This Easter is going to be one of the hardest ever for me to rejoice. I am a pastor. I believe in the resurrection and hope. I want to celebrate, but my circumstances are screaming “skip Easter this year!” I am a pastor who would love to be spending his energy this week in preparing a message of joy and hope for a room of congregants and guests and encouraging them to bring resurrection and restoration to their community and world. Instead, I’m trying to ignore the fact that I need to find a church to attend, put on a smile, and worship this Easter.
Now, don’t write me off quite yet because I have come to believe that resurrection and hope is celebrated best when we embrace our doubts. Paul reminds us in Romans 8, “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?” I have found in working with young people and in sharing my faith with skeptics that I gain a listening ear, receive more questions, and see more spiritual growth and change when I am real and focus on the unknown rather than certainty. One author suggested that “maybe the road to faith for future generations will come through doubt.”
In between the “darkness of Good Friday and the brightness of Easter morning” is a period known as Holy Saturday. For many of us, this day is ignored. Jesus has died and we acknowledge this in the light of his rising and the reminder that He did this for us and He didn’t remain in the grave. But on Saturday, if we really focus on its significance, we can imagine Christ’s disciples wondering what would become of their faith and message. God is “dead” or at the best “absent.” All of their hope hinged on Jesus, but these were bleak hours possibly and probably filled with questioning, frustration, fear, anger and depression.
We skip Holy Saturday and seldom mention the possibilities of the dark day. Some view doubt with some disdain, preach only the black and white, shut down the questions, and in so doing miss what I consider to be the beauty of the Gospel – the fact that we are messed up, that we can’t figure it all out, that we need something to hope in. Peter Rollins states, “the believer who encounters serious doubt does not renounce his or her faith but rather uses it as an opportunity to affirm it.” Jay Baker concludes that doubt is what keeps him sane and I agree: “Rather than making me like a wave tossed by the sea, as the book of James puts it, it allows me to go on. It allows me to participate in the grace and love of God even though I feel separated from it so often.”
This year, I will celebrate on Sunday. I will celebrate doubt. I will think about my circumstances, I will miss preaching resurrection, and I will question some of the words in the chosen worship songs. At the same time, I will hand Him my future, be encouraged by another, and worship my Savior and Giver of hope and life. I believe that we cannot overcome our hopelessness with certainty or fix our brokenness with absolutes; but we can embrace and celebrate our doubt. It is only then that we can find faith, hope, and restoration. You can’t get to Sunday without living through Saturday.