Question or doubt?

“I just don’t get the Trinity,” her grandson told her after his confirmation. He was looking for an explanation he could understand. But nothing she or her daughter said could provide the reasoning he was seeking. The mysteries of the faith leave us grasping for words to describe what we don’t fully understand.

I was chatting with a woman from my parish when she told me about her grandson’s question. She was thrilled that he was interested in his faith and really thinking about it deeply. It wasn’t just a passing thought that he shrugged off. Yet at the same time,  his question brought frustration because she wasn’t able to provide a suitable answer. But that’s what faith is all about, as St. Paul said to the Romans, “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with patience.” (Rom 8:24-25). All the same, we want to provide answers to help our young people, especially early on their faith journey. But is an unanswerable question a doubt?

I once had a coworker who would use doubt as a synonym for question. English was not her native language, and she was so serious when she’d approach me with what she called a doubt. I would brace myself for the worst, only to realize all she really had was a question. So what’s the difference? Doubt has several definitions, among which are: to lack confidence, to consider unlikely and to be uncertain. For me, doubt is something negative; it’s saying we believe that something is not possible. A question, however, does not have a negative connotation. Rather its definitions include: an interrogative expression often used to test knowledge, a subject open for discussion, and an act or instance of asking.

As humans, we are made in the image and likeness of God in that we have an intellect and can reason. God has provided us a mind to think, imagine, and dream. For those who seek a deeper relationship with Him, it means opening up our minds to the mysteries around us: in creation and in faith. To question is not a bad thing; but to doubt leads us on a slippery slope  away from faith. Our limited minds will never comprehend the totality of God and all His mysteries, but that doesn’t mean we cannot probe deeper. When we use our minds to seek out God, we are using the gifts He gave us. I’d like to think He would be delighted with our efforts, however feeble they may be.

I advised my friend to tell her grandson to ask God about the Trinity. After all, no one knows it better than He does. And no one can it explain it better to her grandson than God. It may be a lifelong learning experience, but if he keeps his mind open, not only will he continue to grow into a deeper relationship with God, but His question will be answered again and again to the measure of his ability to understand this great mystery.

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