For a long time there’s been a belief that with faith, one cannot doubt and that with doubt, one cannot have true faith. This is true if we let doubt fuel mistrust. However, if we use doubt to help us formulate questions about our search for truth, then we can begin to see doubt as a good thing. So, to answer the question directly, it depends on how you use doubt on your journey of faith. Imagine doubt as a travel agent offering you a trip to an uncharted island to learn and experience something new about your world. Some may find such a trip requires too much — too time consuming, too frustrating, too scary, too risky — and therefore dismiss the trip and use the agent’s offer as a reason to disengage. “It just doesn’t make sense” or “It’s not worth the time for me to go there.” Others may welcome such a trip and occupy themselves with various tours, finding that they deepen their understanding, which leads to growth. “Wow, this trip really taught me a lot about myself/others/God/the world!”
We recently answered a similar question on Busted Halo® Cast #358, where I mentioned that the two examples from the Bible that I like to use to demonstrate doubt are Jonah and Thomas. Jonah, a prophet from the Old Testament, was told by God to warn the people of Nineveh about their wickedness. Instead, he immediately shucked his prophetic duties, tried to run away, got his friends in trouble, was swallowed by a fish, and finally relented and told the people of Nineveh what God said. The Ninevites heard Jonah and repented before God, who forgave them. But, Jonah got mad at God for sparing them when he thought they should be punished severely. While Jonah’s story typically highlights disobedience, it is a perfect example of doubt gone bad. Jonah’s doubt fueled his lack of trust. He disengaged because he thought God’s request required too much.
On the other hand, Thomas, one of Jesus’ disciples, doubted the witness of his brothers when he was told that Jesus had risen from the dead. When Jesus appeared to him, instead of disengaging and dismissing, Thomas connected with Christ and was both formed and informed by that experience.
Our journey of faith is organic, growing as we grow, moving as we move, and responding to our knowledge and experiences. Using doubt as an invitation to deeper investigation — together with patience, openness, and hope — will lead to a better understanding, greater appreciation, and fuller ownership of one’s faith.
from Fr. Steven Bell, CSP