the process of overcoming them.
Sometimes doubt looks like not really believing that God can intervene in our lives in a real and tangible way, and sometimes it looks like not really believing that he will. Sometimes doubt looks like not really believing that God loves us, and sometimes it looks like not really believing that we are worth loving. Sometimes it looks like not really believing that God will act on our behalf, and sometimes it looks like not really believing that we are worthy of being acted for. Thus, sometimes doubt has to do with ourselves, sometimes it has to do with others, and sometimes it has to do with our God.
But in all cases, doubt is about not really believing. Not really believing that God is good. Not really believing that he is trustworthy. Not really believing that he is enough. Not really believing that he is living and active. Not really believing that he is always at work for our growth and well-being. Not really believing that he is in control.
And when we live in doubt, it sets us off in really bad directions. Our lives become filled with fear and anxiety and insecurity. Or we get overwhelmed and overcome with grief and despair and depression. Or we find ourselves frustrated and angry and bitter. Or we become obsessed with jockeying and performing, or with managing and controlling; all of which make us such terrible versions of ourselves. And God wants so much more for us than that. He wants us to believe.
That’s why he tells Thomas, as well as you and me, “Stop doubting and believe!” It is both a command and an invitation. Not a command in the sense of “Do this or else,” but in the sense of “Do this so that.” Stop doubting so that your life will be all that I hoped and dreamed it would be. Stop doubting so that you will be controlled and compelled by love, rather than by fear and anxiety and insecurity. Stop doubting so that you can become more and more like the person I created you to be.
“Stop doubting and believe!” is also an invitation. Jesus invites Thomas, as well as each of us, into a new way of seeing and of being. He invites him to let go of certain ways of thinking and living, so that he can experience the life and the freedom he was made for. He invites him to be set free from the old patterns and habits of the false self, in order that he might become new and true. He invites him to “be transformed by the renewing of his mind so that he can test and approve of what God’s will is; his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2) And he invites each of us into that process as well.
So what would it look like for you to “Stop doubting and believe!” today? What does doubt look like for you right now? What “face” is it wearing? What effect is it having on your life? How is Jesus inviting you to believe in such a way that it enables you to leave doubt, and all of its effects, behind? What does that look like? Will you do it?
For if you and I are willing to answer these questions, and if we are willing to “Stop doubting and believe!”, then maybe one day each of us will be able to stand before Jesus, as Thomas did, and utter the words: “My Lord and my God!”