“Is it Okay to Question & Doubt?” Pastor Stephen 01-31-21

“Is it okay to question and doubt?”

I’ve heard that question in at least a dozen ways:

• “What if I don’t believe God created the world in six literal days? Can I still be a Christian?”

• “Do I have to believe everything the Methodist Church says it believes?”

• “How could God ever love me if God knew some of the things I have done?”

• “If you knew what I really believed, would you still let me be part of this church?”

I received these questions in preparation for a sermon series on your questions, “I’ve been wondering…”

To help us explore the question of whether it’s okay to question and doubt, I ask that we listen closely to the story of Jacob wrestling (Genesis 32:22-21). As Jacob prepares to meet his estranged brother Esau, Jacob wrestles through the night with something. Is it a man? An angel? Or is it God? The more closely you read the passage, the less clear it becomes.

I think this story gives permission (and maybe invites us) to wrestle with questions of life and faith. Though Jacob is exhausted, his wrestling leads to a blessing. He also receives a new identity, a new name. Look up the name “Israel”. What does it mean?

I recognize that some people are uncomfortable with questions and doubt. For some, doubt is the opposite of faith.

I look at it differently.  As far as I can tell, Jesus never criticizes anyone for their sincere questions or doubts. When Thomas doubts the resurrection, Jesus doesn’t scold his disciple; Jesus offers what Thomas needs for him to come to a deep faith.

In the 12th century, Anselm defined doubt as “faith seeking understanding.” That resonates with me.

If you have questioned or doubted, or if you have ever known someone who questions or doubts, join us for worship this week. I hope we might see how sincere questions and honest doubt can be part of a deep, vibrant faith.

Many of our Oak Hill youth will be leading in worship this week. They’ll lead us in song, prayer, reading scripture. I hope you join online to support our teenagers and let God work through them to bless your life.