Thursday, July 1, 2010

Spiritual Hiccups - Doubt

I stretch out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.

Answer me quickly, O LORD;
my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me,

or I shall be like those who go down to the Pit.

Ps. 143:6-7

I think it well worth remembering that the single largest category of psalms are the so-called psalms of lament. The Psalms regularly cry out to God, complain about God's absence, beseech God to deal faithfully with them. Such Psalms speak of a faith that can wrestle with real doubt. Strange then that I know so many Christians who view doubt as the deadly enemy of faith.
Out of chaos often comes the greatest creativity. We now know this is the very nature of the universe. And the only thing that can endure deep doubt or anxiety is deep faith. You will not allow yourselves to enter into complexity, ambiguity, mystery, or the partial darkness that everything is, without a very strong faith. You will close down.

I have found that those who can tolerate ambiguity and hold darkness are those who rise to great faith. Faith gets purified every time you go through the cycle of doubt and failure. (from Fr. Richard Rohr's Daily Meditations)
I also once heard a quote from author and Presbyterian pastor Frederick Buechner that said, "Doubt is the ants in the pants of faith." I tend to think that true faith cannot exist without frequent encounters with doubt. The people I have met who insist they never doubt strike me as being a bit like little children who clap their hands repeatedly on their ears while making noise so as not to hear anything they don't like. Such faith has great difficulty engaging others or being shared with others, because it can brook no questions and cannot be examined.

Maybe I feel this way simply because I am one who is prone to doubt. But I seem to have a fair amount of company in the Bible and among other great figures of the faith. So I think I will count my doubts a blessing.

Click here to learn more about the Daily Lectionary.


  1. Matthew 14:31
    Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"

  2. Interesting point. In Mark, Jesus often refers to the disciples as having "no faith" compared to Matthew's "little faith." In neither case do they get kicked out of the club though. The relationship between faith, doubt, belief, unbelief, etc. is a complicated one, as witnessed by Matthew and Mark using "little" and "no faith" to describe the same situation. And how about "I believe. Help my unbelief."

    One interesting thing to observe is that even though the disciples are close, intimate companions of Jesus, faith and doubt questions plague them as much as us. Presumably they must move through experiences of doubt for their faith to grow.

  3. I like the part where Jesus "immediately" reached out and caught Peter, right at his moment of doubt...