I’m sure it’s possible for someone to go through their faith journey without ever doubting anything of what they believe or what they are called to do. However, I think that those who do doubt can travel through that and come out with their faith strengthened.
Last Sunday at Mass Fr. Goertz mentioned that July 3rd, when not on a Sunday, is the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear his name? Doubting Thomas. In our sound-byte world, poor Thomas will forever be known with that moniker. Father even pointed out that Thomas, because he was absent for Jesus’ first appearance, had left the Church even before there was a Church to leave. Yet it was through the brotherhood bonds of the Apostles, that they would not leave him to wander away. So the next time Jesus came into the presence of the Apostles, Thomas was able to see and believe. I find it interesting in the Gospel that Thomas, during his unbelief, says he won’t believe until he can probe the nail and lance marks, and while Jesus invites him to do so, the text doesn’t mention anything except Thomas proclaiming Jesus as “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28)
Doubt can have many levels. One level could be the entirety of the divine itself. Another could be a particular tenant of the faith. While another could be our response to either the faith or the practice of it. A Google search of “saints who doubted” comes back with about 72 million results, with that much commentary on the subject, we are in good company. According to Merriam-Webster, doubt is “to call into question the truth of ; to be uncertain.” When we dive deeper into understanding our faith and its practices, we do need to form questions and search for answers. If our hearts are open to the truth God reveals to us, we can emerge from our doubt strengthened and renewed in our faith.
What causes doubt? Here again there are a multitude of possibilities. The divine is beyond our complete understanding, and we call some of the doctrines “mysteries” for good reason. For example the Trinity can only be explained by analogy, and since we are not divine, we cannot truly comprehend the relationship that makes up the Triune God. Another is the example of the culture that surrounds us. We see non-believers (or perhaps those that have fallen away) being successful and seemingly happy with their choices in life. We need to remember that since we do not know their faith journey, what looks like happiness to us, may be a mask of doubt or indifference. While most would like to pretend otherwise, another cause of doubt is Satan. He is the accuser, and he does a supernatural job against our mere mortal capabilities. There have been times when either in adoration or when receiving the Eucharist, it’s been hard for me to sense the presence of Jesus. During these moments, I need to lean on the faith that I have, my relationship with God, and make the choice to believe and ask God to help me in my doubt.
Most of us have times when we want to probe the nail and lance marks of the risen Jesus. And there will be circumstances when we need to be okay with not being in control of what we can know and understand. If we genuinely seek to strengthen our relationship with God, let us offer our doubts up to Him with confidence that He will be as gentle with us as He was with Thomas.