Many sermons are preached from pulpits around the globe about Faith. “Have faith!” “It just requires faith.” “If you have faith….” Faith is a strong and necessary thing for our Christian journey, but is it a sin to doubt?
In the Gospel According to Mark we hear a story of a father struggling with his faith. His son was possessed by demons, but when he was brought by his father to Christ’s disciples, they were unable to heal him. He had nowhere else to turn, but to come to Jesus with his doubt. The young man’s father said to Jesus, “’If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.’” (Mark 9.22-24) And the child was healed by Jesus.
The invitation by Jesus and the Church to have faith is a common struggle to all Christians. We struggle to have faith not always because we refuse to believe, but because sometimes all we know is pain and struggle. Our “real life experience” is filled with examples of the fallen reality of human existence, and we wonder sometimes if God is really listening? We wonder if our faith is strong enough to either convince God to help us, or to accept that He might not help us in our moment of pain.
Having faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and as a gift, must be accepted by us in order for it to have any power in our life. Accepting the gift however sometimes requires a bit of effort on our part for our faith to “come out” in us. This is when Jesus says to us, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9.29) Doubt is not a sin; not trying is.
Doubt is having the experience that sometimes, maybe even many times, things don’t work out like we want them to work out. Doubt is wondering if God wants we what we want. Doubt is believing that God can help us, but wondering if He will. The journey of Great Lent is that time of year when we learn to distinguish between belief and doubt, and allowing God to complete our faith where doubt left off.