“…a man may be haunted with doubts, and only grow thereby in faith. Doubts are the messengers of the Living One to the honest. (Doubts) are the first knock at our door of things that are not yet but have to be understood…Doubt must precede every deeper assurance; for uncertainties are what we see when we look into a region hitherto unknown, unexplored, unannexed.” – George MacDonald
Outside of the other religions in there world: there are 3 groups people can be placed in: People who say they are Christians, real Christians and people who are not Christian but not sure it’s at all false. [Generally, you can be born into a religious family and get initiated and that’s it. Christianity doesn’t function that way.] But I want to mention DOUBT here, specifically as it afflicts Christians and agnostics.
GROUP I – SO-CALLED CHRISTIANS -THE UNAFFECTED
There are religious believers who remind me of some a kind of “poser” for an advanced rock climbers but who are “top-roping” —that is, trusting the ropes and their pals to make sure he’s hauled to the top in case of a slip up. He’s cockily assured he’s always tethered, so for him checking his toe holds are of little importance.
Putting little into his thought-life, and how that connects to his religious life, he rarely has doubts. (Though he should).
GROUP II – TRIED CHRISTIANS- USING DOUBT
True “advanced” climbers are the ones who check, but climb, and climb higher. These are people who have been tested over and over. Yes, sometimes choose the wrong toe holds–there have periods of hardship and crushing difficulties during which even the greatest saint will doubt. After all, he is a human.
Many times these Christians have stumbled through life, doubting often. And if they looked for “signs” of God’s goodness in outcomes, they might see nothing. Outcomes, they have realized, are outcomes and not signs. The only Outcome that is of significance is the importance of the Resurrection of Christ, His overcoming pain and death. He (or she) fully expects to live again in a place where God’s love and His good and redeemed earth are in full bloom.
GROUP III – AGNOSTICS- FULL-BLOOM AFFECTED
The “Great Group of the Uncertain”. Don’t hate this group: I was once one of them. The agnostics –who stand on the ground looking up at the climb. Perhaps they’d were tethered and top-roped for a while, but they’re just earthbound now: fake Christians who are reconsidering and need time.
These doubters are the “Thomases.” (John 20:24-29) A “Thomas” hasn’t yet figured it out and maybe is still seeking. If she/he has the will (or is it the courage?) to admit that she/ he has been unable to find anything durable but is still actively searching, she/he will receive an answer.
But, “cookie-cutter” statements and other pat answers don’t solve the doubter’s dilemma.
No: they are better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others
Whether you are an earthbound Thomas or an advanced climber, doubts are trees–and we need to cut down our own tree:
In winter in the woods alone
Against the trees I go.
I mark a maple for my own
And lay the maple low.
At four o’clock I shoulder ax,
And in the afterglow
I link a line of shadowy tracks
Across the tinted snow.
I see for Nature no defeat
In one tree’s overthrow
Or for myself in my retreat
For yet another blow.
In Winter In The Woods – by Robert Frost