In my Christian life, Doubt is my nearly constant companion.
Christianity is just not one of those things that comes easy to me. I enjoy it. I find the Christian worldview to be interesting and compelling. But I often have a hard time believing. Believing often feels like way more work than it ought to be. And that’s before I even get to practicing Christianity. The belief is the easy part. Even the demons believe, the Epistle of James tells us, but I often struggle with belief. Doubt is a major component of my faith.
But I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.
In Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospels, Jesus’ last words on the cross are, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?”
Which sure sounds like doubt to me. And if the perfect and sinless son of God, who performed miracles and had the Spirit of God descend on him like a dove can experience moments of doubt, then I think that we’re allowed to experience doubt at times as well.
Now, to be fair, Jesus’ cry on the cross is a quote from the 22nd Psalm, which is a psalm that starts in hopelessness and ends up in hope. The Psalmist who cries out “Why have you forsaken me” in verse 1 is the same Psalmist who acknowledges, “God has not hidden his face from me.” in verse 24. But I think the reason that Jesus quotes from Psalm 22 is because he recognized the feelings of the Psalmist. On the cross, Jesus feels the pain and the anguish that would cause someone to cry out and question the presence of God.
And that question isn’t a bad one. Because doubt is a part of faith. And feeling abandoned or alone isn’t a marker of a weak faith. When we go through seasons of trouble, it is natural to grapple with questions of doubt. And while I believe a strong faith will be able to weather the storms of doubt, I do not think that a strong faith ought to avoid those storms.
Actually, doubt is the only circumstance in which faith can evolve. If we have absolute certainty about everything we know and believe, then there’s no reason for our understanding to grow. Doubt is a form of humility. Doubt helps us refine our beliefs.
So unless we believe that we know everything that one can possibly know about God, the Bible, the Church, and Salvation, then we ought to encourage holy doubt. We ought to celebrate doubt as a marker of a faith that is alive and growing. And we ought to work together as a Church to help each other grow from our moments and seasons of doubt. We ought to rely on each other to make it through our periods of uncertainty and confusion.
And that may look different for different people at different times. Sometimes in moments of doubt, I need someone to speak a straightforward word of truth to me. Someone who can explain the truth to me in a loving, gracious way.
But other times, I just need people to dwell in my doubt with me. I need people who can sit beside me and say, “I don’t know about that, but I know that we can pursue God together.” When we learn to rest in holy doubt as a body of Christ, we find ways to make it through doubt and back into the confidence of the promises of God.
But if we can’t do that. If the Church doesn’t practice walking through doubt together, our moments of uncertainty might become faith-shattering moments.
And the season of Lent is a perfect time to practice doubting together. Where we enter into the uncertainty of the crucifixion as a community and we help each other walk towards the resurrection.
Because the death of the Son of God is a moment that merits doubting. That’s why Paul says the crucifixion is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. How could the Son of God be killed like a criminal? That doesn’t even make sense. It’s almost like God wanted us to question what we believe.
But we shouldn’t question it alone. And we shouldn’t make others face their questions alone. Because if we doubt alone, we might start to feel like we are alone. But if the Church doubts together, the Church can grow together.
So the Church should not only not condemn doubters, but the Church should actually foster doubt. People should feel safe coming to Church with their doubts. It should be a place where we can share our questions and concerns and know that even if the Church has no easy answers, we will find support there.
And who knows, maybe by doubting together, we will also find faith together.
So during this Lenten season, don’t run from Doubt. Instead, lean into it. Join together with the community of the Church and embrace the uncertainty. Recognize that doubt is a necessary and important part of faith. Allow God to use those doubts to grow us in our understanding and pursuit of God. So that in the moments where we are crying out from Psalm 22, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” we’ll know what comes later – “For God has not despised or scorned, the suffering of the afflicted one; God has not hidden God’s face from him, but has listened to his cry for help.” And we can know that, even among our doubts, Easter is coming. Even while we doubt, Resurrection is on the way.