Doubt and Love

Rev. Katherine G. Dougherty
Sermon Text: 

4th Sunday After Epiphany – Year C

February 3, 2019

Jeremiah 1:4-10, 1 Cor. 13:1-13

Doubt and Love…

       Doubt and love – what a powerful combination of experiences in our readings today.  First we heard about God’s call to Jeremiah. 

         “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you

         were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet

         to the nations.”

Not surprisingly…Jeremiah immediately expressed doubt in his ability to answer God’s call.  Jeremiah’s response to God was… but I am just a boy and do not know how to speak.  How many of us would have also responded with doubt and a list of our inadequacies upon hearing God’s call.  I know I have at times in my life. 

         Doubt is so normal in our human existence and yet it is such a dark force.  Doubt stops us from believing and quiets our voices at times when maybe what the world around us really needs is our voice.  Doubt weaves its way into our thoughts in often quiet and subtle ways weakening the gifts we bring to this world. 

         “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and

                   before you were born I consecrated you…”

God speaks those words to us as well.  Our God created us – formed us ever so beautifully and wove into us all the gifts we bring to this world.  Our God held us and told each of us that we are beautiful and wonderful and strong and smart and funny and creative and most of all…we are dearly, dearly loved by our Creator.  Those are the words God wants us to remember – those are the words that God wants us to build our lives upon.  Those are the words God whispers to us over and over again even now.  You are beautiful… wonderful…strong… smart… funny…creative…and dearly loved.

         This world – our society is great at messages too.  From early on we soak up the words we hear and the messages we receive.  As a teenager, I remember a book called The Preppy Handbook.  It was a book full of instructions on how I should dress and how I should act.  My mother would shake her head as I headed out the door with two polo shirts on under my button-down oxford-cloth shirt, but that was what my teenage self understood to be the dress code of the “cool kids.”  All I wanted to do was to fit in and belong somewhere – just like everyone else. 

         It’s easy to look at our adolescent years and remember the peer pressure, but what about now…in our adult lives?  It may look a bit different now, but the messages can be the same.  Does our life look as “happy” as the lives of our friends on Facebook?  Studies actually show that people of all ages really struggle with that question.  Do our houses match up to what we thought we should have at this stage in your life?  Do we find ourselves comparing our life or our possession or our health to those around us?   It’s easy to get caught up in that trap. 

         Comparison is a co-worker of doubt.  It sneaks in from time to time when we aren’t paying attention or life has worn us down, and taps us on the shoulder.  It tries to convince us that we don’t have enough, or we aren’t enough. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”  His words make sense.

         Perfectionism is another thief.  It is a kin to comparison but is an inwardly focused message.  Perfectionism comes in all forms and all levels of intensity.  When we place that bar so high or put so much pressure on ourselves…we miss out on the joys of life.  God didn’t tell Jeremiah that his words or actions had to be perfect.  Jesus knew the disciples would falter and doubt… yet Jesus still loved them dearly.  If our Creator loves us – all of us – every ounce of us… can we find love for ourselves too?

         Regardless of our age … society continues to apply pressure upon us.  Doubt…in some form or another may always be there.  It’s part of the human condition, but we have a tool – we have a powerful tool that helps us to dispel doubt and fear. 

         In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he spoke of this tool.  It is LOVE!  Paul tells us that if we speak without love in our words and hearts … our voice is that of “…a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”  He reminds us that without love…we have nothing – our greatest achievements shrivel up into dust and blow away…leaving us empty.  By welcoming love into our lives and showing ourselves compassion & love…we become stronger and more capable to living into WHO God created us to be.  Unfortunately doubt and pain and loneliness are a part of this world.  They touch all of our lives in some way or another. 

         But here is some Good News…Where there is love…doubt has no strength…it might be present…it might weaken our knees…or make our heart race a bit, and it might make us question ourselves at times.  But where there is God’s love …the love described by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians…a love that is patient and kind…a love that is gentle and welcomes the voices of everyone not just one…a love that rejoices in the truth and is full of hope …where THAT love is present, doubt has no foundation and has no future!

         What is God’s call to us as believers in love and holders of hope?  It is to trust that God is with us.  It is to say, “I may be scared and doubt my gifts, but

I am created by a God who rejoices in every breath I take and reminds me each and every day that I am enough!” 

         It is God’s call for us to know that we are not alone – though at times… life may feel overwhelming and hard…God is with us.  With God’s strength we can reach out to one another for help.  It is in reaching out for help that we are made stronger.

         It is also God’s call for us to take that hope and love and light and to shine it brightly into this world.  Yes, our world may be a broken and a pain-filled place for many, but together we can lift one another up and shine the light of God’s love for all.  We are a people of hope, because we know of God’s redemptive love!

         And when doubt tries to seep back in …may we each stand strong and say…God created me!  God knows me inside and out! God dearly loves me just as I am!  And with God…all things are possible.



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