As a pastor I have learned much about faith from books that I have applied to my ministry. One author that has taught me about faith, and doubt, is Frederick Buechner. In his book Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC Buechner lifted up Abraham and Sarah as the best examples of faith. When they were told that they were going to be parents of a child at an age beyond which is normally possible, they laughed, but then they trusted in God that God could make it so. When Abraham was told to take everything he held near and dear and travel to a country God would show him, he left everything and followed God. The author wrote about their faith: “Faith is better understood as a verb than as a noun, as a process than as a possession. It is on-again-off-again rather than once-and-for-all. Faith is not being sure where you’re going but going anyway. A journey without maps.”
I have seen examples of this kind of faith in my ministry. Someone quitting their very successful job in order to take care of their parents. Someone deciding to take a two-week vacation to do a mission trip. A young man deciding to drop his career in law that he has pursued for his whole life in order to become a pastor.
Fred Buechner also wrote very provocatively about doubt: “Paul Tillich said that doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith….Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.” Sometimes, when preparing to confirm youth I have wondered about whether they have more faith than doubt. But as I have discussed their faith statements, I have discovered that it is a growing faith, and I have wanted to keep that movement going.
During this time of high anxiety, it is necessary for us to hold on to the faith of Abraham, but it is also good to consider Thomas. Perhaps greater challenges lie ahead, and we will not always see the end of the road. But if we have “seen” the wounds of Christ, we know God is suffering with us. Then we too can proclaim, despite the pain, “my Lord and my God!”
Let’s keep our faith moving and growing!
Pastor Roger Black