[Socrates] felt it was vitally important to admit that the human condition is one of profound uncertainty, deep doubt. We are in between creatures. On the one hand, we are not ignorant and un-self-aware like most other animals. We can learn much. But on the other hand, we are not omniscient and all-seeing like the gods. This is why the “lust for certainty is a sin,” as a former Archbishop of York put it, because certainty demands the eradication of doubts and imagining you are a god.
Heinrich Hofmann’s painting, Christ in Gethsemane, powerfully illustrates the internal trust-struggle that Jesus seems to have experienced with his father. (Click the image for a closer look.) Comfortingly, Christ himself doesn’t appear to be a happy-go-lucky fellow with all of his questions figured out and set aside.
Sometimes we hold ourselves and each other to a standard even higher than Christ, embracing the belief that mature Christians shouldn’t ask questions but should “rise above” all doubt and rest 100% (or at least 95%) secure in God’s unconditional goodness and love. During trying times we are quick to remind each other that “all things work together for good,” a statement that sometimes whisks away critical, growth-producing periods of wrestling with God. I think I am doing you a favor by band-aiding your question with a platitude, and you are grateful to me for temporarily easing your distress.
Echoing the words of Socrates, I hold that truly mature people of faith do ask tough questions, and also allow themselves to experience the discomfort and anxiety that result from confronting mysteries beyond man’s understanding. Seasons of intense doubt lead to faith deeper still. As Saint John of the Cross said, “In the dark night of the soul, bright flows the river of God.”
Do you let yourself doubt?