Friday, January 02, 2009

The Doubters

One of the things I most appreciate about the Bible is that, in addition to depicting men and women of great faith to serve as examples to live by, it also includes the doubters, those men and women who wrestled with their faith in perhaps a more public way than others.

The other day I was reading Luke 1, and I was strangely struck by a sense of gratitude for the inclusion of Zechariah's response to the angel's announcement that, after years of barrenness, he and his wife would become parents.

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him [Zechariah], standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years." (Luke 1:11-18)

I think I identify so well with Zechariah because I too, have prayed for one thing or another, and then questioned God when it appeared that my prayers were being answered. I've wrestled with doubt over whether or not what God said would happen would actually happen. I suppose that's natural for everyone.

Even Abraham, lauded in Hebrews 11 for his great faith, showed doubt several times as he waited on God to fulfill the promise to make him the father of many nations. From withholding the truth about Sarah being his wife (twice) to fathering a child with Sarah's maidservant, Abraham's journey of faith included a few missteps along the way. I imagine that Abraham might cringe at knowing that his missteps would be recorded for all to see someday, but I am thankful that God makes no attempt to gloss over the less than faith-filled moments, even of the great Biblical heroes.

And so in an odd way, stories like Zechariah's and Abraham's and others' are refreshing reminders that we ALL are human and struggle with our faith at various times, no matter how close our relationship is with God. Sometimes it's good to know that you're not the only doubter around.

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