Does God exist? Does He know me? Is there any way that I can know Him?
Is there a true religion? Does it matter what I believe or don’t believe? Does any of it make any difference?
Is there such a thing as truth at all? How can I know who is telling the truth? Can any of us know what is really true or not?
We live in an age of doubt. No questions are taboo anymore. There are no truths that are not up for grabs. As a society we are increasingly skeptical that we can know anything and even more skeptical that knowing the truth can make a difference. Saint Thomas can be considered the patron saint of our age.
However, as Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ is the Truth. He is God made visible in the flesh. He knows each of us and we can know Him. And even more importantly, He loves us and we can love Him. To a world that distrusts any claims to absolute truth, it is a bold assertion. It may even seem arrogant. However, we are proud to proclaim and live the truth revealed to us in our Lord and God, Jesus Christ.
Nonetheless, our faith in Jesus does not always dispel any doubts we may have. Like Saint Thomas, there are times when it all seems too good to be true and we wonder whether it is all just a fairy tale. There are times when the other faiths or Christian traditions make us question how we can know which religion is the true one or if there is any true religion. Or the mysteries of our faith like the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist or the teaching of the Trinity that God is one God in three Persons can confuse us and challenge our beliefs. Finally, there are probably no issues more difficult for us to deal with in today’s society than Jesus’ moral teachings about marriage and family life.
It is natural that from time to time we will question our beliefs. In fact, it is a good thing if it leads us to grapple with the issues that are difficult for us, to learn more about them and to come to an understanding about why they are true and important for us to believe as followers of Jesus. Wrestling with difficult questions helps form our conscience and makes us better equipped to explain our faith to others who may themselves have questions.
There are times, however, when doubt can be a negative thing for our spiritual lives. If we give in to our doubts, if we fail to believe that anything is true, or if we tell ourselves that the truth does not matter, then it becomes impossible for us to follow Jesus. Doubt then becomes an excuse not to believe anything. We use it to justify any choices we may make since, if nothing is right, then nothing we do can be wrong. It also kills the life of our mind because, if we do not believe that anything is true, then there is no point in being curious about anything or striving to learn more.
Our doubts, however, can be an opportunity for us to grow in faith. We cannot have the same kind of certainty about the existence of God, about the reality of an afterlife or about the truth of the Catholic faith that we have about mathematical truths. We cannot prove these truths the way we can test scientific theories. There will always be unresolved questions in our minds and mysteries beyond our powers to understand. Faith means giving our lives over to God even though we have questions. Faith means committing ourselves to the good news of Jesus Christ even though we do not fully understand it. Faith means entrusting ourselves to the will of God even though the road ahead is unclear. We do that because Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” We do it also because Saint John tells us that “through this belief [we] may have life in his name.”
The life of Christian faith is nothing more than entrusting ourselves daily to Jesus. Every morning we place our worries into His hands confident that He hears us. Throughout the day we thank Him for every good gift which comes from His love. In every decision we make we seek His will rather than our own confident that He knows best. In other words, despite our questions, despite our doubts, despite our personal weakness and ignorance, we trust God. With that trust comes profound peace. If there is only one prayer that we make throughout the day, it should be "Jesus, I trust in you."
The American spiritual writer, Thomas Merton, summed up this beautiful truth in the following prayer:
MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.