Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 65; 147:1-11, Judges 3:12-30, Acts 1:1-14, Matthew 27:45-54
“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” That is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Every year during the Passion narrative, this verse moves me more than any other. Although the Gospels tells us Jesus suffered and was tempted like any other person, he seems so wise, so confident, and just so plain good it can be hard to believe. These words, though, contain every bit of despair and doubt I’ve ever felt – and then some. If Jesus, of all beings in creation, can feel abandoned by God, our own doubts and fears condemn us not at all.
All of us sometimes feel forsaken by God. In times of illness, financial hardship, failing relationships, and many other situations, we can feel let down or deserted by God. The last thing we need is a clichéd assurance us of God’s loving presence. Reason tells us everyone suffers, but our distressed hearts may be difficult to convince. We can dispassionately dispense platitudes about someone else’s problem, but our own problems are somehow different.
Doubt, disbelief, and anger at God are almost inevitable. Knowing Jesus felt the same way (at least once) puts us in good company. The psalmists were able to feel faithful and forsaken at the same time. Psalm 119:82 says “My eyes fail with watching for your promise; I ask ‘When will you comfort me?’” How poignant! We must not confuse doubt with the absence or end of faith. Classics of Christian writing like The Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross help us understand the ways doubt and darkness can transform our faith. While our instinct is often to reject doubt, we need to embrace and explore it. Burying it beneath denial or easy answers undermines the development of true, enduring faith. When we see someone struggling with doubt, offering easy reassurance can actually be a terrible disservice. Better to be present for our struggling friends, and let them reap the benefits of working through their own spiritual struggles.
A moment of doubt did not thwart Jesus’ triumph, and it doesn’t have to destroy our faith.
Comfort: Doubt can be the turn in the road that leads us to new understanding.
Challenge: Invite someone you trust to discuss each other’s doubts.
Prayer: Merciful and loving God, thank you for being bigger than my doubt. Amen.
Discussion: What do you do when you experience doubt?
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