I've been giving a lot of thought to a blog post about the apostle Thomas, written by my dear friend Papa Herman, over at In the Process of Weeding Out.
Herman is a member of the Eastern Orthodox church, belonging to the parish at St. Silouan in Walla Walla. In their faith they celebrate Great Lent, Pascha and Holy Week. These are rituals that my own faith does not observe. While we do acknowledge and celebrate the resurrection of Christ, we do not have anything even remotely close to the level of ceremony observed by my Orthodox friends.
I've really appreciated the way I learn from their practices, and how it makes me examine my own beliefs at entirely new levels.
In Orthodoxy, this past Sunday (the first sabbath after Holy Week) is known as St. Thomas Sunday.
The familiar expression "Doubting Thomas" is based on the story of how this apostle of Jesus Christ refused to believe in the resurrection until he had seen evidence of it with his own eyes.
The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” John 20:25
On St. Thomas Sunday there are special readings and songs about this good man and teachings about what we can learn from him. According to the website for St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church (in the Dallas, TX area) "The church characterizes St. Thomas' unbelief as "good", because it led to a greater manifestation of the reality of Christ's resurrection in the flesh:"
Herman's blogpost raised the question about when is it a positive thing to express our doubts and uncertainties...giving an opportunity to further growth and when is it a dangerous thing, potentially undermining not only our own testimonies but also those of others?
I HAVE seen cases where people have continually questioned the wisdom of various statements or policies of church leaders and that has led to increasing criticism and eventual apostasy. But in reality, don't we ALL have some doubts and uncertainties? When and how should we be open about those places in our beliefs that we are just not quite so sure? I am reminded of the song "Doubting Thomas" by Nickle Creek that says: "Can I be used to help other's find truth when I'm scared I'll find proof that it's a lie?"
For me, when it comes to matters of faith and how we approach our uncertainties, I think the key is in the attitude with which we express our doubts. If we say "I don't understand this principle and I would like to learn more" that is way different from saying "I don't believe this is true". The former path invites greater dialogue and allows room for the Holy Spirit to witness. The latter closes doors and fosters further turning away.
I try to hold on to the words of 2 Nephi 22: 2 that say:
"Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid; for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also has become my salvation."
But, like Thomas the apostle, too often there are things I want to believe in 100% that I just don't yet feel completely sure about.
When those times come, perhaps I can learn to explore and lean into my uncertainty with a searching spirit of trust in understanding yet to come rather than feel it a source of failure. For really, the more I think about it, it's those areas where I once felt weak and unsure and then over time developed greater understanding that are most sweet.
I really do believe the scripture in Ether 12:27 that says: "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."