There may be no better time to reflect on doubt and faith than this coming week, where worship services will lead us through the tumultuous Passion week. The biblical texts describing this climactic week of Jesus’ earthly life boldly record both grim and exalting truths without flinching. If the gospel writers were so bold, perhaps older Christians can be as well. Still, it scares me to write talk and write about doubt in my life as a formation consultant. Even my ministry title implies that I consult about things that form rather than question faith.
And yet, I am increasingly convinced that mature Christians, myself included, need to practice transparency about the doubt they live with on the journey of life and faith. Why? Because, in this era at least, doubt is part of the air that all of us breathe. Therefore, we need to acknowledge, and perhaps even welcome doubt’s presence.
During his earthly ministry, Jesus never rebuked anyone for honest questions. He even greeted Nathanael, who was skeptical about Jesus and watched him from a doubting distance with the words, “Here is a genuine Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” (John 1: 47b)
So, in this passion week, I want to practice that same kind of honesty with myself and others as I move from Palm Sunday to the last supper, arrest, crucifixion, and finally the confounding and exhilarating resurrection accounts. I don’t know if I will name my doubts out loud, but I will at least record them in my journal. I hope and pray it may help me identify with the early disciples as they encountered that week with Jesus.
Perhaps owning and naming my doubts will make me into a more trustworthy conversation partner for those in the first third of life. Perhaps my transparency can help them feel more relaxed about their own doubts and hard questions. I write about the importance of this in my book, Please Pass the Faith: the Art of Spiritual Grandparenting, but that hasn’t made this discipline easy for me. However, it is as we journey with and through doubt as we navigate our way through life and its crises that our faith grows deeper.
If the young people in our families and congregations can accept doubt as a natural part of their faith journey, and see it as spiralling forward through the cycles of doubting , questioning, finding assurance and confessing, perhaps they will be more willing to hang in there with their faith and the church as they encounter doubt. I pray for a Passion week in which we can speak honestly about this across the generations.
Might Christ confound us with signs of resurrection within his beloved, but doubting and beleaguered church?