The Opportunity of Doubt

Passages: Is. 9:8-19; 2 Corinth. 1:1-11; Mk. 4:35-41
Ընթերցուածքներ՝ Եսայ. Թ 8-19; Բ Կորնց. Ա 1-11; Մկ. Դ:35-41

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!

One day, I was with a group of friends, and we were having a conversation with a priest, and the priest asked us an interesting question. Have you ever doubted God in your life? Most of the group, even I, acknowledged that yes, sometimes we had doubted God’s existence or even His presence in our life. There was however, one girl in the group who said, no she had never doubted God. While some of us in the group felt like “wow, that must be so good, to never have doubt” the priest surprised us by saying to her how difficult it must be for her to trust God. Perhaps it was prophesy, perhaps the priest knew something we didn’t, because a few years later I learned that when that same girl had come into some hardship, she had completely abandoned her faith and God.

My dear brothers and sisters, do we doubt God? Is doubt a bad thing when it comes to our faith? Some of us think so. Yet, as the elderly priest explained to us when we were surprised by his answer to the girl, doubt gives possibility for growth. As modern people, we feel safest when we know and have certainty. We know it is going to rain, so we dress appropriately and take an umbrella. We know we have to maintain our health and so we, hopefully, follow the doctor’s orders. We know that the sun can burn and so we put on sunscreen. We know how bad Chicago traffic is and so we leave a bit early when we head downtown. We are comfortable when we know and doubt, especially in our faith makes us scared. We fear doubt and think that perhaps our faith is weak; if we doubt then we are sinning. Yet, even some of the greatest saints of the Church doubted.

Yesterday, we remembered St. Thomas the Apostle to India. Yet, St. Thomas is known as Thomas the doubter because after the resurrection of Christ we read in the Gospel of John (20), “Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.’ Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” Yet, Thomas, is a saint of the God’s Holy Church and evangelized much of Asia including our Indian brothers and sisters, where he was eventually martyred. Or what about King David, in the Psalms (13) wrote about his struggle of faith. Well David hadn’t seen God and Thomas was asking to see Christ after the resurrection; they had reason to doubt. Well what about Matthew 28:16-17, after Christ was with the disciples and many other witnessess, for 40 days, after his Resurrection we read, “Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had commanded them to. And when they saw Him, they worshipped Him but some doubted.” Doubt is not a bad thing in faith. Doubt is not weakness. Doubt is not sin. Doubt is opportunity!

In Isaiah 1:18 for example we read, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet,they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” This is so beautiful, “Come now, let us reason together.” This is a direct invitation from God to us to reason, to wrestle, to ask questions to work out and illuminate our hearts and minds to God. Yes, we are sinful, but we will be cleansed and made white as snow. Meaning my dears, that doubt is not a bad thing, to struggle or reason with faith is in fact necessary. Yes, we want to be certain in life about every thing but faith is not a thing, it is communion. Meaning that faith and knowledge can’t be understood or applied equally. We have knowledge, we know that 1+1= 2; we know that if we jump into the water, we will get wet; we know that if we have too much sugar, it’s not good for us. These are facts. Yet, faith which is communion with God is not a fact but a relationship. Unlike facts, relationships come from free will. God doesn’t force us to love Him, to believe in Him in the same way we can’t force others to love or like us. It’s our choice to, which we make; to trust, love, hope and believe in God. And this is what is scary or causes fear about doubt in us. We compare our communion to God with our relationships to others around us. What if I share my love or open my heart to someone who doesn’t return that love or worse abuses it? What if I get hurt? What if I get rejected? What if I’m wrong? We don’t know, we are uncertain of how others will be with us and so we are afraid. We take that fear of the uncertainty, we take that doubt and apply it to our Communion and relationship with God. Doubt is normal my dear brothers and sisters, especially in faith, in fact, it is healthy because to doubt gives us an opportunity to ask questions, to cry, to yell and search deeper for meaning and understanding.

When someone asks me which is my favorite Church, I always answer – an empty one. Because in an empty Church I sit and pray and if I’m struggling with something in my faith, I yell and verbally and vocally argue with God. In the same way, in today’s Gospel when the storms arose around the disciples on the sea of Galilee, they turn and yelled at Christ, “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” When we read this passage, we read it very quietly, but imagine that scene in the boat – there is a storm! The boat is sinking; the wind, rain and waves crashing into them. How do you think they were going to speak to Jesus? Quietly? No, they were yelling, they were afraid, they were uncertain and had doubt. And we might think that Jesus is arguing with them, yet, we read he rebuked the storm, but he told the disciples. You see if the disciples had no faith whatsoever they wouldn’t have woken Jesus or cried out to him. But rather, Jesus is reminding them that in faith, even if you doubt, trust in me, I will not abandon you.

My dears, there is nothing wrong in doubt when it comes to our faith. We doubt because we are afraid and we want to know, we doubt because we are struggling and wrestling to understand. Ultimately, it is our choice which path to take though. Do we freely choose to love God, learn about Him, trust and hope in Him or will succumb to our fears and walk away? If we have doubt, it is an invitation to come to Church, cry, yell, seek, read the Holy Scriptures, talk to the priest; give yourself an opportunity by giving yourself to God through the Church. Too many of us go through the actions, whether it’s volunteering, singing in the choir or writing a check, yet, how many of us sit down in the Church or call the priest and say Der Hayr, I want to learn about God? Doubt is an opportunity. Doubt is not the opposite of faith, rather through it we are challenged to go deeper into the communion that is true faith in God. A faith that will calm the storms of our life, that will overcome the burdens we carry, and illuminate our hearts and minds to God’s presence in times of uncertainty. To know God, is to love God; to love God is to choose God; to choose God is to seek God; to seek God is to wrestle with God; to wrestle with God begins with doubt. May our doubt open our hearts to grow, pray, learn and ultimately trust in the love and hope of God our Heavenly Father, whom we come into Communion with through Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit; God will never abandon us, Amen!

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