I’ve always known myself to be a visual learner. I recently learned my Enneagram and if you’ve been reading along for awhile, you’ll shake your head knowingly: I am a “Five with a Four Wing.” The recent Enneagram trend identifies this as the Investigator. I am cerebral and intense, easily fixated on mastering something, an information gatherer. Knowledge and understanding are highly valued. I have difficulty with relationships. And at my worst, I can be considered an iconoclast, someone who opposes accepted beliefs and institutions. But most disturbing of all, I am in the company of Darwin, Einstein, and Nietzsche. Yikes. Suffice it to say that faith does not come easily for me. I am a lifelong doubter.
Funny thing about faith: no one will see if you stop believing. So some of us do from time to time, especially when life-changing illness, or loss, or disappointment lands unexpectedly on our doorstep. We struggle with God and we can even conclude that He isn’t there or doesn’t care. Pascal recognized the battle: “There is enough light for those who only desire to see, and enough obscurity for those who have a contrary disposition.”
Yes, we can certainly talk ourselves out of believing. We can literally rationalize ourselves to death. But God planned it all just this way. He could have made faith obvious, 100% provable, which would require only a cerebral understanding, a safe bet. In doing so, He would win our minds, but not our hearts. But all He has ever wanted was our hearts, a relationship with us. He wants us to choose Him out of love, not out of making a great investment. So the uncertainty hangs there, begging to be confronted and wrestled with.
The grace in this is that doubt doesn’t destroy faith; indifference does. Indifference slowly robs faith of oxygen, and gradually, the fire fades and goes out. But doubt is different. Doubt can put you through the fire and purify your faith, define it, and render it more useful than you ever thought possible.
Doubt never leaves a faithful Christian. In fact, even John the Baptist sent a desperate question to Jesus before he was beheaded, “Are you the One?” Is it really you I am putting my life on the line for? Thomas and Peter, both having walked alongside Him, had at least momentary flashes of uncertainty.
Doubters are not going to get cut from the team. Jesus knew when He was putting together his roster of apostles, that Thomas was iffy. More than that, He knew that Peter would be easily swayed and he knew that Judas would give Him the kiss of death. But he put them on the team anyway. They were not solid. They were doubters. I would have easily screened them out from the beginning with all the knowledge that Jesus had. But He wanted, needed, them all to be part of the story.
So, obviously, doubt doesn’t mean you’re not a good Christian. I truly am a lifelong doubter, but more importantly, a committed Christian. My husband is different; one of the strongest Christians I know and the reason I am a believer today. He has seldom doubted. He has felt an enviable closeness and knowing with God since childhood. Sometimes it is difficult being married to someone who feels God so close, so constantly. But I have come to realize that for some of us, doubt is a pebble-like gift that sits in the shoe of our Christian walk and irritates us, and keeps us pursuing truth. We can never forget it. Those of us plagued by daily uncertainty come to faith differently than those who feel God’s intimacy from birth. We challenge Him and question Him, but we can never forget Him.
I believe that God knows me intimately, and wanted it this way so I wouldn’t put Him on a shelf and forget about Him as I live my life. My dad used to say jokingly to my Mom, “I told you I loved you when I married you, and if I change my mind, I’ll let you know.” God doesn’t want that kind of relationship with us. He wants us to desire Him constantly, to reaffirm our love and commitment to Him throughout our lives. One way we do that is to face the frequent doubts, look full in the face of the controversy every day,and continue to choose Him again and again and again.
We doubters are seekers and I believe God prefers that over lukewarm complacency. At the core, faith requires doubt because we don’t have full knowledge yet. I Corinthians 13 says that when knowledge comes, faith will be no more. But this side of Heaven, we don’t have that knowledge yet and so some doubt will be there. Clearly, doubt is not the enemy. Rather, it just may be the daily miracle that makes faith work for most of us, at least those of us “Fives with a Four Wing.”