Recently Vibrant Faith Catalyst blogger Dr. Mark Slaughter posted his raw and vulnerable exploration into personal doubt with “The Secret We’re Afraid to Admit.”I’m grateful to Mark for his courage, and for highlighting the relationship between doubt and faith. Mark wrote: “As pastors and ministry leaders we’re expected to puncture the doubts of others, not harbor them ourselves.” But I resonate with his decades-long wrestling match with doubt myself. The apostle Thomas has long been a favorite of mine—it’s unfair that he’s forever known as “Doubting Thomas,” because I can appreciate his “show me” attitude.
I once shared my own struggle with doubt with my pastor, and he said, “Oh good!” I must have look confused, because he started laughing. He followed with: “Doubt is good in one’s faith life. It’s an invitation to deeper faith, an invitation to wrestle with God.” There are so many examples of people wrestling with God in Scripture— why do we hesitate to share our struggle?
Perhaps we need the permission Mark offered in his blog. Mary Lou Redding writes about this kind of permission in her book, While We Wait. Spotlighting Mary's incredulous-but-brave response to the angel's news that she will bear the Son of God, Redding writes: “One lesson I draw from Mary’s questioning is that we have permission, to be less than sure, to engage God and God’s messenger when we have questions...Belief and doubt are two sides of a single question about finding meaning and direction in life.”
Mary is a model for faith. We are told “‘she was greatly troubled at what was said...’ and she went on to ponder what the angel’s message meant.” Mary summoned the courage to accept the mystery of God’s coming, without having the need to understand it. What a beautiful example of how we might live with doubt and faith together. To enter into a deeper faith we hold our balance in this tension, even surrender to it.
Our journey into deeper and deeper faith is all about surrender. And it’s a little easier for me to surrender this time of year. The miracle that empowers the culminating events of Advent opens our hearts. At Christmas, even the most doubting among us get a taste of “wonder.” Pastor and author Eugene Peterson encourages us to wonder: “Wonder is the only adequate launching pad for exploring this fullness, this wholeness, of human life... (of this mystery)... The wonder keeps us open-eyed, expectant, alive to life that is always more than we can account for, that always exceeds our calculations, that is always beyond anything we can make.”
The Advent season is so full of wonder...
So, if you’re a doubter, don’t lose hope. Invite your doubt and your faith to work on you. Wrestle with God. Ponder the big questions. Enter into the mystery. And be awake to wonder in your life.
Merry Christmas, All!
Originally published on December 20, 2021 for Vibrant Faith’s Online Community - https://vibrant-faith-catalyst.mn.co/
I share my own thoughts here. They do not represent the opinions of any organization I work with or for. They are my own, and I reserve the right to change them when I please. I am still growing, and learning, and evolving.