March 2024

Faith and Doubt          

The resurrection of Jesus is a big claim and not the easiest to accept. Understandably, many ask themselves if that could really have happened. Jesus’ contemporaries found it just as incredible as we do. There are good reasons to accept that Jesus rose from the dead just as the witnesses reported.

However, if we stop and think of instances of doubt and faith in our lives, we might find faith challenged by different kinds of doubt.

  • Doubt brought on by misfortune and suffering, when we may doubt in God’s goodness, God’s presence, or God’s concern for us in particular.
  • Doubt from shame, when we may doubt that God could forgive, again and again, or that God could love us in particular.
  • Doubt brought on by difficult choices, when we may doubt that the cost of doing the right thing is worth the price we’ll have to pay, or if God is involved or leading us.
  • Doubt brought on by questioning, when we may doubt the reliability of the Jesus’ witnesses, or the likelihood of miracles.

Along with these doubts, there may also be anger, bitterness, discouragement, grief, fear, emptiness, or confusion. This struggle is part of being human, powerfully and movingly captured by the ancients in the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, or Job. Even Jesus described being tempted to doubt.

What does it mean that God chose to answer these doubts by being born of Mary, suffering and dying as a criminal, and saying to us, “Follow me”? God must have believed sending Jesus was the best way to answer our doubts. This is how Christianity looks at life.

Let’s consider two things. First, the answers to our questions are found by seeking to know another being, a person, that is Jesus. A person isn’t easy to define, it takes time and personal involvement. And we know someone best by loving them. Second, the answers to our questions are only found as we live them out. We might prefer to get all the answers and then choose to believe.

We call this very personal journey “faith.” By this we mean not the disappearance of doubt, but a decision to trust, and trust again, that we will find our answers the more we know Jesus and as we follow him through life and eventually through death. Faith encourages people to look to the future, expecting to find that one day, in Paul’s words, we will see clearly.

Augustine is said to have put it this way, “Faith seeks, understanding finds.” Historians have observed that much of our modern knowledge of science, medicine, technology, as well as theology, was possible because Christian faith looks forward. There was faith that God wanted to be known, that God wanted the order and life of the world to be known, and for centuries, this inspired women and men of faith to persevere in trying to understand God and God’s ordered world.

Just one more note. It is not only misfortune or skepticism that allows doubt to take hold. Sometimes inertia keeps us from seeking answers. In the comedy Small Time Crooks, one character laments, “I’ve always wanted to learn how to spell Connecticut.” In this simple line, Woody Allen captured our struggle to take even simple steps to find our answers. While there are genuinely tough questions about Christianity, I have to say, often enough people share doubts that could be easily answered with just a bit of effort.

As we study Jesus’ life, pray to him, and obey him each day, we are seeking to understand doubt, suffering and evil, but we also discover we are contemplating our creator and the source of all life. There is powerful and deep joy in knowing God.

As you trust God to help you understand and follow Jesus, may your faith bring you hope and comfort.

With love, Pastor Joel 


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