"I Believe! Help my unbelief!" -- Dr. Robert Richardson
Perhaps Job asked the most troubling of the eternal questions, “If a man die, shall he live again?” This question seems to be persistent in every semblance of spiritual and religious life. In most religious practices, the answer to this question is a resounding, “Yes!”
A majority of primitive religions believed that death was the door that led to the place where their ancestors had gone. Other evidence was the ritual of human sacrifice. The Myans of Mexico, for example, sacrificed the winners of their Olympic games; thus sending their best youth into the “heavens” to be with the gods.
For some native Americans, the answer was the “happy hunting grounds,” an afterlife of rolling hills and flowing meadows filled with an abundance of buffalo.
To the Hindus and Buddhists, the concept of re-incarnation in human and animal forms is the answer to whether life will continue beyond this one.
But not all are convinced, not even among adherents of the Christian faith. The Pew Research Forum and the Barna Group, reputable researchers of religious opinion, will report about 20% of those who profess the Christian faith do not believe in life after death.
Most believers have at some time asked this eternal question. Maybe we should not be surprised, since most of us have asked it more than once.
But please understand that when we ask, we find ourselves in good company. Job was a righteous servant of God. He experienced tragic circumstances, but was no less committed to God.
The women who went to the tomb were faithful followers, but first thought that his body had been stolen when they viewed the empty tomb.
The disciples refused to believe the initial stories of the women. Thomas refused to believe until he could see Jesus in person.
As time passed, this scattered band of disciples believed what they had experienced was true. With this conviction they assembled again and went forth preaching the Gospel with the confidence that the resurrection of Christ was a foundational part of their message.
St. Paul’s writings are implicit. Without the resurrection, there is no Gospel, and if that is the case, one’s faith is in vain.
Martin Luther joins the chorus of believers when he said, “Every time I see a budding leaf in spring, I see evidence of the resurrection.”
However, the eternal question is never erased. It is always present. Paul Tillich understood this struggle when he said, “Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith, it is an element of faith.”
Perhaps the best we can do is borrow the words of the father, when asked by Jesus if he believed He could heal his son, said, “I believe. Help my unbelief.”