The Burden of Belief (A Meditation on Doubt and Faith)Blog, Essays, Music — By Bert Montgomery on April 24, 2012 at 9:49 am
FULL SCRIPTURE TEXT: John 20:19-29 (NLT)
“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” (John 20:28-29)
Some of us find it easy to believe.
We are strong, firm, resilient, & certain in our faith.
Some of us just know that Jesus is alive.
That Jesus is Lord.
That God is in control.
And blessed are you who believe without seeing!
But then there are some of us
who work very hard
to convince ourselves that we believe.
We’re scared of potential consequences
of admitting we have any doubts.
We’ve heard it said too many times…
if … you believe;
if … you pray;
if … you ask;
if … your faith is strong enough.
And we want God to love us.
We need Jesus to save us.
We want the Lord to heal us.
But we’re afraid we may not be sincere enough to satisfy God.
We view God like we see Tinkerbell -
we must clap and proclaim convincingly
We do believe in fairies!
We do believe in Jesus!
We do believe in God!
And we work and work and work
so that we might hear these words,
“Blessed are YOU who believed without seeing me.”
But there are also some of us who find it very difficult to believe …
We have seen the unspeakable brutality of the Holocaust;
We have seen the unspeakable brutality of racism;
We have felt the burning sting of the whip from “Christian” men;
We we have watched an innocent child suffer from birth;
We watched a mother bury her own child;
We have been betrayed by those we love and trust the most.
And we look around us and say
“blessed are you who believe,
but we have seen …
but we have seen …
we have seen too much …
And we cannot play
silly Tinkerbell games
to massage the ego
of some god suffering from low self-esteem”
Yes, blessed are you who believe and have not seen …
But we have seen, oh yes,
and nobody knows
the horrors we’ve seen
and believing is really, really hard work.
David (not his real name) is a congregational minister.
David recently suffered through the death of two close family members,
one under very tragic circumstances.
David bravely shared with a pastoral colleague
that he honestly does not know
if he even believes this stuff about God anymore.
The trusted confidant noted
that another Sunday is about to come around.
“David, what will you – a minister – do?”
David paused, then answered,
“I guess I have to trust them
to believe for me
until I can believe it again for myself.”
Sometimes our doubts are so great –
and sometimes we cannot believe anymore.
But we want to believe,
and we keep coming to worship,
we keep talking about faith with trusted friends,
and we keep singing together,
and we discover that even when we don’t believe anymore,
others are believing for us,
others are trusting for us,
others are sustaining our faith for us,
until we are able to believe again ourselves.
All of us have various degrees of certainty about God;
about life eternal;
about abundant life now.
But it’s not about you convincing yourself that you have no doubts
in order to convince God that you believe enough
(whatever “enough” is).
It’s about God loving you regardless of your ability to believe.
And it’s about the community of faith
carrying our faith for us.
Feel the breath of Jesus breathing upon you
and hear the voice of Jesus saying,
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”
So let it be.