There are moments when we doubt our faith in God. When we are sinking in hopelessness because of an unexpected tragedy, or when we feel victimized by a chain of unfair circumstances, we ask: “Is there really a God? If there is, does He care for me?”
Doubt almost seems like a bad word. Many see it as a symptom of a dying faith. So, we put on a stoic face and pretend we don’t feel depressed or hopeless with the way our life is going. We sugarcoat our doubts hoping that these will go away.
The problem is not actually our doubts. The problem is, we wrongly think we should never doubt God or our faith. Part of being human is to question what we don’t fully comprehend. Doubt can be the intuitive expression of our fumbling effort to understand God’s ways. When pursued sincerely, it can lead us to a higher level of spiritual maturity. As Friedrich Nietzsche writes: “He who has a WHY can bear almost any HOW.” Besides, God prefers a faith that is not blind, but one that seeks to understand.
Losing one’s faith is usually hastened by overthinking and over-analyzing things. When doubts crawl into our mind, we become too fixated on them, spending time and energy amplifying, dissecting, and trying to resolve them. What we should do instead is to focus our attention on what aspect of our faith is being challenged, then invest time and effort studying it so we can fight and defend it.
This is precisely the lesson of our Gospel reading today. While Jesus and his apostles are at sea, a sudden storm comes up. The waves become violent, almost sinking their boat. While this is happening, Jesus is asleep. The disciples wake Him up saying: “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:37-38). It is a question dripping with doubt (Is He really the messiah, when He cannot even save us from the storm?), and loaded with a veiled accusation (Jesus doesn’t care what happens to us).
The answer of Jesus is direct to the point: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:39-40). It is a gentle reprimand. The apostles are so overwhelmed by their fear of drowning that they ignore the one truth that stares them in the eye: Jesus is with them in the boat. They are fighting against their fear and doubts when they should be fighting FOR their faith, a faith that is anchored on the fact that they have never experienced being left or abandoned by Jesus.
Often, we act like the apostles. We loudly profess our faith in God and His all-wise providence, yet when confronted by the waves of difficulties, or when people of other creeds insult, downgrade, or belittle what we believe in, we do not fight for our faith. Fighting for our faith means renewing our conviction that our faith is anchored on truth, on promises made by a God who cannot lie, who is unchanging, and is faithful even when we are unfaithful.
This is why St. Paul, despite his lingering doubts about his faith especially when confronted by persecution, unspeakable sufferings and temptations, could say: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).