Overcoming Doubt

How does a modern-day 'doubting Thomas' get to believe that Christ yet lives?

Topics

Faith

After walking to San Diego’s Spruce Street in exploratory mode, I chanced upon a charming historical site, which still hovers in my memory: a suspension footbridge that looked to be about 400 feet long. Later I learned it was built in 1912 for access to a trolley line by homes on the other side of Session Canyon, its floor some 70 feet below.

A stiff wind was blowing, so the five-foot-wide bridge got to swaying. To this day I have not set foot on it, and the only excuse I can offer is fear. (Usually I’m a gutsy guy, as shown in my ten-year trek across America.) When gusts of wind swayed the bridge, was my fright triggered by those two screaming girls halfway across? Or was it the old bridge construction, creaking and groaning in its ply steel cables? At 100 years old, it looked weak, weathered, and worn.

In reflection, I suppose my timidity could be traced to rigorous mechanical engineering studies in metals stress lab at college, where steel cables would snap under enough tension. If I had been present at the original design, construction, and tests of this old bridge, then I’d probably have no doubts in walking across.

The girls came off the bridge giggling, as if to say it was no big deal. Their innocence and naiveté allowed a blind faith that the bridge must be safe and sound. They were confident that the city would have warned otherwise. Wisdom is wasted on the old and youth on the young. That’s the thought I had watching those girls. I worked 28 years as a city construction inspector and have first-hand experience with errors and omissions in sloppy reports and tardy inspections.

My background and senses were pushing against blind faith. I realized I was a “doubting Thomas.”

St. Thomas needed a hands-on experience to muster faith in that mystic bridge to heaven, Jesus Christ. Thomas declared he would not believe the Lord had resurrected from the dead unless he could inspect Jesus’ wounds (John 20:25-28). How frightened he must have been to see a “dead man” walking through a locked door like a ghost, asking for food and showing His wounds. I can feel his fear and trembling as he put his finger between Christ’s ribs and into His wrists. Thomas was forced to believe the incredible, because his senses proved it true.

“Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

But then, how does a “doubting Thomas” 2,000 years later get to believe that Christ yet lives? Without Christ’s wounds, what would it take to totally convince me?

I suspect such conviction can only be achieved by feeling inwardly those painful wounds—by having been virtually crucified in life. Countless are the ways: death of one’s only child, a serious accident that disables for life, or divorce unto bankruptcy. The trauma would have to be so intense as to invoke “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” — a cry made in utter despair, just before dying to the old self. Then, after crucifixion, being reborn with the mind of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 2:16).

The proof is in realizing He lives and keeps His promise to return. No calculating engineer can sway me into disbelief for lack of measurable, tactile evidence.

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

Unless one experiences that virtual crucifixion and resurrection — working out one’s own salvation with fear and trembling (cf. Phil. 2:12) — the elements of doubt will remain. As for me, nothing can separate me from Christ: no terror in the night, no fear of great persecution leaving me hungry and homeless. Now I can chance across that deep abyss called death without any fear, assured of safe passage home.

 

Richard M. DellOrfano spent ten years on a cross-country pilgrimage following Christ’s instruction to minister without possessions. He is completing his autobiography: Path Perilous, My Search for God and the Miraculous.

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