Friday, August 14, 2020

On Faith and Doubt

Gospel Matthew 14:22-33
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’ 

You are constantly facing choices. The question is whether you choose for God or for your doubting self. You know what the right choice is, but your emotions, passions, and feelings keep suggesting you choose the self-rejecting way… Remember, you are held safe. You are loved. You are protected. You are in communion with God and those whom God has sent you. What is of God will last. It belongs to the eternal. Choose it, and it will be yours.
 “Keep Choosing God,” Henri Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love

I can choose to trust in God, even on the difficult days. To me, faith is not a possession for all time. I believe God gives me enough faith for the next day. I also observe that I construct barriers to trusting God more fully. My blocks to deeper faith are certainty, safety, security, comfort and convenience. There are others, like popularity. Thomas Keating, the Trappist monk and contemplative, called these blocks “programs for happiness.” What are your programs for happiness?

In our Gospel reading from Matthew 14, it’s helpful to give Peter his due. Peter does not exhibit total lack of faith. In fact, he shows more trust and love for Jesus than the other disciples who stay in the boat. Peter indeed gets out of the boat, at Jesus’ command. Everyone else is grasping the gunnels for dear life.

Later in Matthew and again, Peter is the only one of the twelve who follows Jesus all the way to Jesus’ questioning before Caiaphas. Should we appreciate Peter for his faith, or fault him for not being perfect? When Jesus says to Peter, “You of little faith,” is Jesus shaming Peter for his doubt, or is Jesus encouraging Peter’s potential to trust more? If we never get out the boat, we do not learn a deeper trust in God. At the same time, just because we have some faith doesn’t mean that we will never need to ask for help. We can turn to Jesus amidst the threatening waves.

Like the disciples in the boat, Christian disciples and spiritual followers have always and forever will encounter tests of faith, challenges to what is familiar to us, and gut- checks that only happen after we get out of the boat. If I choose to have faith in the living Christ, who knows? A whole new world may open up before me. But if I never get out the boat, I 'll never know.

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