Jesus once said “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet still believe.”
If I’m being really honest that’s a blessing I would rather do without. Given the choice I would rather “see” than “believe.”
Simply put, I wish I didn’t have faith.
I don’t mean I wish I didn’t believe in God or the resurrection or anything like that. That’s not what I mean at all. In fact, I mean just the opposite.
I wish I had knowledge. I wish I had surety. I wish I had proof.
I wish I could have walked with Jesus. I mean really walked with him down the dusty roads of Galilee. I wish I could have sat beside the historical Jesus and heard his voice with my own ears. I wish I could have seen his face with my own eyes. I wish I could have been there on Easter Sunday and beheld the empty tomb. I wish I could have joined with Thomas and put my fingers in the holes of his palms, felt the spear wound on his side, and know, not just believe, but know that he did indeed rise from the dead.
I understand that that wasn’t enough for most of the people who had the chance I so covet. Sure, Jesus and his disciples accumulated thousands of followers, but the majority of people in Jesus’ day didn’t join The Way. They saw just him as yet another in a long line of charismatic teachers and would-be messiahs.
But that real, physical, historical, tangible encounter would be enough for me.
It wouldn’t just wipe away my doubts, it would wipe away my faith and replace it with knowledge, affirmation, and the sort of assurance that doesn’t need faith because it has seen.
But it seems that blessed assurance must wait.
Even though we don’t like to talk about this sort of this, I’m willing to be if you’re a Christian, there are many times when you feel the same as I.
When you have doubts.
Tragically, doubt is an unwanted guest in much of the church today, particularly amongst those who call ourselves evangelicals. In the face of historical criticism, scientific breakthroughs, and the arrogance of fundamentalism, we are left thinking that doubt is the opposite of faith. Doubt, we are told, is the weapon of the enemy. If we allow it gain even a toehold, then the enemy wins and the Christian faith itself will come crashing down.
What we need instead it faith.
But faith is not a vaccination against doubt.
It is the embracing of it.
Faith embraces our deepest doubts, faces them head on, and chooses to believe anyway. We have faith because we doubt. If we didn’t doubt, we wouldn’t have faith. We would have knowledge.
But until Christ returns that sort of knowledge alludes us, no matter how arrogantly we may try to claim otherwise. Which means until that glorious appearing we must not only lean on faith, we must also make room for our doubts.
Doubting has a long tradition in Scripture.
Abraham doubted God’s promise. Moses doubted God’s gifts. Israel doubted God’s leadership. David doubted God’s presence. Job doubted God’s goodness. Peter doubted God’s Lordship. Thomas doubted God’s resurrection power.
And yet throughout these many doubts God did not pour out His wrath in anger. Why? Because God doesn’t fear our doubts. He embraces them, much like a parent embraces a child who doesn’t quite believe they’ll catch them when they jump into the pool for the very first time.
Throughout Scripture and throughout the history of the Church, the people of God have doubted, even in the face of God’s action in their lives. But this doubt hasn’t led to a collapse of the faith. In an ironic twist, it has tended to do quite the opposite. For many of God’s people who have faced even the deepest of doubts, those doubts have been the very catalyst for their faith. Why? Because the more they doubted, the more they were forced to rely on God to see them through the trails that gave rise to their doubts.
Thee saints certainly struggled through these doubts, but they didn’t fear them because they understood faith isn’t about knowing. Faith is about throwing ourselves headlong into the unknowable, the unprovable, the unbelievable and hoping that God will be there to catch us.
I have faith because when I have taken this leap God has been there catch me, not necessarily immediately, but always. This is what gives my faith strength. And this is as close as I will come this side of eternity to the knowledge of God I so desperately seek.
Which means my faith is a gift. And every time God catches me, that gift is given anew.
This doesn’t mean there aren’t times in between when I feel like I’m falling, when faith doesn’t seem to be enough, when I would gladly trade Jesus’ blessing for proof.
I have those moments in abundance.
I think we all do.
Our Biblical heroes certainly did.
And yet God did not strike them down.
God welcomed their questions, embraced their doubts, and offered them the gift of faith.
Which means if we as a church can’t make space for those who doubt, we have no right to claim to be a Biblically faithful people.
Grace and peace,