The Power of Doubt: Day 5 of 5

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Happiness

-Amanda Gayle Reed

29 Jesus replied, “Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe.” -John 20:29, Common English Bible

As an introvert, I’m hardwired to think deeply about things. As the daughter of a science teacher, I was taught to ask questions. My mother always had a book in her hand and taught us to seek wisdom in their pages.

So, when the tougher issues of faith arise, the ones I can’t readily explain, I find myself dwelling on them, wondering about them, and seeking out the thoughts and ideas others have had about the same issues.

But sometimes the things of faith can’t be explained no matter how many questions we ask or how many books we read or how long we think about it. There are mysteries we just can’t explain.

I can’t tell you exactly what happens at the Communion table. I know that the bread and wine are still bread and wine… and yet my heart and soul tell me that they are the body and blood of Christ. I can’t fully explain what is happening or how it has happened. But the questions and the wonder have lead me study and pray and dwell on the issue more and more with each passing year, which has brought me into a more intimate practice of the ritual.

The greatest thing about doubt is that it allows us to surrender and acknowledge our limitations. Those who think they know everything, who have no room for learning or growing, are certain in all they believe. But by acknowledging that there are things I don’t understand, things I can’t wrap my mind around, I let go of my control of these things and look beyond myself for an understanding bigger than me.

Thomas asked questions and expressed a doubt any sane person would have had. He had not seen what his friends had witnessed. And everything he knew about life and death made it an impossible story. It’s not an easy pill to swallow, that this man he walked so many dusty roads with could rise from the dead. By expressing his doubt he acknowledged his own limitations of understanding. By speaking his needs for belief he was allowing himself to ponder the limits of his own faith. And it allowed God a chance to instruct, teach, and grow Thomas’ understanding.

When Jesus said that those who do not see and yet believe are happy, he wasn’t raking Thomas over the coals for his doubt. He was speaking a simple truth: the day was coming when believers wouldn’t be able to trace those physical nail holes; yet, they were going to be asked to believe the same thing which caused Thomas, an apostle, to struggle.

By following Thomas’ example, we, too can surrender our control over knowledge and open ourselves to possibilities beyond anything we can imagine. We can let go of our certitude and look into the face of mystery. We can ask the questions that worry our minds and seek out the evidence we need. We can acknowledge that we don’t know the answer and open our ears to hearing them.

There is a power in doubt, if we acknowledge it, because it can open our hearts and minds to the mysteries beyond our grasp.


About The Author

Rev. Amanda Gayle Reed is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. She is a member of the West Virginia Conference currently serving a congregation in Gooding Idaho. She is a graduate of West Virginia State University (Institute, WV) and the Iliff School of Theology (Denver, Co) and frequently writes at AppalachianPreacher.com