What does Doubt have to do with Fear and Anxiety?
We usually think of doubt as a way to describe unbelief, but the ancient etymology of the word included being “fearful.” Doubt describes the emotion connected to uncertainty.
The persistent anxiousness churning in the world right now is, for most of us, not the emotion of fear that comes from a real threat; it is the pervasive sense of being in a world that is not safe. We fear what we cannot know. We doubt our ability to handle situations beyond our control. With so much misinformation swirling around, a sense of being secure, even in Jesus and his kingdom, has proven to be a challenge for Christians.
A few weeks ago on the days leading up to Easter, I found myself thinking about how many Christians (me!!) have trouble relating to Jesus after the resurrection. People who knew Jesus well didn’t recognize him after he rose from the grave. Mary Magdalene thought he was the gardener. The disciples on the road were clueless until he sat with them for supper. One day the disciples were walking in the dust of his feet and three days later they were huddled up behind locked doors waiting for next steps. Poor Thomas was pinned as the doubter but it is likely he was in good company.
Is it easier to relate to Jesus on the earth healing the sick, feeding the multitudes, and calming the storm than to the God-Man who conquered death and who is now seated at the right hand of God?
Jesus didn’t seem surprised by the fact that those He walked with on the earth struggled to recognize him; nor did their doubt keep him from commissioning them to take the message of the gospel to the world.
“...the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain that Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth, Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…’” Matt. 28:16-19a NASB
It was a big day. These men were being charged with starting a movement that would change the direction of the world.
Jesus was the God of mystery and power beyond comprehension, the one who had conquered death. He had been given all authority in heaven and on the earth. This was the rock solid truth on which the disciples would move into their calling.
Jesus assured them that he was in the place of power to rule as He saw fit. He had laid down his power and the time had come for him to pick it up again.
“By His breath the heavens are cleared; His hand has pierced the fleeing serpent. Behold, these are the fringes of his ways: And how faint a word we hear from Him! But his mighty thunder who can understand?” (Job 26:13-14 NASB)
In other words, if God spoke with his thunderous voice then we couldn’t understand it. It would be too much for us to stand. It is the faint voice of God that we can perceive. He meets us where we are.
It may be unnerving to really consider the power of God, but it is necessary if we want to overcome doubt, and with it fear and anxiety.
On the night he was arrested, his power and authority slipped out for a moment causing quite a scene.
“So when (Jesus) said to them: ‘I am He,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.” (Jn. 18:6)
I imagine that night--torches flickering lighting faces, the whites of eyes glowing in the orange flame, mouths agape, adrenaline seeping through pores charging the night air with energy.
Jesus asked those arresting him to let the disciples go. Simon Peter was caught up in the chaotic moment. He drew his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s slave.
Jesus told Peter to “put the sword in the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?” (Jn. 18:11)
This Jesus, who spoke the words "I am" and dropped armed men like flies, goes with them willingly. He took the cup of suffering---the humiliation, the cross, then death---and drank it. Jesus drained the cup!!
It makes me wonder if the disciples’ doubt on that day on the mountain was not so much about who Jesus was, but more about if they were up for what He was calling them to do?
How could they be his ambassadors and representatives in the world when they couldn’t even act appropriately regarding who He was as God? How were they to lead others to a life of discipleship?
Jesus reassured them, “...and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Jesus wasn’t leaving them. He would be with them.
How does this relate to us as we seek to remain faith-filled in these days when doubt, fear, and anxiety seem to be in the air we breathe?
This God, who has authority in heaven and on earth, is with us. We don’t have to grasp for solutions concerning the suffering and injustice we see all around. We can put our swords in our sheathes and let Jesus remain on his throne. Jesus is ruling with justice and love. We can believe that the God whose voice is so soft we can hardly hear it or too loud it overwhelms is with us just as He promised. We can take our calling with all the saints to make disciples of all nations.
Lord, thank you for your word and the stories of the Bible that help me know who you are. Thank you for reminding me of the power and authority of my Savior, Jesus. Help me this day to put away my sword and trust you. Help me to take my eyes off my limitations so that I may fulfill my calling to share the Good News to those who need to hear. You are with me, always, even to the end of the age. Amen.