A Filipino biblical scholar says, “It’s okay to be not okay”. It is okay to be sad. It’s okay to doubt. It’s okay to express our bitter feelings to God. In today’s churches there is less value for people’s doubt and despair. Churches neglect biblical laments that doubt God’s goodness and question God’s doing. As a result, many Christians suppress their emotion, doubt, despair and agony within themselves and manage themselves to be happy.
But central to our identity as human beings is a thinking ability. Created in God’s image we are called to exercise the God-given ability of thinking and reasoning in our journey of faith. Reason requires us to be religious skeptics, questioning both religious belief as well as religious disbelief. A thinking person would ask some crucial questions about one’s own faith. One may doubt over certain things including faith-related things. As intellectual beings, we may doubt things and ask why there is evil in the world if there is a righteous God. Christian faith is a process. We learn and walk in our faith journey. Doubts can help us in balancing extremism and becoming critically realist about our faith. There is nothing wrong in doubting and questioning our faith, but we should also be willing to question our doubts.
Created in God’s image we are called to exercise the God-given ability of thinking and reasoning in our journey of faith. Reason requires us to be religious skeptics, questioning both religious belief as well as religious disbelief.
The Bible reveals God’s nature and his covenant with the people. It also records how the faith communities responded to God during suffering. We not only hear “the voice from above” but also hear “the voices from below”. These “voices from below” are different and polyphonic. No community agrees to a single opinion or perspective. Any society has different people with different understanding. The whole dimension of faith should be understood in the light of all the varied perspectives within a faith community. When suffering strikes, people respond to it in various ways. Some may simply mourn the loss. Others could reason out things why such calamity happened. There may be a few who might verbalize their protest to God while others would defend God in the midst of all sufferings.
The point is that there is a place within a faith community to deal with life issues differently. There is no single way to respond to suffering. When the Israelites lost their nation and the temple in 587 BC the whole community mourned the great loss. Some were blaming God for overdoing punishment while others defended God saying the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. The exilic and the post-exilic community of Israel doubted whether God’s promises were still relevant. The five poems of Lamentations record the polyphonic expressions of the community having protest, penitence, and prayer. The meaning of the book of Lamentations should be seen in the light of those varied expressions, not just in one of them. As the Russian literary scholar Mikhail Bakhtin says, truth is found not in a monologic expression but in dialogic and polyphonic expressions. Every expression is dialogical. Our doubt and expressions to God themselves are reactions to God’s truth. Even through our doubts, we engage ourselves with God.
Among the Twelve disciples, there was Thomas who doubted Jesus’ resurrection. Some of Jesus’ disciples mistook Jesus’ teaching and asked for places to sit on Jesus’ right and left. In all of their ignorance, Jesus’ teaching of God’s kingdom becomes clear. It’s okay to doubt your faith. God is not offended by your doubt. We are not called to defend God but to trust him in the midst of all our uncertainties, doubts, and questions. Some might say, “In Jesus we have all answers, why doubting”? Yes, in Jesus we have answers, but questions must be asked.