A Place for Doubt
Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.
- Mother Teresa to the Rev. Michael Van Der Peet, September 1979
Doubt is over and underrated in the Church today. It’s overrated because it’s often approached like it’s the end of the world or they’ve “lost their salvation” if someone doubts their faith. And it’s underrated because it’s taken for grated as only a bad thing. There’s a place for doubt, a necessity even. If you’re a Christian and you don’t doubt or have trouble when God doesn’t answer you or you don’t have a problem when you don’t feel his presence then there’s a good chance you’re not being honest with yourself. Even Jesus cried out “take this cup from me” and “why have you forsaken me?” God desires honesty in our prayers and worship—maybe more than anything else. When someone questions God and/or doubts their faith while still holding on there is a beautiful honesty present. God isn’t easily offended; he won’t give you silent treatment or make you sleep on the couch if you question him. God knows your intentions and appreciates your honesty. God delights in our questions if only because we’re being genuine.
There’s a beautiful prayer in M. Night Shyamalan’s movie Signs. Mel Gibson plays an ex-reverend named Gram who, since the tragic death of his wife six months previous to the setting, has lost faith and has decided not to “waste one more minute on prayer.” When trouble comes, namely aliens, he and his family (brother, daughter, and son) flee to their dark basement barricading themselves from their invaders. After they finally barricade the door and the dust settles the light turns to Gram sitting on the floor holding his young son Morgan (played by Rory Culkin) saying “we forgot his asthma medicine.” As he held his son who is at this point gasping and clinching his fists he says quietly “don’t do this… not again”—his first prayer in six months. With his face curled in anger he speaks one of the most beautifully honest prayers even recorded on film; “I hate you… I hate you.” Ironically from that point on he begins to see miracles.
I find that prayer to be incredibly powerful, yes he doubted, and yes he was desperate, but gram the ex-reverend prays with such a deep honesty that I cannot help but think we should be encouraging that sort of prayer wherever it’s appropriate. We should encourage people to come to God as they are—in the depths of their doubt and in the thickness of the mystery. Instead of trying to answer all the questions or prove God to people we should find a place for doubt. Doubt, rather than certainty, may be one of the greatest signs of faith.
(This post was inspired by news of a new book called Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light. In the review I read her doubting and honesty seemed to be controvercial and looked down upon. It should be no surprise that such an honest woman would doubt God… to me it’s ironically beautiful. She never did let go of her faith. Read the article here)