A skeptic is defined as “someone having the attitude of doubt.” Most people know a skeptic in his or her life – or have at least crossed paths with one somewhere along the way. If a skeptic is someone who has the attitude of doubt, it becomes important to look at what doubt is.
Doubt is defined as “to be uncertain about the truth or reality of something.” When it comes to doubt, it’s possible to 100% doubt something that’s 100% true, and it’s possible to 100% not doubt something that’s not true. The way people understand and perceive doubt can be a little misleading in itself.
Doubt can often be perceived as the enemy of faith. When this happens, legitimate questions can be shut down and go unasked because very few people want to be labeled a skeptic.. But since when is it a bad thing to ask questions? Since when is it a bad thing to seek to learn more or grow in what we believe about something? What if asking great questions catalyzed by a level of doubt actually clarified and strengthened what we believe?
In the context of relationship with God and following Jesus, it is good (even necessary) to clarify and strengthen what we believe. So, what if doubt isn’t the enemy of faith but is instead a crossroad where doubt and faith intersect to clarify and strengthen what we believe?
Jesus’ early followers found themselves in an intense season of doubt following his death. They gathered together to figure out what was next – and they did so behind locked doors out of fear of the Jewish religious leaders who had put Jesus to death. One of Jesus’ followers, Thomas was missing from this first meeting. But eight days later, he would be present at a second meeting when something happens that moves him from doubt to belief.
This part of Thomas’ story was the focal point of part 1 (Simply Skeptical) in CCC’s Without a Doubt series and can be found in John 20:24-29. Take a few minutes to check out the story and the next step of considering the following questions about how to move beyond doubt into belief.
- How would you describe someone who is a skeptic?
- Would you say there is a difference between skepticism and doubt? Why or why not?
- In what ways can doubt clarify and strengthen what we believe?
- Do you tend to believe or doubt the resurrection of Jesus? Why?
- Why do you think Thomas might have missed the first meeting when Jesus appeared to his followers?
- Why do you think Thomas doubted the other followers when they told him they had seen Jesus?
- If you could put yourself in Thomas’ place, what do you think your response would have been?
- What things had Thomas seen or heard previously that should have led him away from his doubt?
- In using the very words Thomas had used, how does Jesus stoop to the level of Thomas’ doubt?
- In what ways would it have been easier for Jesus to leave Thomas in his doubt? Why do you think he didn’t?
- What does Thomas’ response, “My Lord and my God” reveal about how he moved beyond doubt to belief?
- What does Jesus mean when he says blessed are those who believe without seeing? How does that connect to you personally?
- How did this message impact you? What questions does it raise?
- What next steps will you identify and overcome whatever doubt you have?
It would have been easy for Jesus to leave Thomas to live and mire in his doubt – but he doesn’t. Instead he stoops the level of Thomas’ doubt – even using his very own words – to move him beyond his doubt into belief.
Doubt does not have to be the enemy of faith. Rather, doubt can lead to great questions that can clarify and strengthen what we believe.
Today is Monday – make it a day that you take a step to identify and overcome whatever doubt you may have.