At about this time last year, my wife and I were prepared to leave for a volunteer mission project in Nairobi, Kenya. Fear of impending war in Iraq at the time and earlier terrorist attacks in the east African nation prompted officials of the Baptist World Alliance, the host organization, to reschedule the event.
On the morning we finally left a few weeks back, it was not exactly assuring to read that four Baptist mission volunteers had been murdered in Iraq. While I did not know any of them, the incident stirred emotions related to the death of Alabama medical missionary Martha Myers in Yemen the year before. Martha and I graduated from Samford University the same year, many years ago.
As we sought to reassure our family and friends–who doubted our judgment–that we were not afraid, we discovered an antidote for doubt and fear.
I recalled reading a book which fictionalized events surrounding the life of Christ from Palm Sunday through the Resurrection.
The novelists called the Sabbath a “Day of Doubt.” For a small group that had abandoned their jobs and followed Jesus, it was their lowest day. Shattered dreams of a new earthly kingdom lay sealed in a borrowed tomb. Peter, the first to acknowledge Jesus as the Promised One who would restore the new kingdom, could not be found.
Another of the group, Judas, was already dead by his own hands.
The rest were scattered throughout the city. It was indeed their day of doubt.
Although an ancient event, disciples today have also their days of doubt.
Just as Judas betrayed Jesus, men and women today betray each other. Our desire for our own earthly kingdom is just as great. Evil, hatred, bigotry, war, blasphemy, betrayal and fear continue to plague mankind, even the followers of Jesus. At times, we find ourselves as helpless and burdened as those earliest disciples. In fact, it seems we are caught in an age of doubt rather than a day of doubt.
Doubt is most often thought of in negative terms, as something bad or undesirable.
Excessive doubt can lead to uncertainty and distrust, but doubting also can yield positive results.
Doubt has been described as a gift from God to search. Even Jesus spent 40 lonely and trying days in the wilderness. On another occasion, he fell to the ground and prayed with such fervency that his sweat became as drops of blood. The depth of his agony may be found in the word “if.”
Doubt has been described also as a threshold from which we look for truth. Hence, doubt can be an honest, serious search for truth, a genuinely sincere expression yielding fruitful results.
One of the most common causes of doubt, however, is the lack of trust. If, for example, a spouse ceases to trust the other, suspicion will occur and the relationship will be in peril, regardless of the circumstances. The principle holds true in most relationships, be it from the sins of a few ministers or priests, or elected officials who betray a trust.
Fear is yet another cause of doubt. Some people never succeed for fear they will fail. Some couples never have a dynamic marriage for fear they will be hurt. Saddest of all, it seems, is that some people never really live for fear of dying.
In most cases, those who have succeeded in business, marriage, ministry–even life itself–are those who have learned to trust and confront the complexities of life with openness, honesty and little or no fear.
For the disciples, it looked like the end. But then came Easter. The Resurrection validated their confidence and trust. From that day forth, we find no record of doubt among the disciples, although each, it is believed, was martyred because of their faith. Such faith and trust are the antidotes for doubt and fear.