I Believe in Doubt
Nothing is more important than “having faith,” the evangelists tell us, the faith that good will prevail, the faith that God creates order out of chaos and brings meaning to our lives. Those with unwavering faith are often revered or envied. Those who have “lost faith” are judged as weak. Doubt is considered dangerous, perhaps even sinful, a walk on the razor’s edge. Faith gets all the glory, while doubt is relegated to the closet like someone in the family no one wants to claim.
Many religious traditions speak of faith as the foundation of one’s spiritual life, but I believe in doubt. Doubt digs the well out of which the fountain of faith springs.
In addition to having mental disabilities, my step-daughter Tiffany has no functioning kidneys. She was given a one-in-a-million chance of living at birth and has lived to be twenty-four. They have not been easy years—filled with long hours on dialysis, an endless struggle to find enough energy to live each day, dozens of infections, surgeries, and collapsing veins from needles poking her for countless tests. She has suffered immeasurably.
During her most recent hospital stay, I watched this precious child suffer and I began to doubt. My doubting came in the form of questions. Is prolonging life at all costs a worthy goal? What is the meaning of her suffering and why should she have to endure it? Where is God in all of this? And, Would I make the same choice for life she is making if I were in her shoes?
I doubted it.
I secretly wondered if my doubting was holding Tiffany back from the recovery she desired, so I removed myself from her hospital room. I couldn’t bring myself to share my doubts with her or the rest of the family. I didn’t think they would understand. In fact, I thought they might be horrified.
Tiffany is out of the hospital now. She called a few days ago with a lot of energy, asking if she could come to visit us and see a friend’s horses. These energy spurts are so few and far between, we jumped at the chance to give her a few hours of fun. Tiffany got to ride a horse, lead him back to the barn, brush him and feed him. She was in absolute bliss. Watching her for those few hours, I knew that this was a day worth living. Without a doubt.
I am still living many of the same questions. They do not go away easily, just as Tiffany’s disease will not go away. I am still digging that well of doubt, or more accurately, doubt is still digging that well in me. But the bottom of the well is cool and moist. Perhaps faith is there under the surface waiting to spring forth again–deeper, stronger, and somehow more true.
I believe that in some mysterious way, doubt makes a stronger faith possible.
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