A friend of mine has been struggling with faith. One imagines, as a new Christian, that faith grows in time until it is transformed into certainty. For many of us, however, the experience of growing older is not a movement into certainty but, rather, into ambiguity, as faith mixes itself with doubt.
We have, of course, been told of the heroes of faith in Hebrew’s 11, who were “sure of what they hoped for, certain of what they did not see.” But most of us are not giants, and we lack the faith of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and the crew of Hebrew’s 11. Or do we? More than a thousand years later, the writer of Hebrews can talk about the certainty of the faith of these men and women retrospectively, but i suspect that the actual experience of faith at the time was not as black and what as we sometimes assume. Abraham, the paragon of faith, gives his wife (the mother to be of his promised child) to a foreign king in order to protect his own life – and he does so twice! Isaac, the seed of Abraham’s faith, did the same thing to Rebekah. And the ups and downs of Jacob’s life of faith don’t need retelling here.
I suspect that many a life that will, retrospectively, justly be declared to have been one of faith will have been one lived in the face of doubt. Indeed, what is faith without struggle and doubt? If faith is trust in God, it is faith because sometimes we wonder what God is doing even, sometimes, whether God is really there at all. Perhaps, after all, real faith is the preparedness to struggle with one’s doubts. To face them honestly, to share them with a friend, to not find easy answers and yet, however tentatively, to move forward, pursuing the truth and goodness and beauty that we somehow know, deep within ourselves, is only found in God.