Faith and Doubt

“Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.” –Paul Tillich

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the power of faith, and the implications for one’s life if they are to live a life “of faith.” I know for me, faith in the God of the Bible has shaped much of my life, what I have done and who I’ve become. But even saying that is an odd thing. “Because I believe that God exists, I will live how He wants me to live.” It seems simple enough. But what happens when someone I love doesn’t believe? Or when someone does believe but doesn’t live like they do? Or even more confusing, doesn’t believe and lives as though they do believe? There are so many people searching with extreme passion for proof that God exists, or that He doesn’t. It is impossible to do either, but there is so much anger and hurt going on both sides by people who are probably overcompensating for their own sense of insecurity or doubt.

Think about it. One way we confusing humans convince ourselves that we are right is by yelling louder than someone else. I have a 18 month old son. I am familiar with this process. If we are loud enough to silence the voice of opposition, we must be right. But what happens when the voice of opposition comes from within? What happens when all the yelling and debating and arguing and mudslinging is over and the only one standing is yourself, and you’re still not sure? You’re still looking for someone to convince. You’re still waiting for someone to challenge your apparently unbeatable argument, but the only voice of doubt is your own?

I do have faith in God. But my mind is full of doubt. Daily. Hourly. I am constantly wrestling with the “facts” and “physical evidence” of God’s presence in this world. I have witnessed the power of God, people healed physically, emotionally. In my own life I have seen the restorative work of God bring deep inner healing and forgiveness. I have felt the Spirit lead me into places of intense worship and felt the very presence of God in silent retreat.

But I still doubt.

Which is why I love the above quote from Paul Tillich. It gives me hope that I’m not a heretic. Faith by its very nature is choice in spite of doubt. Here’s an example: rock climbing. You are on a cliff wall, hundreds of feet above ground – or a few inches if you’re me. You are relying on your muscles, experience, grip and equipment to help move you up the wall, to find either the top or a safe place to rest. You are tied in, you know that you have equipment designed to keep you from falling. But it takes a lot of faith to let go of the wall to find a higher foothold or grip. You are putting your life at the mercy of some rope and carabiners. I haven’t climbed a lot, but the times I have, I have never fully believed I wasn’t going to plummet to my doom. No matter how much I argued with myself, told myself that so many others have done it and been fine, or checked it myself, when I choose to let go, I had to choose to believe in spite of my doubt. I had to let go and move up.

That is a terrible illustration that’s full of holes, but you get what I’m trying to say. Faith is the ability to trust even when our mind isn’t quite sure. The good thing about God is He can handle our doubt. My doubt. He isn’t nervous or worried about His sovereignty. He is Lord of all, and no amount of doubt from me or you will change that. The power of Truth is that it is true whether or not I believe. 2+2 is 4 whether I agree or not.

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” – Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)

*Interesting language fact: The word for Truth in Greek is aletheia, which comes from the prefix a-, denoting opposite, and lethe which means to forget. In other words, Truth is that which can not be forgotten. When Jesus says I am the way, the Truth and the life, this is the word He used for Truth. How cool is that? *

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