John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” ~ Lk 7:18
Sometimes we are brought to a complete standstill in our prayer life by the roadblock of doubt. It can be hard to admit to this. Ashamed by our lack of faith, we may prefer to erect a shiny facade and keep the truth from friends or family. Even when we retreat to the most interior places of our hearts in prayer, we try to hide our spasms of uncertainty from God. We are afraid: afraid that our questioning will lead to spiritual cataclysm, that once the camel’s skeptical nose gets under the tent flap, the whole shabby edifice of our faith will collapse.
I remember mustering up the courage, many years ago, to confess to a priest-mentor in a quavering voice that I wasn’t sure God existed. He smiled gently, then replied, “God doesn’t mind.” It was an indirect and perfect reassurance to me that my doubts, powerful as they felt to me, did not supersede the truth of God. Even the prophet John the Baptist in today’s Gospel is not sure that Christ is who he claims to be. Jesus’s answer is as indirect and perfect a reassurance as my priest friend once offered: he tells John’s disciples to look at what he is doing and judge for themselves.
Pope Francis recently characterized doubt as integral to the life of faith: “We do not need to be afraid of questions and doubts because they are the beginning of a path of knowledge and going deeper; one who does not ask questions cannot progress either in knowledge or in faith.” We do not need to fear voicing our doubts as we pray. After all, God doesn’t mind.
O God, you who are the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Help me to view doubt not as inimical to faith, but as a fundamental element of my seeking. Amen.