Holy Doubt, Batman!

If you don’t get the joke/reference in the post title, don’t worry. I’m just showing my age and love for an old TV show that I watched as a young boy. But it does go with what I want to share today.

Doubt is something that has often gotten a bad reputation. I remember experiencing this when I heard it being slammed pretty hard when I would listen to preachers and other teachers in religious gatherings. You just weren’t supposed to doubt what you were being told about God, the Bible, or the doctrine of the church you were in. “Just accept what is being said and move on!” That was the message that often hinted at a warning that if you did doubt, something bad would happen.

This negative image of doubt is, of course, not restricted to religious settings. Questioning certain people, rules, or systems is too often discouraged and even demonized by some. People who are hesitant to go with the flow are viewed as hinderances or worse.

I know the dark side of doubting because I am one who always has. I have a natural tendency to question things. People can get really aggravated when you don’t respond the way they want you to. When there is an agenda to push forward, a doubter can be a hurdle that has to be cleared. It’s not uncommon for a doubter to be removed from a situation in order for those involved to get what they want. This is a tragedy, as doubt is essential to growth, avoiding bad choices, and many other positive outcomes.

I will admit, doubting has sometimes gotten me into trouble. At this point, I want to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy doubt. Unhealthy doubt is the one that is troublesome. Unhealthy doubt can lead one to buck something or someone just for the sake of bucking, just to be hard to get along with. For someone like me, with rebellious inclinations, using doubt in a healthy way is something that needs to be learned in order to avoid unhealthy doubt. Healthy doubt, or Holy doubt as I really want to call it to go along with my post title, is a doubt that can be helpful for everyone involved. Holy doubt is not merely rebellious. It is much more than that.

There’s a story about a man named Jesus who was approached by a doubter (John 20:24-29, from whatever translation you like to read). His name was Thomas. Thomas was having a hard time believing that the other disciples had seen Jesus. That’s when Jesus stepped in and scolded Thomas for doubting, pounded on the Bible while pointing at him, and punished him with leprosy. Wait, no, that’s not what happened. Actually, Jesus responded to Thomas’ doubt with what he needed in order to embrace the truth.

What if Thomas had chosen not to voice his doubt? Although we cannot know for sure, I suspect it would have turned out differently. Thomas needed to voice it in order to progress to the embracing a very important truth. This is the case for us all. It is downright dangerous to ignore or stuff our doubt deep inside. It is a lie that doubt will hurt us or cause us to somehow shun the truth that we need. The opposite is true. Holy doubt leads us to the truth. Actually, as was the case in the story of Jesus and Thomas, the truth might walk right up and say, “Here I am!”

If we want to grow. If we want to mature and embrace truth. If we want our perspective in life to move more and more towards a clear view of what’s important and what is not. If we want to expel wrong thinking and lies that we believe about crucial things like who we are, how we view others, and God, then we must embrace doubt. Doubt will help us, if we will let it, evolve in our thinking, how we treat ourselves and others, and how we view and interact with God. Without doubt, we remain frozen in our current state of thinking and feeling. We are doomed to an ever-growing stale view of everything and everyone. Without healthy doubt, if we are wrong about something, we will stay wrong. To be refreshed, to be truly free, to find out where we are wrong and figure out what is right, doubt must be embraced as something holy, not evil.