Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt

Almost 50 years ago, the term FUD (short for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) was coined. IBM used FUD to convince technology buyers to use their products rather than those of other tech companies because, “Well, you know and trust IBM, right? You haven’t heard of this other company before.”

They wanted customers to be uncertain and doubtful that the new company would make a good product, and fearful that this new product would not do a good job, or might even harm their businesses. They should stick with Big Blue.

Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt is also pretty good language for what Jesus’ disciples experienced after Easter Sunday. For centuries, English Bibles translated Matthew 28:17 as “they worshiped him, but some doubted,” but more recent studies found there’s no good reason to translate that as “some.” The New Revised Standard Version’s 2021 Updated Edition now renders that verse as “When they saw [Jesus], they worshiped him, but they doubted.” All of them.

Easter Sunday is a time of celebration and great joy – and rightly so – but there are plenty of folks who find themselves in churches on Easter Sunday mornings feeling less-than because of uncertainty and doubt. I’ve been one of those people, driving to church for an Easter sunrise service, confident none of it was true.

And that rolls into questions about the future: Will I really be raised from the dead? Is any of this true? Is the Christian faith worth believing at all?

But those who doubt on Easter are in good company: in the first days after the first Easter, fear, uncertainty and doubt were all Jesus’ disciples knew. And not only were they uncertain and doubtful, but they were (rightly) in fear that since Jesus had been executed, they would be next.

Matthew 28:8 says the women who first heard the news of Jesus’ resurrection left the tomb “with fear and great joy.” When they told the disciples, the disciples didn’t believe them, and only two even bothered to leave the room where they were hiding to check. And Jesus was patient with their unbelief, going so far as to invite Thomas to touch his wounds. I believe Jesus is still patient with us today.

So, wherever you find yourself emotionally around the story of the resurrection; whether it’s Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt; or great joy; or anywhere in between; or both, you’re in the company of saints and the first Christians. And, have patience with yourself. Jesus would.

This article by Rev. David Schell originally appeared in the Herald-Palladium on March 30 (Holy Saturday), 2024, under the title “Many feel fear, uncertainty, and doubt around the Easter holiday.”