Her question was: Do we ever grow out of doubt?
Ministers have this conversation all the time in one form or another. Surprisingly, we have it with ourselves as much as with others.
My newly college-graduated friend is heading to seminary to study for the ministry. Shouldn’t such a person have fewer doubts than she does? Is she genuinely qualified to lead others to faith if she continues to wrestle with doubts?
Frederick Buechner, a clever writer and sensitive student of the spiritual life, puts it this way: “Whether your faith is that there is a God or that there is not a God, if you don’t have any doubts you are either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.”
Buechner slyly puts the matter of belief on equal footing (not equal value) with unbelief; they both require a certain kind of faith to maintain, and each is assailed with doubts.
A certain intellectualism likes to pretend unbelief is less softheaded than belief. Wouldn’t that be hardheaded? A certain religiosity likes to pretend belief is less prone to question than unbelief. Isn’t that lame-brained?
All knowing begins with faith and seeks confirmation in experience.
What will happen if I jump off the roof? I am in for a hard landing, because gravity will work against a soft one as long as I remain in earth’s pull. I believe that not only based upon my observation, but on the testimony of sore-footed roof-jumpers. I don’t need to jump myself to prove it, but if I insist on testing my faith in gravity by letting doubt rule, I will get an answer, and maybe bruised soles to boot.
Truth is like the sun: You see by the light of it; looking directly at it will only blind you. Faith walks in the light of truth, but it does not see as far ahead as we like, and sometimes suffers the shadows.
Reckoning with faith’s limitations can be strength to the soul, rather than weakness, as long as faith leads the way. Doubts nip at the heels of faith, reminding it to look more closely, pay better attention, admit there is more to be known than we can know at any point.
When doubts lead the way, faith never gets far.
Faith in God is more like love than science. You keep the one who loves you in front of you, moving forward. Doubts follow behind, keeping you honest, as you move in closer and things get clearer.
Heaven is seeing the One who loves you face to face. Then — and only then — there will be no doubt about it.
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