Doubt is part of faith journey

By Sam Lucero | The Compass | September 25, 2013

A rebuttal to a letter writer

A reader recently expressed concerns about a Compass columnist’s writings. “Fr. Ron Rolheiser’s suggestion that faith feels like doubt and darkness … is inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels,” said the reader.

“We can only approach God by believing, not by doubting,” the reader pointed out. “It appears that Fr. Rolheiser is trying to express that everyone doubts their faith to some degree. … Doubt in God is darkness.”

What to make of these words? Is it true that “doubt in God is darkness?”

Many spiritual writers have explored the topic of doubt and the challenges faced in believing in God and the afterlife. Fr. Rolheiser is not the first to tackle this topic. In “Dark Night of the Soul” (1578), St. John of the Cross spoke of the painful experience people suffer as they seek to grow in spiritual maturity.

His description, dark night of the soul, has since been commonly used to describe a spiritual crisis that leads to doubts about God. St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the 19th century French Carmelite nun, experienced her own dark night, telling other nuns, “If you only knew what darkness I am plunged into.”

More recently, Blessed Mother Teresa’s experiences of the dark night of the soul were published in “Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta.”

“In my heart there is no faith — no love — no trust — there is so much pain — the pain of longing, the pain of not being wanted,” she wrote. “I want God with all the powers of my soul — and yet there between us — there is terrible separation. I don’t pray any longer.”

Mother Teresa did learn to deal with her doubts, seeing them as a cross she had to bear. “I want it to be like this for as long as (God) wants it.”

Last week, America Magazine published a 12,000-word interview with Pope Francis. While the secular media latched on to the pope’s comments about the church’s need to present a more balanced approach to pro-life issues, Pope Francis also spoke about the issue of uncertainty.

“In this quest to seek and find God in all things there is still an area of uncertainty,” he said. “There must be. If a person says that he met God with total certainty and is not touched by a margin of uncertainty, then this is not good. For me, this is an important key. If one has the answers to all the questions — that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself. The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt.”

What Pope Francis, Mother Teresa, St. Thérèse, St. John of the Cross and Fr. Rolheiser are telling us is that our journey toward God is not perfect in this life. At times it becomes clouded with darkness. To deny this is to deny our humanity and our imperfection.

The apostle Thomas had the good fortune of Jesus dispelling his doubts about the resurrection. We are not so lucky. Instead, we have spiritual writers like Fr. Rolheiser to help us process our thoughts of doubt and to understand that these feelings are part of our humanness. Why would we want to remove this writer and his encouraging spiritual writings from the pages of The Compass?

Related Posts

Scroll to Top