“Even when God seemed to have abandoned me, he was watching. Even when He seemed indifferent to my suffering, He was watching and when I was beyond all hope of saving…

He gave me rest and gave me a sign to continue my journey”…

Life of Pi

What is Faith and Doubt?

Adult Pi Patel: Faith is a house with many rooms.

Writer: But no room for doubt?

Adult Pi Patel: Oh plenty, on every floor. Doubt is useful, it keeps faith a living thing. After all, you cannot know the strength of your faith until it is tested.

life of pi4

If you have read or watched the movie ‘The Life of Pi’ you will agree that this is an incredible statement considering the suffering and loss that Pi endured.  How could he, after all that he endured, come out with a statement like this?  Many of us would have thrown it all in and become dark, bitter and cynical.

Many of us have suffered, many of us have lost loved ones.  Many of us are in the dark night of the soul right now.  Many of us struggle with doubt.

Doubt.  That spiritual drought.  Brass heavens.  Dry and dark difficult times.  Pain so acute that sometimes you physically feel like you are having a heart attack.  Anxiety, fear distress and WHY.  We’ve been hit for a six, we didn’t see it coming.  Why me?  Why not?

Why is it that we think that because we believe in God that we will be immune to suffering when we follow the Christ who was a man of suffering and acquainted with grief and we as Christians wish to be transformed to be like him?  Hello?

I remember the exact time when this dawned on me.  I was about 20 and going through a personal crises.  I had always thought of Jesus as Superman.  Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.  This day it dawned on me that I want to be like Jesus, to follow in his footsteps, and he was an outcast, a lover of the weak the marginalised.  He was tortured and put to death.  Hmmmm……  What was I thinking!

6161923461_f9ab246401_zDoubt is normal, doubt is healthy, it makes us think.  Doubt condenses and percolates our belief systems and doctrines.

Doubt is the ‘ants in our pants of faith.  It keeps us awake and moving”. Fredrick Buechner.

“Even when God seemed to have abandoned me, he was watching. Even when He seemed indifferent to my suffering, He was watching and when I was beyond all hope of saving…

He gave me rest and gave me a sign to continue my journey”…

I love this statement so much because for me this is a statement of my faith.  “He was watching”  I was not alone.  He gave me a sign.  In my experiences of grief and suffering, of which there have been many,  I have had an enduring and unshakeable faith that I was not alone and that He would, eventually, give me a sign for the next stage of my journey.

Did that take away the pain, the heartache?  Not really, but it gave me the courage and strength to continue.

We often think that the opposite to faith is doubt.  Richard Rohr says this:

“The opposite of faith is not intellectual doubt, because faith is not localized primarily in the mind.

The opposite of faith, according to a number of Jesus’ statements is anxiety. If you are fear-based and “worried about many things,” as he says in Luke 10:41, you don’t have faith in a Biblical sense.

Faith is to be able to trust that God is good, involved, and on your side. 

‘When you cannot rely upon an Infinite Source, you yourself become your primary reference point in terms of all preferences, needs, results, and controls'”. That would make anybody both anxious and insecure.

Adapted from Jesus Plan for a New World p. 118 (Richard Rohr)

When the proverbial cow manure hits that wall and when you are slammed with big life questions that you cannot answer you “You basically have to learn not to be afraid’ (N.T.Wright) 1.    It’s okay to doubt there is a place for that but we need to guard against fear which I believe dominates our society.

As people of ‘faith’ we love the idea of faith yet we don’t understand it that much.  Faith embraces the unknowable, the unseen.  Faith loves to draw outside the lines in big broad colourful strokes and yet most Christians love to put faith in a box.  They love to proclaim that they know the truth and that it is black and white.

I love this quote from theologian Richard Rohr:

“My scientist friends have come up with things like ‘principles of uncertainty’ and dark holes. They’re willing to live inside imagined hypotheses and theories. But many religious folks insist on answers that are always true.

We love closure, resolution and clarity, while thinking that we are people of ‘faith’! How strange that the very word ‘faith’ has come to mean its exact opposite.”

Fifty years on I am still very much on my spiritual journey and each new bump in the road makes me feel like a beginner  again.  My most recent head banging experience with pain has left me reeling and feeling naive and like a novice.  How could I have been so stupid?  Yet I am also finding joy in simple things like community, laughter,  creativity, art, and nature which are all essential to my faith life. I’m learning that faith isn’t separate from my belief in justice and inclusivity and that its right to fight for these things.  I’m understanding that God lives inside me, He is present, He is with me. My faith is becoming a natural extension of my life in every area and is not enclosed inside a box.

Love Lisa

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Love Lisa

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Recommended Reading:

Jesus Plan for a New World – Richard Rohr

Surprised by Hope – N.T.Wright

Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis

1. http://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2014/11/n-t-wright-to-unc-doubt-is-okay

4 Comments on “What is Faith and Doubt?

  1. Be very careful of Christians who claim never to have doubt about any area of faith. I find myself living in a state of creative tension, constantly re examining and re evaluating old shibboleths from the past. I like the quote of Anselm of Canterbury: ‘I do not believe because I understand, I understand because I believe’.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Lance, I’ve never heard that quote. “I do not believe because I understand, I understand because I believe” wow….. will have to read this out loud several times I think. Hmmmmmm thank you I really like that.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You have truly blessed me with tbis blog. I didn’t realize how confused about faith, that I was. This really helped !

    Liked by 1 person

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