Day 2 brought some relief. That is probably because in fact its not Day 2 at all but about Day 200, and I have been through it all before. The last time went on for about four months and I feel that I almost died of it; I swore that never again would I allow my mind to travel down those futile, draining paths. And it hasn’t. Till a week or two ago. Now I feel slightly better equipped to deal with this thing called doubt.
The great thing is to name it, look at it, and acknowledge it for what it is: Doubt. It can be bundled up in a word; it can be read about, in the experiences of others; and it is certainly something that the writers of the Old Testament and Jesus Himself were familiar with. Psalm 88 is the most dreadful yet comforting piece of writing for someone in the throes of spiritual anguish; that writer knew suffering of the mental and spiritual sort.
I read a piece on Doubt just now, when searching for my own blog; the writer makes the comfortable assertion that doubt makes you question yourself; doubt yourself, and find fault with yourself. My experience seems to be different. Doubt is precisely so ghastly because it makes you question REALITY, your foundations, your faith – not yourself. My own petty failings, sins, whatever you want to call them, seem like nothing compared to the gaping hole that opens up within you when you doubt.
The great writers teach us that we must hate our sins – that they should fill us with horror – and in the context of a living faith, it makes sense. I long for faith to be restored. Thomas Merton says that the instant you become aware of your need for God, you already have Him – that the experience of desperation is already the moment of finding. Or something like that! And I have experienced this! This is the most amazing thing. In moments of deep despair – no never despair, there is always this tiny, tiny flame of hope – I have felt how Love suddenly surges through me – a love for others. I experience it as a desire to sms someone and encourage him or her with love and affection.
Oh, Lord, how I long for you, and how, too, I am drawn by comfort and ease, by stability and routine. “Give me your living presence or I die!” cries one side, and, “I need a nap, a book and blanket,” says the other.
I feel sometimes I would be a good counselor for the doubting, as I have experienced it all.
What helped me this day: TRUST. Dear friend, if you are doubting too, remember the value of trust. You don’t have to feel peace, joy and delight in your God, or, at least, you CANnot, when in this state. But you can trust that He is there, hidden, but there. You can trust that Reality is good, underneath it all, and that at some point God will reveal Himself again to you. For now you are in pain and anguish but it will end.
Wow! What am I saying? That reality is fundamentally good, that the universe is fundamentally friendly, that goodness will prevail – and therefore, God? Yes, I believe so. For some the problem of evil dashes all their hopes of reality being good. But today, when I saw the cat tearing apart a bird, it somehow confirmed to me the Christian story: that life on earth is fundamentally flawed. That pain and suffering are woven into our miserable existence here on earth. But NOT that ultimate reality is so. We are born onto this earth and we experience suffering; we should not be dismayed at it. The suffering of that bird, its slow, violent death; how could any Eastern philosophy explain that? The bird did not choose to suffer and has no capacity of moral choice to overcome suffering; it merely suffers because that is life on earth. Likewise, us. All of creation groans. And what shall overcome this body of death, but a divine Saviour?
It made sense to me for a moment. I do understand that for some, the assumption that underneath it all is goodness, is God, is just too much to accept.
For me my doubts have been of a different sort – not so much doubting God, but the entire Christian worldview. The only way forward for me seems to be a broader understanding of who Jesus is. Yet never, oh Lord, an impersonal Jesus!