Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Do you ever struggle with doubt? I know some people who seem never to doubt. They tell me that “I know that I know that I know that I know” that this or that thing is true. But faith has not come quite that easily for me. Over the years I’ve questioned and studied and wrestled with my faith. Some things I no longer wrestle with-I choose to believe them based upon the witness of Scripture.
Some decry doubt, as though it were the enemy of faith. But doubt is not the enemy of faith; it is often the doorway to a deeper faith. I take great comfort in the fact that some of the most challenging Christian doctrines to believe, namely the virgin birth and the Resurrection, were difficult even for the people who were first confronted with these ideas.
Let’s consider the Resurrection, for example. When the women who first saw the empty tomb told the disciples that Jesus was raised from the dead, the disciples didn’t believe. When the disciples saw Jesus raised but Thomas wasn’t with them, and told Thomas, Thomas refused to believe.
In our Scripture today one might infer that Mary had told Joseph that she was pregnant and that the pregnancy was a miracle somehow made possible by the Holy Spirit. Did Joseph believe in the “virginal conception”? Not yet. In fact, he was so convinced she was making up the story that he planned to break off the engagement and have nothing to do with Mary again!
Joseph was the first person in the Gospels who doubted; he might be considered (with “Doubting Thomas”) the patron saint of doubters. Yet Joseph, after hearing from God in a dream that Mary was telling the truth, chose to believe her. And that decision changed the course of his life and the life of the child he would raise as his own.
How do you overcome doubt? You remain open to possibilities, as Joseph was. You listen and watch and you weigh the testimony of the Gospels and of modern-day disciples. Belief, in the end, is a choice. You look at the evidence and testimony available to you, and in the end you make a choice. You choose to trust, and to believe.
Lord, help me to be patient when others doubt. Help me, when I share my faith, to be a credible witness. And help me, Lord, to trust in those truths I don’t fully understand, but which you know to be true. Amen.