Author T.E. Hanna explores the importance of doubt in true faithfulness
The German theologian Paul Tillich once wrote, “Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.”
One cannot walk with God for long before the tendrils of doubt creep into our journey. After all, the infinitude of the divine is far more than our finite minds can bear, and any encounter with the Creator of the Universe should shake us up, rupture the neat little categories we have couched our theology in, and force us to gaze afresh upon the premises of faith that have lingered about without examination or engagement. Doubt raises questions, and it is only when those questions are given fair voice that they can honestly be wrestled with.
Despite this, many of us hail from traditions where doubt is viewed as the enemy. “God says it; that settles it” has become the mantra for faithful adherence to the Gospel. Doubt, we are so often told, is the antithesis of faith. It is in moments such as these where I value those bold followers of God that are willing to raise the very questions that we often suppress, that make daring and controversial assertions stripping the link between doubt and faithlessness, and who then restore these questions to their rightful place alongside honest inquiry.
Reclaiming The Meaning Of Faith
At the root of this hesitancy to honestly acknowledge our doubt is a truncated idea of what actually constitutes faith. Faith is more than belief. Faith is trust. The author of the book of Hebrews gives us the classic definition of faith rooted within Scripture itself, proclaiming that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) In other words, we find our faith rooted in hope and the willingness to cling to even those things which challenge our imagination.
To those of us who question, we find ourselves in good company. Throughout the Psalms, we repeatedly discover prayers which give meaning to our own moments of doubt. In Psalm 13, for example, we hear David open with the heart rending cry “How long O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” (Psalm 13:1). In the verses to follow, he unleashes a litany of questions which cut to the heart of the human experience.
How long must I bear pain in my soul?
How long must my enemies triumph?
How long will God hide His face?
Then, in the midst of his prayer, he begs for comprehension: “Consider and answer me, O LORD my God! Give light to my eyes…” (Psalm 13:3)
His struggle is palpable and real. If we are to be honest, many of us face the same struggle as we fumble forward in our own walk with Christ. The common view of doubt as the opposite of faith, however, forces us to suppress these questions.
The more we suppress them, the more we poison our soul.
Good Questions Are More Important Than Good Answers
It is in the questions that we find God’s abiding presence. It is in the questions that we find the enduring root of faith. Questions provide us with the direction to grow, to seek out the Lord, to dig into the study of His word and the pursuit of knowledge. It forces us to look for answers, and puts us on a journey that leads to spiritual depth and vibrancy. In the midst of it all, it teaches us how to trust.
We do well to note how David ends his prayer: “But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalm 13:5-6)
His prayer does not end with the answers; neither does it end with suppressing the questions. Instead, it closes with the decision to trust God on the basis of His character, fueled by a history of His faithfulness. The questions still linger, and they will be raised again in future prayers, but it is not the questions that destroy our faith.
Instead, they teach it to us.
The Original essay can be found here
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