The Back-and Forth of Faith and Doubt

By Leslie Keener, CDP

Sunday, May 27, 2018, The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity (aka Providence Sunday)

“When they all saw him, they worshipped, but they doubted” (MT 28:17).

Amen, disciples, I feel you. Even though Jesus has spent the last few years teaching, preaching, and doing miracles, and even though they saw him die and then rise from the dead, and even though he is standing before them, they still doubt. They worship, but they doubt.

I didn’t have the benefit of witnessing the life of the historical Jesus, but I see signs of the living Christ working in my life all the time. I see God in the people all around me. I see God in the tremendously good things some people do, and I also see God emerge after tragedy. I often feel God’s presence in my own prayer. I have seen God move this God Space ministry, turning it from nothing into something and sending fabulous people to it. I know that God is real. And I worship.

But I still doubt sometimes! I doubt that things will work out. I doubt that God will come through. When I don’t feel God in my prayer, I wonder if God is really there. Sometimes in dark moments I doubt that God is with me or even that God loves me. I can stand on the mountain top with others and worship, even with a piece of doubt in my heart. 

Why this back-and-forth? 

I don’t have an answer, but I think most people experience ups and downs in our prayer life. I’ve been in ministry long enough to see that this dynamic is at play for all of us. There is something in our humanity that struggles to open to and receive God’s profound love for us. We are so finite that we just can’t comprehend that kind of love. So, we move forward into it, and then take a step back. Over and over. We worship, and then we doubt 

It puts me in mind of the Alicia Keys’ song “Fallin’” that was out a long time ago. Every time that song shuffles to the surface of my playlist, I am reminded of my up and down spiritual life. “I keep on fallin’ in and out of love with you. Sometimes I love you; sometimes you make me blue. . . . Loving you, darlin,’ has me so confused” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZSzS4_kHCI). 

I never really fall out of love with God, and I know that God never falls out of love with me – or uses me or treats me poorly. I know that. And yet, sometimes I doubt.

I don’t know how to resolve this, except that when I don’t feel God’s presence in prayer, that’s when St. Ignatius says I need to dig in and amp up my prayer life. When I don’t feel like praying is the exact time that I need to keep up the discipline of prayer. That’s really hard.

However, God understands this dynamic and loves us anyway. Maybe God doesn’t even care that much that we’re finite, that we struggle, that we’re so back-and-forth and limited. It just means we need God all the more. And God never stops trying to get our attention, to assure us of God’s love, to be with us. 

The all-embracing Providence of God is with us always – when we worship and when we doubt.