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.

1 comment:

Riley said...

Thank you for such a well-written devotional. I found this through the church website.