Today’s Scriptures: From the Book of Common Prayer
Psalm 146, 147, 111, 112, 113
Job 4:1-6, 12-21
What do we do when confronted by our own doubt?
I dread being asked a question for which I should know the answer, but cannot recall it instantly. Even as I eventually recall the response at some point in the near future, I face a period of doubt, even over a subject at which I am considered an expert. The same thing happens to all of us from time to time when we confront a situation that conflicts with our belief - or what we have been taught is church doctrine. The passages today give us some guidance about facing doubt.
The Psalms passages remind us of who God is and why we worship him. They could be read, with their listing of God’s works, as saying he has “earned” our worship. Such an interpretation does not take into consideration the entirety of scripture. We worship for God for who he is, not the things he has done. Several of the verses address the concept of doubt we see in the overall collection. In 146, verse 8 mentions “opening the eyes of the blind” – helping those who do not know or understand him to know God. Psalm 147:5 speaks of his “understanding beyond measure.” The passages assure us of that the things God “does” emanate from his nature, not from any effort to “earn” our devotion.
One of the most challenging books in the Bible, Job, takes us through a lengthy debate about why things happen to people, and how we respond when those things happen. The verses from chapter four today come from one of his friends who have come to Job following his loses. He questions Job’s perspective on the situation after praising Job for his good works in supporting others through difficulty. He suggests that Job may be too close to the events to have a good view of it and goes on to recount a dream (revelation) he had. The dream brings out a brief revelation of God’s nature and asks the question of whether anyone can be good in the presence of God who is perfect. He doubts Job’s claims to have suffered unjustly because no matter how good he is, he was not “good” in relation to God.
In Revelation chapter 4 we are brought to the throne of God where all doubt is cast aside by the presence of God himself. Ecstatic worship and splendid sights abound in the presence when we encounter the nature of God directly – with no more middle-man giving it to us. Connections to history come with the 24 worshipers (tribes of Israel + apostles), the thunder and lightning (God’s appearance on the mountaintop). The creatures represent creation and God’s eternal watchfulness over it. The fulfillment of our faith comes in that presence.
Jesus encounters people he has known his entire life in the Mark passage. The familiarity blinds the people to seeing who he is. They knew his siblings, hired him for construction work, worshiped with him at synagogue. Suddenly he becomes a breakout faith leader. Their familiarity created an insurmountable doubt in his words as a teacher. Unlike the woman whose faith moved her to simply touch his garment for healing, the people of his hometown lack enough faith despite evidence.
Doubt is not something for us to fear. While God is eternally consistent in his nature, we struggle to understand the “why” behind everything that happens. We are driven to understand things that are beyond our understanding. Doubting forces us to ask the questions that move us forward in understanding. The understanding we gain comes in knowing God’s nature. We do not always understand the “why,” be we grow in our faith. Job, the elders at the throne, and the people of Jesus’s hometown all dealt with doubt. Some grew, some overcame, and some failed. I am in the Jobian category but look forward to the elders’ experience.
Let us embrace the doubts we have from time to time and take the opportunity to grow in our faith.