Please help me to get down under things and find where You are”

                                                                            Flannery O’Connor

HAVING been raised in the Roman Catholic tradition, faith, for me, was presupposed, a given, based in Christian Doctrine under the authority of an infallible pope. It was the religion of my parents, and their parents before them, and so on. As late as through the 1970’s, reading the bible had not been encouraged by the Catholic Church. In fact, in Medieval times, it was forbidden. Thank God these peremptory restrictions no longer exist. Nonetheless, Catholics in general, sadly, are far less familiar with Scripture than are the Protestant faiths. And it is within Scripture—the sacred and inspired Word of God—that the fires of faith are ignited and burn—over and over and over again. With each reading, a new insight. Clearly, God speaks to us in many ways, but most profoundly through His Word.

 This is in no way an indictment of the Catholic faith. Its rituals, ceremonial traditions, and liturgical practices are deeply spiritual and materially significant. My point is that as an adult, I came to the realization that what faith I possessed had been inculcated in me and blindly accepted, and faith (grammatically a noun) is in actuality an active verb; it requires action and commitment. It was during this season, callously buffeted by the capricious winds of life and dealing with rising doubt, that I understood this. And so I began to address my doubts by chasing faith.

If we apply Newton’s Third Law of Physics to faith—for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction—we can conclude, then, that where there is faith, doubt is also present, lurking in the darkness. Archeological evidence suggests that some form of religion existed in prehistory (during the Upper-Paleolithic age—dated between 50,000 to 12,000 years ago.) In keeping with Newton’s Law, if the cognitive ability to believe existed, so then did the ability to doubt. The point being; doubt, presumably, has existed alongside faith for thousands of years. [1]

We all have moments of doubt, no matter how godly we are . . . or try to be. Scripture is replete with righteous doubters (Luke 1:6; Mark 9:24; Genesis 15:7-8 and 17:17). No one is exempt. Even the disciples, who walked with Jesus and saw first-hand his miraculous power; even they doubted. But doubt should not be thought of as a negative response. Rather, it can be a building block; the more we pursue knowledge of God, the deeper and stronger our faith grows. Doubt, I submit, is the basis for belief; it recognizes the thing in question. To quote Flannery O’Connor (a favorite writer of mine) once again: 

“I think there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe. I know what torment this is, but I can only see it, in myself anyway, as the process by which faith is deepened. A faith that just accepts is a child’s faith… [People] think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe.”[2]

 Mary Flannery O’Connor was a devout Catholic. You will find the mystery, the presence, and, yes, even the depiction of the absence of God, in her novels, stories and personal journals. Her walk with God was an odyssey, a determined journey during which she chased faith assiduously and deliberately. Clearly a woman of deep faith, arrived at through actively pursuing God, despite—or because of—times of doubt and uncertainty, as she admits above. [3]

Why believe in God? According to Nietzsche, “God is dead!” He is merely the creation of humans in order to make sense of what we cannot understand (evil, suffering, death). This ‘philosophy’ is vehemently refuted in Ecclesiastes which tells us, through the wisdom of Solomon, that life with all of its unreasonable hardships has no meaning without God, and it is faith in this unseen God that brings us the hope of salvation (1 Peter 1:8-9; John 20:29). 

Over 84% of the world’s population follow a particular religion., evincing the inborn need for a relationship with a higher power, or creator. The definition of faith is found in Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews (v. 11:1): “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” St. Augustine summed it up perfectly: “Our heart is restless until it rests in you (God).”[4] Here is the quintessential response to why we are drawn to believe . . . and why there is no other rational answer to the purpose for our existence. Our souls are of God, and until they meet in relationship with Him through faith, there is no relief of their restlessness—not money, fame, drugs, sex, power, career—nothing other than God will satisfy the soul. Skepticism is part of the human condition. But doubt can spur us to build faith: “because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:3). And knowing God through His Word is the key: “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17).

By stepping over doubt and pursuing knowledge of God through His Word, you will find that He is faithful, and His love for his creation, while beyond understanding, cannot be measured.  Some time ago, I invited an acquaintance to church. Her response was. “Oh, I’m not religious.” Later on that day, The Holy Spirit convicted me of not correcting her. /what I should have said was: religion is a category; it has very little to do with faith, which is all about relationship. We were creative for relationship with our Creator. God does not care whether or not we eat meat on Fridays if it is simply to follow rules established by a certain ‘religion.’ He cares about what is in our hearts. If we abstain from eating meat on Fridays, he wants it to be because it brings us closer to Him. By increasing our knowledge of Him, our understanding and our faith grows stronger, and doubt takes a step or two back.

* Published in Agape Review (2022).


[1] Wunn, I. (2000). Beginning of Religion, Numen, 47(4), 417-452. doi:   

[2] Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor

 [3] For more on Flannery O’Connor and Faith go to: