Monday, April 22, 2013

A Doubting Heart

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped (Mark 4:37).

“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

This question is perhaps the most common expression of doubt among people of faith. The question was directed at Jesus. There is within it a thinly veiled rebuke. One translator rendered the words in such a way that they imply accusation: “Are we to drown for all you care?” This is the question that will hold our attention for a few days.

The story that provides context to the question is from Mark 4. For many of you the story is familiar. Since it is brief, take a moment to re-read it.

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side." 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40 He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" 41 They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!" (Mark 4:35-41).

In her memoir, Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me, Karen Swallow Prior recalls her own struggles with doubt. She acknowledges that her struggles had nothing to do with God’s existence. “I wonder more that an airplane can fly than that the God of the universe exists,” she writes. Nevertheless, “I struggled against God . . . I didn’t doubt his being. I doubted his ways” (Booked, 190).

Her doubts are widely shared. Of course, there are plenty of doubts that are expressed as intellectual objections to the truth claims of the Christian faith. But just as often, doubt comes to us from a deeper place. We don’t question God’s existence. We do, however, question whether God cares. We are anxious disciples, doing the best we can to keep our heads above water. Jesus, it seems, is not dialed in to what’s happening.

Maybe you’ve been through a “furious squall” that caused you to question God’s ways. You didn’t abandon your faith, but your grip on God was severely tested. You may be in the middle of such an experience right now. This week we’ll ask the hard question about God’s ways with us and his care for us - and we’ll let God’s word remind us of how Jesus brings peace to our doubting hearts.

Gracious God, we need to hear your word of peace in the midst of our troubled lives and this chaotic world. Speak your peace to us in these coming days, reminding us of your faithful care in the midst of things we cannot control. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Mindful of You

When I look at your heavens . . . what is man that you are mindful of him (Psalm 8:3-4).

God is mindful of you. After the events of this week, you may have your doubts about that.

In the language of Psalm 8 the reality of God’s awareness of us is stated as a question rather than a declaration. The Psalmist looks at the vastness of the heavens, the myriad heavenly bodies, and wonders how it is possible. How is it possible that the God who made all of this takes notice of us? Can we truly believe that in the expanse and complexity of this universe God takes note of every sparrow that falls to the ground and numbers every hair on your head (Matt. 10:29-30)?

The Psalmist writes from a worldview that is increasingly challenged. Plenty of people have abandoned it all together. When the Psalmist asked how it was possible for God to be mindful of us, the question was actually a conviction. The question was grounded in the certainty that God knows and cares for us as beings made in God’s image.

But when we raise the same question, our question sometimes masks an accusation. To ask how God could be mindful of us is to say that God isn’t mindful of us at all.

And then there’s Boston. Thick plumes of smoke from Boston darken the skies above us rendering the heavens irrelevant and making it nearly impossible to contemplate the majesty of God’s name. We have questions. Hard questions. How is it possible that God is mindful of us? Moreover, how is it possible for any of us here on the ground to actually believe that God is mindful of us?

At this point we’ll need to look further than Psalm 8. We need more than an awe-struck gazing into starry skies. Psalm 8 belongs to a collection of 150 other prayers, some of which give voice to joy and gladness, some of which express deep gratitude – but not all. Not by a long shot. In fact the most common type of Psalm is a prayer of lament. The Psalms show us how to pray in the midst of suffering and loss and disillusionment. People who pray are not na├»ve.

We have been urged this week to “pray for Boston.” We should do so, and fervently. But how can we move beyond generic prayers for God to bless or help? How can we pray in such a way that our prayers are more than a technique for managing our own anxieties? We can do this by opening our Bibles and reading and praying the Psalms of lament. The Psalms will allow us to speak hard questions while keeping those questions grounded in conviction.

Whether your questions come from the mysteries of science or the miseries of the world, bring them to your prayers. Give honest expression to the questions without abandoning the convictions that make prayer possible to begin with.

To pray – especially when the prayers voice questions and pain – is to be mindful of God. And every prayer can be offered in confidence knowing that God is indeed mindful of us.

Teach us to pray, O God – often and honestly. Make us willing to voice lament as well as joy. Help us with what we cannot understand. Grant us grace that keeps our questions grounded in conviction, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Explanations and Songs

Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account . . . (Luke 1:3)

“No explanations in the Basilica.”

These words were posted near the entrance to the Church of Saint Anne in Jerusalem. Our group was walking the city and had been taken to what is believed to be the “pool of Bethesda,” the site of a healing miracle recorded in John 5. Not far from the pool sits St. Anne’s church.

The sign was aimed at tour groups like ours and the guides that lead them. Guides are constantly speaking to their groups, giving background and explanation relative to the various sites, often answering questions. Because of the remarkable acoustics in Saint Anne’s, guides are prohibited from speaking or explaining. The competing chatter would create a cacophony of sound unbefitting a place of worship. Singing, however, is permitted.

The sign was striking to me in the way it was worded. It seems that far too many people enter every place of worship as if these words have been posted at the door. And for this reason, some people have decided not to enter a place of worship at all.

Explanation is the language of reason and intellect. Explanations are arrived at by people who think critically and ask questions. Explanations require analysis and reflection. By contrast, the basilica is the place where the soul expresses love for God. The language most fitting for the basilica is singing and prayer. The basilica appears to be a place of quiet rather than questioning, a place where God is exalted and not explained.

For practical reasons the sign in front of St. Anne’s church made good sense. The intent was to safeguard the experience of all the visitors who entered the building by limiting the disruptive sound of competing voices.

However, as a general rule, “no explanations in the basilica” is the exact opposite of the message the church wants to send to the world. We do not wish to separate the life of the mind from the zeal of the heart. We do not regard the language of praise as incompatible with the language of explanation. We do not silence questions in an anxious attempt to preserve reverence.

The third book of the New Testament is attributed to Luke. Colossians 4:14 tells us that Luke was a doctor – perhaps the only biblical figure whom we may rightly regard as a ‘scientist.’ As Luke opens his account of the life of Jesus he discloses to his readers the methodological basis of his work. He investigated and researched all that had been told about Jesus. He asked good questions. He employed the energies of his mind in giving an “orderly” account of what he learned. But make no mistake about it – Luke is a believer.

Which comes most naturally to you – explanations or song? In your own life of faith strive to keep the life of the mind connected to the devotion of the heart. Let one feed and fuel the other. Let study lead to prayer. Let prayer bring honest questions before God.

Never be afraid of seeking explanations in the basilica.

In our questions, O God, make us willing to wait on you. In our singing, make us ready to seek more of you. Give us hearts restless for truth, yet always filled with worship and thanksgiving. Guide us in both our singing and thinking, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

For Your Consideration

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him . . . (Psalm 8:3-4)

Louis Agassiz was a Harvard professor and founder of the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, serving as its Director from 1859 until his death in 1873.

A story was recorded by one of Agassiz’s students, Samuel Scudder, which has taken on a life of its own over the years, often told now as a kind of parable with wide ranging applications to life. Scudder’s story tells about his first encounter with Professor Agassiz in which the venerable scholar presented his student with a fish taken from a jar of alcohol. Placing the fish on a dissecting try, Agassiz instructed Scudder to observe the fish and report his findings.

After ten minutes Scudder was convinced he had seen everything there was to be seen about the fish. When he made his report to Agassiz, the professor ordered him to return to the fish and resume the task. This went on for three days – the student observing the fish, reporting his observations, only to be sent back in order to see yet more. Scudder recalls “Look, look, look was his repeated injunction.”

When once asked, “What was your greatest contribution, scientifically?” Agassiz answered, “I have taught men and women to observe.”

One of the most beautiful lines in the Psalms in found in Psalm 8. Here the Psalmist marvels at the created order and states “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him?” The Hebrew verb for “consider” has many shades of meaning. The ESV Bible simply translates the word as “look.” The primary uses of the word are typically in the context of what we do with our eyes – seeing, looking, examining.

There is, however, something more in the act of “considering” than mere sight or observation. This same Hebrew word is used in 1 Samuel 12:24 when the prophet Samuel urges God’s people to “consider what great things he has done for you.” When we consider we do more than see. We see into. We look inquisitively. We want to know more than what something looks like, we want to know what it means.

The discipline of observing and examining carefully and repeatedly is at the heart of the scientific method. But the same disciplines are at the heart of faith. It is significant to note (read: observe) that the Psalmist considers the heavens but then moves from those considerations to ask questions of God. God is not threatened or offended by these questions. Closely connected to the act of ‘considering’ is what we call meditation. As we ponder and query, we meditate.

It is far too easy to go through our days looking but not considering. We see things without truly observing them. We talk to people without truly listening to them. We walk the same halls and travel the same roads, glazed over with familiarity, preoccupied and distracted to the point of never truly seeing what’s around us.

Take time today to consider: consider the weather, consider your children, consider your co-workers, consider your customers. Do more than see. As Agassiz taught, “look, look, look.” And having looked closely, talk to God.

Grant, O God, that we might live this day doing more than simply seeing or looking at what surrounds us. Help us to consider it – to see in creation and in other people evidences of your grace and glory. Open our eyes to truly see, and in the seeing lead us to worship, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The "Omnipotent Craftsman"

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place . . . (Psalm 8:3).

This past Friday marked the anniversary of the day Galileo stood before the Roman Inquisition. His story reminds us that faith and science dwell in the same neighborhood but they have had a long squabble over property lines. At times a thick wall has been erected to keep each in a clearly marked and separate sphere of influence. At other times the wall has been dismantled in an effort to facilitate easy movement between the two.

Faith and Science remain uneasy neighbors to this very day.

On April 12, 1633, the guardians of religious authority called upon Galileo Galilei to defend the publication of his work, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. The two world systems in question were the Ptolemaic and the Copernican. Galileo had run afoul of the Inquisition crowd by advocating a Copernican view of the world – the idea that the earth moved around the sun rather than being the unmovable center of the universe.

Galileo may have been sorting out the Ptolemaic and Copernican world views but the legacy of his work for most of us is framed as a contest between religion and science. We see Galileo as the voice of reason and logic, a man led to conclusions by investigation and evidence. Opposing him stands the monolithic church with its head buried in the sands of tradition, hissing at anything that threatens long held beliefs.

This is, of course, a caricature. There are complexities involved which won’t allow us to posit a brave and intelligent thinker against an angry and ignorant church. But the tension between science and faith was real and the impact is felt even now. In our time this tension has superficially resolved by relegating faith to the realm of subjective inner experience while ceding observable and empirical realities to science.

The Bible won’t allow such a dichotomy – and, interestingly, neither would Galileo.

In the dedication written to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Galileo argues that it is the calling of the philosopher to “turn over the grand book of nature.” He goes on to add that “whatever we read in that book is the creation of the omnipotent Craftsman.” Galileo regarded what we call a "scientific discovery" as an act of "divine revelation." To investigate or research was a form of worship.

For the next few days we will be thinking about the kinds of doubt that arise from science. We won’t be trying to offer rebuttals or arguments. Rather we will be turning over the grand book of nature in order to see the omnipotent Craftsman. We will respond to doubt with worship and we will look for help in the Psalms.

For today – how do you currently think about the relationship between faith and science?

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.” All that we see points us to you. The creation is your gift to us, a wordless witness to your glory. Use the mysteries around us to draw us to worship, even as we go through this day, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Leaving a Question Blank

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you . . .” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

“I’m a good student but a lousy tester.” Ever heard that? I’ve not only heard it, I’m pretty sure that somewhere along the way I’ve said it.

I never liked standardized tests. My dislike, however, never exempted me from taking them. Since these tests were never my best opportunity to display my potential as a student, I did what I could to pick up helpful strategies for surviving the experience. One such strategy had to do with running out of time on a test section – a recurring issue for me. The strategy was simple. Work as long as you can and when you know you’ve only got a few minutes left, quickly fill in a bubble for every question.

To be clear: I do not recommend this to any student. The assumption was that it is important to attempt an answer with every question. Better to guess blindly than leave a question blank.

Mercifully, the days of sharpening my #2 pencil and filling in the bubble sheet are long behind me. But the formal education I pursued and the vocation to which God has led me puts me in a place where people have plenty of questions, and sometimes they verbalize those questions to me. I find myself wanting to give answers. However, when it comes to people’s souls and the life of faith, guessing blindly and answering in a hurry won’t do. Over the years I’ve gotten more comfortable with admitting that I don’t have all the answers.

As we think about exploring and embracing our doubts we would do well to be clear about exactly what we’re after. We are not after answers or explanations. We do not work through doubts in order to come to certainty. To be sure, there are answers to be offered and at times we may find ourselves firmly anchored in conviction rather than confusion. But our interest in doubt is not an effort to answer every question. Sometimes, with some questions, we leave a blank.

In exploring our doubts what we are truly seeking is grace.

This was the answer Paul received after his three-fold pleading with God to remove the thorn in the flesh. There was no simple yes or no. Rather, there was a promise. “My grace is sufficient for you.” Paul seems to have begun by searching for an answer. What he found on the other side of his struggle was grace. He found an invitation to trust God with his struggle. And God wants to be trusted more than understood or explained.

The grace that was sufficient for Paul is sufficient for you as well. There may be things you don’t understand. You may be pleading with God about a torment that will not cease or a perplexity that will not be resolved. Someday you may arrive at an answer. At time may come when you understand what now seems incomprehensible. But until then, there is God’s grace. This grace is sufficient for you.

Our time is up. So put down your pencil and don’t worry about the blanks.

We give you thanks, O God, for the sufficiency of your grace and for the way it sustains and guides us in what we cannot understand. Grant the grace we need for this day as we rely on your strength in our weakness. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Are We Ever Done with Doubt?

. . . I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord (2 Corinthians 12:1).

Most of us have heard that time heals all wounds. And most of us know that it isn’t true.

Some wounds, maybe, but not all. Time is an effective healer of our cuts and scrapes and bruises. Over time these may disappear. But the deeper pains, the broken hearts and lost dreams, are usually not remedied by time alone. Time by itself may help, but it cannot heal

Nor does time provide a buffer against all doubts. We might expect that those who have long walked with God would do so with firm steps. We might expect that their prayers will flow freely, their worship will be deeper, their understanding of God’s ways will be wiser. Those who manage to hold on to faith over time seem to have a grip that can’t be broken.

Seventy years ago this month, April 1943, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was arrested at his home in Berlin. He was taken to Tegel prison where he was held for eighteen months before being moved and eventually executed at a camp in Flossenberg on April 9, 1945.

In prison Bonhoeffer was known as a man of courageous and benevolent spirit. His guards treated him with respect. He acted as a pastor to other prisoners. He had gained recognition in both Germany and the United States as a formidable theologian. He was a writer, a teacher, a leader. But a prison poem titled “Who Am I” provides a glimpse into Bonhoeffer’s own questions about himself, the tension between the public man people could see and the man he truly was.

The poem never really answers the title’s question. The matter is left in the hands of God. But the poem will not allow us to believe that the bold and respected theologian endured his imprisonment without the slightest inward wrestling. “They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.”

Likewise, Paul was allowed to see stunning visions and revelations of the Lord. He knew God in a way that was not true of most people. Paul knew that this could have easily been a reason to boast. This same Paul pleaded for relief from his ‘thorn in the flesh’ – a torment he saw as a gift that kept him from boasting.

To know God well and to love God deeply does not mean immunity from struggles, from questions, or from doubts. A lifetime of church or advanced degrees in theology will not exempt you from these things either. Our doubts are not usually resolved or eradicated by time alone.

The most pressing question we can ask is not “How can I be done with my doubts,” but rather, “What will I do with my doubts?” Paul’s struggle took him to a profound grasp of the sufficiency of God’s grace.

Maybe we are never done with doubt because God is never done with us. Doubts and questions and struggles sometimes pull us away from God. But every question or struggle can also be used to lead us to grace.

Where will your own struggles and doubts take you?

Merciful God, hold on to us when our questions and struggles are making it hard for us to hold on to you. Use our doubts to draw us near, showing us more of your grace and power in our lives, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Waiting and Wondering

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it from me (2 Corinthians 12:8)

There are a couple of paths that lead us to our doubts. Sometimes we come to doubt by decision. At other times we come to doubt by degree.

The path of doubt by decision usually runs its course in the mind. It is a grappling with one of life’s mysteries, a struggle to make sense of what seems senseless. But doubt by degree is different. It is a quiet and gradual dawning of uncertainty, a growing discomfort in which sense precedes thinking.

Our weedy doubts grow in the soil of silence. For those who claim to be people of faith, the path of doubt by degree often leads to and through the silence of heaven.

Maybe you’ve been on the waiting side of a missed appointment. We usually call this being ‘stood up.’ You arrive at an agreed upon place and await the arrival of the other party. You may go ahead and secure a table, positioning yourself strategically so you can see who comes through the door. Time passes. Initially you glance at your watch and make a simple observation of fact: someone is running late. But the longer you wait the fact becomes a question. With each glance at your watch the questions multiply: Are they late or did they forget? Did you come to the right place? Did you get the wrong day or time?

The longer we wait, the more we wonder.

The apostle Paul was patient in suffering, but he was not passive. As to the nature of his suffering – his ‘thorn in the flesh’ – we are entirely ignorant. What we do know is that it was to him a source of ‘torment.’ He pleaded that God would take it away, make it right, ease the burden. His three-fold pleading most likely means three extended seasons of prayer: a persistent and prolonged wrestling with God followed by a faithful waiting. Heaven was silent. The thorn remained.

You may find yourself in a season of pleading right now. Maybe a second or even a third season. You have prayed and prayed again. You have opened your hands and surrendered your thorn to God in patient trust. And yet the thorn remains and heaven seems silent. Slowly the doubts take shape. With the passing of time and the unbroken silence the doubts grow.

To be fair, Paul never speaks of his own ‘doubts.’ Later this week we’ll see where his prayers took him. For now, what we can observe is that the letter in which he speaks of his thorn ends with his affirmation of the grace of Jesus, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (2 cor. 13:14).

Doubt does not inevitably lead to despair. What we experience as the silence of heaven is not the absence of God. In your waiting and wondering don’t stop praying. Acknowledge you doubt, but do not yield to despair.

Go through this day knowing that “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” is yours, even in your waiting.

Through this day, O God, and the waiting and wondering it may bring, sustain us by your grace. Comfort us with your love. Encourage us by the presence of your Spirit, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Uprooting Our Doubts

Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds? (Matt. 13:27).

Last week my wife asked me to mow the weeds in our front yard. That’s right. The weeds, not the grass.

Right now our grass hardly needs mowing. The brownish tint of winter doesn’t show signs of going away any time soon. If things will ever warm up around here (which as of this writing seems questionable) that will change. Before long the green will emerge and the grass will grow.

Strangely enough, winter seems to have had little impact on the weeds. While the grass is dormant and colorless, the weeds are undaunted, boasting a stubborn and healthy green that manages to migrate in splotches throughout the yard. The man who came to ‘treat’ our weeds suggested that at a certain time we mow them. As he put it, the weeds needed to be ‘agitated.’ On the day my wife asked me to mow the weeds I’m pretty sure the agitation was all mine.

I’m well aware that weeds and gardening and pruning are often used as word pictures for things spiritual. It is striking that soil and soul are so much alike. I’m reminded of Jesus’ parable about the wheat and the tares. I might paraphrase, “grass and weeds.”

In Jesus’ story an enemy sowed weeds among a healthy crop of wheat. The first response of those who tended the field was to get busy and rip out the weeds. But the Farmer and owner of the field stopped them. In Jesus’ story the wheat and the weeds grow up together. God sorts it all out at harvest time.

I return to a tried and true word picture to speak about our doubts. The weeds in my yard provide some basic convictions that will give shape to what follows in the days ahead.

First of all, there is more yard than weed. Of course, if ignored or neglected this can change. The weeds can grow to the point of taking over. Our doubts can do that as well. That’s why it’s a good thing to pay attention to doubts, to give voice to questions. The spotty presence of weeds here and there doesn’t mean the entire yard needs to be plowed up. The doubts that emerge from time to time don’t mean your faith is a sham.

Second, the weeds can be persistent. When it comes to weeds – and doubts – diligence is required. What was eradicated in one place may later crop up somewhere else. Questions may be settled only to emerge later in a different form. In the life of faith we need to be always ready to think and ever prayerful.

Finally, there is a difference between nurturing a doubt and ‘agitating’ it. The sight of someone mowing weeds looks like a superficial treatment at best. But we were told to ‘agitate’ the weeds in order to impact them on a deeper level, to get at the roots. Likewise, we ‘agitate’ our doubts when we try to get to the root of what they are and where they come from.

Don’t be alarmed at doubt. Be patient and prayerful. Get to the root of the questions. Tomorrow we’ll agitate our doubts by looking at unanswered prayer.

Gracious God, we give you thanks for your great patience with us. You allow room for our doubts even when we seem eager to eradicate them in pursuit of a perfect and pristine faith. Be our teacher as we look closely at our doubts. Take us to the roots of our questions and make us patient as we seek to grow in the likeness of your son, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Monday, April 08, 2013

The Shadow of a Doubt

When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come or should we expect someone else?” (Matt. 11:2-3).

Perhaps he had been wrong. In his solitude he was starting to wonder.

Things had seemed so much clearer on the banks of the Jordan River. John had drawn large crowds with his fiery talk about repentance. Standing waist deep in the water he would alternate between prophetic talk and priestly baptism, warning of judgment and washing away sins. He had said all along that someone greater was yet to come. When Jesus quietly showed up at the river one day, John recognized that this ‘greater one’ had arrived. “Behold, the Lamb of God.” John said this without the slightest hesitation.

Knowing who Jesus was, John resisted when Jesus waded into the river to be baptized. It didn’t seem right. Any misgivings John might have had about that act were forgotten the moment Jesus came out of the water. The presence of the Spirit of God in that moment was so real – like a dove descending and a voice confirming. This indeed was the beloved son of God. No doubt about it.

But now, sitting in Herod’s prison, John was beginning to wonder. In his isolation he was feeling less certain. There were some things that the long-awaited Messiah would surely do. Jesus wasn’t doing them. The questions wormed their way into John’s thinking until finally he sent some of his own followers to ask Jesus, “Are you really the one? Should we expect someone else?” What had seemed so clear by the river was far less so in the prison cell. He was beginning to have his doubts.

Doubts cast shadows. They are the realm of the murky where things are harder to see. The shadow of doubt makes us tentative. We second-guess. Very often, doubts cast their shadow when trouble is close at hand – or when it surrounds us on every side.

For a few weeks we’re going to think about our doubts. Our interest is not in disproving or dismissing whatever contradicts faith. Rather, we’re trying to embrace doubt as a means of building and deepening faith.

Doubts may cast shadows, but this is the good news: Shadows are only possible where there is light. Maybe that’s why Jesus answered John’s question the way he did. “Tell John what you see: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and good news is preached to the poor.” The light of God’s presence is bright in the world.

A shadow is not utter darkness. Doubts are neither the loss nor the abandonment of faith. To ask a question is not to renounce. The shadow of a doubt means light is close at hand, and as light grows the shadows shrink. It is good to know something ‘beyond the shadow of a doubt.’ But there is also something to be learned in the shadow itself. That’s what we’ll be trying to do in the days ahead.

Merciful God, it is not an easy thing to honestly face our doubts. Rarely do we work through them as a way to find you. In these days guide us as we examine our doubts, knowing that your light is close at hand. Grant the courage we need to be both honest and faithful, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.