“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 (New Revised Standard Version)
I love this definition of faith. It calls to mind the essence of faith as rooted in hope, in the confident expectation that we don’t have to see those things we hold fast to in order to know they are true. But this definition also drives me crazy. While there are moments when I am full of assurance and conviction, there are also moments when questions and doubts begin to eclipse them. What does that say about me? Do questions and doubts equate to a lack of faith? Is faith really an all or nothing sort of thing?
What I’ve learned along the way is that faith is much more complex than simply believing the things I’m “supposed” to believe without question. Rather than pretending that I have it all figured out, it turns out that real faith involves confronting the questions with the assurance that I can meet God even there, with the conviction that God is bigger than any doubts or questions I can put before God. When I stopped being afraid of my questions, I found that they were one more way in which God was at work to deepen and enliven my faith.
I don’t mean to suggest that asking questions is easy. Some questions are frustrating. Some are painful. Many lead to more questions than answers. This is true in life in general and in our faith in particular: How do I know what I’ve always believed is true? Why hasn’t my prayer been answered? Can God really forgive me? Do miracles still happen? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why is God so obviously present in the Bible but so hidden today? God, are you really there? God, I don’t understand—what are you doing?!
These aren’t just questions I have asked; they are questions I have wrestled with as a person of faith. I’ve wondered if asking some of them made me a bad Christian. Were they a sign that I didn’t have enough faith? Would God be disappointed in me? What would others think, especially given my role as a clergyperson? I’ve been afraid of where my questions would lead me. What if I couldn’t find an answer? Even worse, what if I didn’t like the answer I did find? What if I was wrong about some of the things that were most important to me?
Many times it would have been easier to accept the easy answers without delving into the how or why. But to refuse to question is to refuse to learn. It is to assume that what we know is all that we should know, that what we are is all that God wants us to be. It is to assume that God is too small or weak to stand up to the hard questions.
God uses our questions, and even our doubts. That’s why we’re spending some time looking at them together at Quench in the coming weeks. I hope you will consider joining us as we look at questions shared by Simpson students. I can’t promise that we’ll find answers for all our questions, but failing to ask them guarantees that we won’t. So let us ask, trusting that even if we don’t find the answers, we’ll still find a God whose great love is beyond doubt.