I ended the sermon this past Sunday speaking authoritatively about the Jesus being “Outside the Tomb.” It was what Fred Craddock would describe as a “sermon of orientation.” It was firm in conviction, unambiguous, and strongly worded: “The tomb is empty!” Just what we need on Easter morning.
I said all these things knowing that this upcoming Sunday I would begin a new teaching series called, “Doubt.” The new series will be disorienting, bringing comfort for those who ask questions and a level of affliction to those who dislike grayness and ambiguity. The screech and grinding of gears from Easter to Doubt is not lost on me. But it is real life.
I know from experience. Recent experience. Before Easter was over, Rochelle and I found ourselves rushing our 5-year-old, Malia, to the hospital. The next nine hours treated her (and us) to two ultrasounds, a CT Scan, invasive medications, numerous blood tests, an ambulance ride from one hospital to another and talk of early onset diabetes, appendicitis, and elevated white blood cells counts. Neither Rochelle nor I are physicians or in the medical profession, but we know what raised eyebrows between two doctors and a nurse mean; nothing good. To be fair, we knew Malia’s life was never in danger, at least not immediately, but there were times when the fear of a life-changing prognosis was active in our imaginations.
There we are: The tomb is empty, but life happens in uncertainty and uncertainty means doubt.
But here’s the thing; certainty is not one of the promises of scripture. We cannot and will not be certain of everything God is doing. Even those who quickly jump to the comforting salve of words like, “It’ll all be good in the end,” would agree that conversations regarding who, how and why God will save can swiftly become testy and debatable issues.
Even as Malia lay in her hospital bed, too lethargic and dehydrated to move, I was confident that the tomb was empty, but had no clue as to the outcome of my daughter’s health. I knew what I wanted to happen, but no way to make it happen and no certainty that it would. These are the times when our complete surrendered-ness and dependency to God is tangible.
This is where we live, regardless of all our public posturing about the “will of God.” We cannot have the kind of certainty we would like! What we can have is confidence–confidence that God is good and working for a good that is bigger than our individual particulars. What we seek – and the way “believe” should have been translated more oftentimes in the New Testament, particularly in the Pauline epistles – is trust.
Trust that God is good, trust that we have a future, trust that even through the darkness we experience, the redemption and restoration are far grander than all we might lose or be separated from. Only then, I think, can we say, “Thy will be done.” And only in the committed articulation of “Thy will be done,” can we find joy, purpose and direction between the tomb and the doubt.