Times of question are a way of life for all of us. Doubt is a constant friend for many of us. Life does not make faith and living the faithful life easy. We experience death, loss, hatred, persecution, war, and other challenges. Sometimes when we get up in the morning it can feel as if we have to prepare ourselves for battle. We may wonder “What are we doing here?” or “Is this really what God is asking of us?” or “Where is God in this?”
These have been the questions of humanity throughout time and I believe that these questions are very much part of human spirituality. It is in the way we grapple with the complexity of life. This is how we discover God and our spirituality, if we look for it. Krista Tippet, author of the book Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, wrote “Spiritual Life is a way of dwelling with perplexity taking it seriously, searching for its purpose as well as its perils, its beauty as well as its ravages”. It is in our questions and our search for answers that we gain spiritual enrichment. It is how we gain an understanding of how God works in our lives and world.
People will often look to me for answers to their spiritual questions, and I often find that I cannot and should not be the one to answer them. These are their personal questions: I can lead them to resources, help them understand the scriptures, help them find activities such as outreach and service that might help to shed light on their experiences. I can even ask questions to perhaps help shed light on the already existing ones. But in the end it is their questions, their spiritual grappling that will bring them the answers or understanding that will best suite them in their lives. As much as I may want to, I can’t do it for them.
As we prepare for Memorial Day, I can’t help but think of our soldiers past and present and all that they have had to deal with: the struggles and crises’ of the spirit that they have struggled through and continue to struggle through; crises that only they can determine the answers to. A few years back I read the book The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. It was a quick read and an emotional read as he depicted the personal struggles and battles that these soldiers endured in Vietnam and then at home. One of the stories spoke of the horrors of seeing the suffering of children and families living in the war zones. The way that it changed the person to the core of who they were. They realized the true horrors of humanity at its worst. They saw it, experienced it, lived through it. And as I read I was brought to the same questions that I know they were, “Where was God in all of this? Where was God in the pain of these soldiers? Where was God in the horrors experienced by the citizens? Where was God?”
These are still questions that I am learning the answers to. These are still questions that I am coming to understand, just as I am sure the soldiers had to grapple with and come to terms with these same questions and many more as they returned home. This should be the true reason we honor the soldiers: both fallen and surviving today because they have seen the horrors of humanity at its worst. I would dare say they have seen evil face to face and many of them still reached out in kindness to those who suffered the ravages of war. When they came home many would reach out to one another to offer compassion and solidarity as they struggled with their memories. This is the presence of God. This is how God reminds that he is here, that he mourns with us when humanity enacts hate, and if we search we’ll find him working through the compassion of humanity. We’ll see him reminding us quietly that he is present in the scary times as well as in the proud moments of life.
It is not about which country is right. It is about the compassion and care that goes into how we grapple with our doubt, our questions, and our anxieties. It is about our search for God and our dedication to finding him in our studies, our conversations, and our works. We all have those images from life that shall forever be imprinted on our memories. In this way, we hold something in common with all those who have served. And, it is what we do with those memories, and that discomfort that truly matters. I read Tim O’Brien’s book in 2013 in an attempt to understand the experiences of my Uncle Chucky in Vietnam. I was trying to understand the changes my mother saw in her brother after the war and to understand his extreme dedication to the Catholic Church following these experiences and his dedication to veteran’s affairs.
I still can’t say I understand my uncle. Without those experiences of war, I truly can’t. But I see in his life choices a dedication to finding God and doing so in the work that he does, in the learning he dedicates himself to, and in the compassion he lives his life with. And I admire that in him and it is worthy to be honored. Doubt and questions regarding faith and God can either be enriching and life changing or they can be destructive and still life changing. It is up to us to decide how we live into these times. It is up to us to trust in the care of the Lord when we are overwhelmed and to live into that care by searching, studying and having compassion and care for others who are in need throughout the world. Others, who perhaps like us, are struggling with their own questions of faith, their own questions around God in their experiences of hardship. So hold the advice of Peter in your hearts and remember it when life presents its questions and doubts, “Resist him (devil present in the doubt that pulls us away from knowing God), be firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you”. Remember that we are never alone in our struggles for we all have our questions, hardships, and doubts. We all wonder where God is in the violence around us. So know that God is in the works that we do. He is in the compassion we show to our brothers and sisters of humanity. And with time Christ will restore, establish, and strengthen each of us. So go forth into this week ready to reach out in compassion to others with challenges and struggles. Go forth united as we help others find God in the midst of questions and doubt. It is our duty as Christians to reach out in solidarity and care for others in the world. And in so doing, we help others and ourselves make sense of the world, our experiences, and finding God in the times of hardship.
 Krista Tippet, 21st century.
 1 Peter 5: 9-10, RSV.
(Based on Psalm 68: 1-10, 32-35 and 1 Peter 4: 12-14; 5: 6-11)