Faith and doubts

Rev Sue preached this sermon on Sunday 3 July, assisted by members of the Ministry Team. Here it is for you again:

Thomas gets a rather bad press as “Doubting Thomas”.  Nevertheless he is one of my favourite saints. Here are some reasons why.

First one. He always told the truth. It can be very uncomfortable when everyone else seems to understand or agree about something, but you don’t. But maybe when you were at school there were times when you couldn’t understand what the teacher said, and you felt you must be really dumb. Then someone put up their hand and asked and there was a feeling of relief spreading round the classroom, and you realised you were not the only one. Thomas was the one who wasn’t afraid to ask the questions.

Secondly, he wasn’t afraid to be the odd one out, even when everyone else was telling him he was wrong and getting angry with him. He refused to say he believed something he didn’t. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying people should be stubborn or arrogant. You should listen to what other people have to say and try to see their point of view. If you find yourself in a minority of one, you should reflect carefully. But if, after all that, you still believe the same thing, then don’t pretend otherwise. The scientist Galileo said that the earth went round the sun. People called him an idiot – couldn’t he see the sun moving across the sky? The church called him a heretic because it didn’t fit with their beliefs. And now we know that he was right.

Which brings me to the next thing I like about Thomas. He liked to base his beliefs on evidence. He didn’t believe things just because other people told him they were true. He liked to see for himself. In these days of fake news, it’s important to look behind what we’re being told, and ask what the person really knows about the subject. Not all so-called experts are equal. Follow the ones with evidence.

Lastly there is his amazing declaration of faith. “My Lord and my God”. No one had ever called Jesus God before. Sometimes the doubter, when finally convinced, is the one who has the greatest faith.

And now I’ve asked our ministry team for some stories about their own doubt and what helps them in the difficult times.

Doubts about ill health:

When struggling with health concerns; either the flare up of a chronic condition, an infection such as Covid or when feeling exhausted; such feelings can be concerning and at times frightening. John’s Gospel talks of God’s peace:

John 14 vs 27 “Peace I  leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

At times of ill health, fear and anxiety we can look to John’s Gospel and recognise and accept God’s gift of peace and let it create calm where there is anguish.

Similarly at such times the Book of Isaiah speaks of God promising us his strength:

Isaiah 14 vs 10  “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous hand.”

As children of God we can call upon God’s power to assist and support us at any time. He walks with us, beside us and at times carries us.

Doubts when life is hard:

Quite a few years ago when my children were young, we went through quite a difficult patch as a family and in my relationship with my husband, especially when he started to become ill.

Money was very short, and we were at risk of losing our home.  I began to wonder what I’d done wrong and where was God in it all.  I don’t think I particularly lost faith, but I began to doubt whether God was real, and I was wrong to believe in him and everyone who didn’t believe were right.

I continued to pray every night with the children and on my own.  I think it was around the time of Lent and I remember going to a couple of the Lent study groups. One night when I began to despair about everything that was happening, I talked to God. I think I was cross, maybe even angry! “Why us?” kind of thing. I really couldn’t see any way out of the problems we were experiencing.

In the morning I woke up and just felt like all the problems had gone away.  I remember feeling a great sense of relief and happiness. A lightness and joy that I couldn’t explain, but things started to improve.  We got help and support through advice and things began to come together.

All in all, it strengthened my belief and I’ve never doubted since that God does exist and he answers prayers. Not in the way we expect but through others, circumstances and events.

Doubts about ministry

When I am in doubt about the life path God has chosen for me; about the words I speak; about am I saying the right thing or the wrong; when I just doubt myself, I turn to The Weaver Poem – first introduced to me during my ALM Training and my doubts subside, and my belief returns. It goes like this:

My Life is but a weaving

Between my Lord and me;

I cannot choose the colours

He worketh steadily.

Oft times He weaveth sorrow

And I, in foolish pride,

Forget He sees the upper,

And I the underside.

Not ‘til the loom is silent

And the shuttles cease to fly,

Shall God unroll the canvas

And explain the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful

In the Weaver’s skilful hand,

As the threads of gold and silver

In the pattern He has planned.

He knows, He loves, He cares,

Nothing this truth can dim.

He gives His very best to those

Who leave the choice with Him.   (Anonymous)

This last verse gives me encouragement and strength to carry on.

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