“Hello Rev’d Mason, this is BBC radio Bristol here, we wonder if you’d mind being interviewed…”
Sometimes I regret picking up the ‘phone…
“…Er, no, Er happy to do anything I can to help” I foolishly said.
“We would like to interview you about doubt…” the caller continued.
I could still back out, but something in felt I should respond positively… We had recently had a visit in Bristol from Archbishop Welby and he had spoken honestly on the Friday night about the fact that he does sometimes have to wrestle with confusing questions and doubts. He had cited the Psalms were the writer is wrestling with faith, and admitted that he could identify with these feelings.
I had a moment of panic, what would I say, as I silently prayed for inspiration, whilst gulping my coffee, spilling a load down my front –glad this was radio!
My mind raced to doubting Thomas first of all (John 20.24-28).
I think Thomas gets a raw deal in scripture and Church tradition labelled for all time as ‘Doubting Thomas’.
Yet, wouldn’t most of us have had doubts and questions if a friend had been brutally executed and suddenly a few days later some of our mates were saying that they had seen him alive and had met with him.
It seems too incredible to believe! He has questions and doubts and that is understandable; wouldn’t you have doubts and questions if you were in Thomas’ position?
True he doubts the resurrection, but he wasn’t there when the resurrected Christ appeared to them in the upper room.
Yet, when he met with the risen Christ and spoke with him, his doubts gave way to a realization of who Jesus was “My Lord and my God” (John 20.28) -a statement of faith, as great, arguable greater, than Simon Peter’s “you are the Christ the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16.16).
sometimes our questions and our wrestling actually can bring us to greater depth and spiritual maturity, God is big enough to cope with us and our complexities.
Yet I think Christianity is a faith strong enough for us to ask our questions of it and wrestle with it.
Christianity has been under attack for 2000 years and despite the best efforts of many it has remained standing in the face of an on-going attack.
When-ever I take an Alpha course, I talk about Christianity not being a religious where we have to turn our brains off and leave them by the door.
It is okay to ask questions, it is okay to feel full of faith on some occasions and other days struggle a bit, a God who never asks us to pretend or fake it, but a God who knows us and loves us and we can real and authentic with.
Too often I believe we confuse faith with certainty, as I believe they go together, can you imagine the butterflies going around Peter’s stomach when he stepped out of the boat on the water and began to walk towards Jesus?
One of my friends was talking about faith which she described as “do it scared” which meant allowing your faith to rise above your fear. It didn’t mean that doubts and questions are not in our heads and hearts but rather we are choosing to place our confidence, our life, our everything in the place of faith rather than putting our trust in our doubts that debilitate us and hold us back.
Steps of faith are scary, and we often can feel our knees knocking together, yet “God knows of what we are made” he understands our humanity, our hearts.
One of the most profound statements comes in a healing miracle of a man who says “I do believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:23).
Faith and doubt are two sides of the same coin, but we choose how we spend it, are we going to invest in being people of faith or people of doubt.
I believe that faith, like doubt, is a bit like a muscle, the more we use either the more we develop resilience and what Sports Scientists call “muscle memory” where certain behaviors become more habitual they come more naturally too us.
Another picture I find helpful is of the image of two dogs, one called ‘Doubt’ or ‘Fear’ and the other called “Faith”, which one wins – the one you feed the most!
The more we let either rule in our lives- the stronger one becomes and the weaker the other becomes.
Let’s learn afresh what it means to live by faith.