Posted by: susanideus | August 26, 2010

Faith, Doubts and Questions: Is There An Answer?

Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods. (C.S. Lewis)

To have faith, must it be unwavering? Does faith leave room for doubt? I’ve asked myself these questions lately, in the face of life’s tragedies and unanswered questions. I can’t explain why my friend’s mother lay in a nursing home for so many years, why a relatively young friend has been devastated by a debilitating stroke, why cancer wreaks havoc in lives, why people die in mudslides and earthquakes and hurricanes. These things hurt me, make me angry, break my heart. But does my inability to explain these things mean I don’t have faith, or that my faith is inadequate? Does the fact that I have have questions and doubts mean that my faith has no validity? I’ve thought about this a lot…

I don’t often speak about my faith in this public forum. I’ve always felt that was between a person and God–and that my life would reflect it if it were a part of my life. I am a person of faith, a Christian and a child of God. That being said, I speak my mind here, and my heart, and this concerns both. How do I resolve the coexistence of both faith and doubt in my life? I’m not a theologian, so these thoughts may be seem naive and unsophisticated to some, but here are my thoughts.

All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

I look at the world around me. I see the grandeur of nature. I see the miracle of new life in babies and flower buds and burgeoning crops. I wonder at the stars and the moon and the galaxies and the Perseid showers. I gaze on mountains and rushing streams and pine forests and waterfalls and the Grand Canyon. I cannot explain these either. I believe as Madeline L’Engle:

When I look at the galaxies on a clear night – when I look at the incredible brilliance of creation, and think that this is what God is like, then instead of feeling intimidated and diminished by it, I am enlarged . . . I rejoice that I am a part of it. ~Madeleine L. Engle

I see the changing face of this desert and these mountains daily, hourly, sometimes minute by minute. It is nothing short of miraculous. To try to capture each change, each nuance of change would be an impossibility. It is enough for me to know that it is here in all its splendor, in all of its mystery, in all of its delight. I see the sun rise here and the sun set here; I watch the moon rise and the stars come out. I see flowers bloom and then turn to seed. I see the sand blow across the landscape and just as quickly watch rivulets of rushing water traverse the desert floor and carry water to full roiling arroyos nearby. Miraculous, I say, to see this place through all of its changes. It is awe-inspiring and faith-building. Explain it all? Not I.  Do I have to understand a miracle to know it happened? Not at all. There are miracles all around us if we just take the time to look around.

Miracles are not a contradiction of nature.  They are only in contradiction of what we know of nature.  ~St. Augustine

For me, although I admit to doubts and confusion and even anger at God in the face of human tragedy, I don’t find my faith diminished. Instead, as I continue to question what it means to believe and to have faith, I am challenged to grow and expand my faith. I seek and I find evidence in nature and friends and family every day that convinces me that there is God, that my faith is not in error, that it is not without justification.  It’s not necessary for me to have all the answers–that’s knowledge. And while I certainly respect knowledge and use it and strive to gain more, I think my life would be lacking so much were it not for my faith. It enriches me in a way that’s hard to articulate. It is as much a part of me as every bit of knowledge I possess.

There are two ways to live your life – one is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as though everything is a miracle. ~Albert Einstein

I prefer the latter. Feel the heartbeat of a newborn,  realize the radish you eat came from a seed the size of a grain of sand, study a hummingbird hovering in mid-flight to drink in nectar, see the unconditional love and trust in the eyes of a young child, notice a flower blooming through a crack in the concrete, watch a couple married 60 years walking along holding hands, know the kindness of a stranger, experience the phone call or email that comes just at the right time, delight in the antics of a tiny puppy or kitten, feel the love in a much-needed hug, taste a ripe tomato fresh from the garden. Yep, I’m definitely on the side of miracles. Some people might say that just makes me a “cock-eyed optimist”.  That’s OK. I think it just makes me who I am. Some might even say I’m a fool, using faith as a crutch. That’s not quite so OK, but everyone has an opinion. I say I’m truly sorry that anyone has to live without wonder and mystery in their life.

Faith is a bird that feels dawn breaking and sings while it is still dark. ~Rabindranath Tagore

I can’t explain away life’s tragedies and misfortunes, but I can’t explain all the miracles and causes for joy either. For me, that’s life in all its beautiful fullness.

Faith is a knowledge within the heart, beyond the reach of proof.  ~Kahlil Gibran
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully… (1 Corinthians 13:12 NIV Bible)


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Responses

  1. My thoughts and beliefs echo yours, Susan. TY for such a beautiful rendition of your thought! The graphics are beautiful as well. You are so talented! Your writing blesses me!

  2. Thanks for your kind words, Gloria. The longer I live, the more I see that causes my faith to strengthen. In a world like we live in, that’s cause for celebration, don’t you think?

  3. One word: yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. I am so thankful for the ever-increasing moments that my soul simply stops and feels profound gratitude for my creator. Your words and pictures connect with that thread.

  4. Thanks for visiting my blog, MJ! I’m always glad when my words resonate with someone else. I have done so much thinking about this lately. On one hand, I am so blessed, and my faith rejoices in that. Yet, there have been some losses and sadness that I have no logical explanation for–and they do cause pain–and sometimes I struggle. But, as I said, I’m definitely on the side for the miracles!

  5. “I can’t explain away life’s tragedies and misfortunes, but I can’t explain all the miracles and causes for joy either…”

    Isn’t it strange–or just human, I guess–that we ask Why? about tragedies, but accept miracles as if they need no explanation? As if they aren’t miracles at all? Perhaps because the miracles are so much more common.

    A thoughtful post. Thank you.

    • You know, as I look back on my life, Kathy, I can see many miracles taken for granted. Maybe I was too busy, too involved with the dailyness of life, but I suspect I was just not observant. I think you’re right, too, that we tend to put more thinking and pondering–the whys and hows and what-ifs–into the tragedies and the bad stuff, maybe because those events seem to slap up us the side of the head, and miracles can be quiet and unassuming, waiting to be noticed. Whatever, the case, I now look for them daily, and without fail, I am not disappointed!

  6. Susan, thank you. You have words here from so many of my heroes, each one explaining another facet of our journey in understanding how to have faith.

    Throughout your words I just had that overriding picture of a swarthy fisherman in a howling gale, treading the waves on his way out to a fishing boat. I have always felt for Peter- no, I have always become Peter at that moment when he looks down and thinks, hold on, what am I doing?

    Never does that moment take us by storm more, than when suffering and pain afflict the ones we love. But it doesn’t take away the fact we walked on water.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Kate. I love the word picture of the swarthy fisherman. I often feel like Peter in that storm, but I am comforted to remember that despite his doubt, he became a great leader and believer. Faith is indeed a journey, and I know I’m not there yet, but I will always keep seeking.

  7. Susan — I enjoyed this post very much.

    I especially loved this paragraph, “I prefer the latter. Feel the heartbeat of a newborn, realize the radish you eat came from a seed the size of a grain of sand, study a hummingbird hovering in mid-flight to drink in nectar, see the unconditional love and trust in the eyes of a young child, notice a flower blooming through a crack in the concrete, watch a couple married 60 years walking along holding hands, know the kindness of a stranger, experience the phone call or email that comes just at the right time, delight in the antics of a tiny puppy or kitten, feel the love in a much-needed hug, taste a ripe tomato fresh from the garden. Yep, I’m definitely on the side of miracles. Some people might say that just makes me a “cock-eyed optimist”. That’s OK. I think it just makes me who I am. Some might even say I’m a fool, using faith as a crutch. That’s not quite so OK, but everyone has an opinion. I say I’m truly sorry that anyone has to live without wonder and mystery in their life.”

    I couldn’t condense it. I liked it all. I don’t know you well yet, but every word seems to reflect who you must be and I know you are someone I will enjoy getting to know.

    Just so you don’t think you’ve picked a blog stalker:~)I’m in Joanna’s class with you. BTW You should put this paragraph in your intro…it’s powerful!

    • Sara, I too am looking forward to our group’s adventure as we share and learn from one another. I thank you for your encouragement about my words here. I am always a seeker on the faith journey I’ve undertaken, and I will always be out there looking for the miracles. They are all around us–and I suspect Joanna will guide us to find even more of them!


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