By Jenny Smith
Five years ago, I spent one glorious evening with some friends sitting on the rocky coastline in Anchorage, Alaska. We had spent the previous four months struggling along our faith journey together, asking hard questions and giving voice to doubts we thought no one else had. That evening, we celebrated communion on the side of these rocks while a whale swam by. We were reminded that questions, doubts and the presence of God can coexist. And that alone was healing. Some of us have grown up in faith communities who have welcomed our hard questions and doubts about God, faith, church and life. Others have gotten the message, loud and clear, that challenging long-held beliefs are off limits. Many have paid a painful price for asking questions. As we walk with Jesus this week to the cross, the empty tomb and the joy of Easter morning, it’s worth pointing out how doubt and difficult questions played a significant role in the Easter story.
Peter struggled to claim he knew Jesus. The disciples didn’t believe the female disciples’ first report of Jesus’ resurrection. Peter saw the empty tomb and left confused. When Jesus appears to the disciples, Luke 24:41 tells us the disciples questioned in the midst of their happiness. You may know the story of Thomas wanting proof before he’d believe Jesus. Why do we struggle with uncertainty and doubt? Not knowing is uncomfortable. We’d much rather know. Part of what it means to be human is to arrange our world in a way that makes sense. So if we learned that faith looks a certain way, then we feel safe inside that perspective. But if this didn’t happen exactly like that, or if that story was more metaphor and myth, than historical account, the system implodes. So it just seemed easier to push the questions down in our spirit – which in the end, hasn’t done any of us any good. It’s OK to not know. Accepting that truth may be the first step to seeing the world as God does. Doubt is often the doorway to faith, if we’ll wrestle with those doubts in ways that are honest and open. Rachel Held Evans gives voice to those who enter places of worship on Easter morning, with swirling questions and doubts about this Easter story. She writes, “What if we made this up because we’re afraid of death?” She goes on to say: “And you won’t know how to explain why, in that moment when the whisper rose out of your mouth like Jesus from the grave, you felt more alive and awake and resurrected than you have in ages because at least it was out, at least it was said, at least it wasn’t buried in your chest anymore, clawing for freedom.”
What if doubts are good? What if the very thing that terrifies us is necessary to grow our faith? May you know your doubts are normal, biblical, and they don’t surprise God. May we celebrate the astounding gift of new life in the midst of our pain and confusion because the very One who made us disrupted and redeemed the entire system that keeps us stuck in the first place.
Christ is risen indeed!