Doubt & Questioning

Take time to learn about other people’s experiences of the Light. Remember the importance of the Bible, the writings of Friends and all writings which reveal the ways of God. As you learn from others, can you in turn give freely from what you have gained? While respecting the experiences and opinions of others, do not be afraid to say what you have found and what you value. Appreciate that doubt and questioning can also lead to spiritual growth and to a greater awareness of the Light that is in us all.

Advices & Queries – 5

Too often doubt is taken as being the antithesis to faith, and questioning as the act of an immature and ungrateful Christian. And yet both are in fact expressions of maturity, trust and grace. It is only the greatest trust and love that can ask, that can turn to God and say, as Mary is recorded as doing, “What is going on? This just doesn’t make sense?” (Luke 1.34) And it is only trust and love that would even think of saying, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9.24)

It seems really important to me that we grasp this both for ourselves and for those around us. Unless we grasp it for ourselves we shall always be held back from real spiritual growth, and particularly – paradoxically, maybe – from growing in trust and inner security; unless we grasp it for others, we shall always be in danger of judging them, of setting ourselves somehow above them, missing what they might have to teach of, and missing the opportunity to support them in love.

It isn’t immediately easy, though, to see how we can come to trust enough to doubt and question. Most of us instinctively fear rejection, judgement, especially when this is what we have received from our fellow-Christians in the past. It seems to me that it is only from God that we can learn how trustworthy God is. We learn it by trusting enough to allow ourselves to encounter God, unmediated by our own preconceptions, our own learned response to Scripture. This is why, perhaps, such a passage is found in Advices & Queries: in silence we have nothing between ourselves and God, no words, no ritual, nothing except the empty rattle of our own thoughts, that die away quickly enough as we become aware of the real nature of the silence. As Pierre Lacout wrote, “God is there. But there is still silence. And the more God is there, the more there is Silence. Only those who try out this way of silence know how many shades of meaning this word can include, how much variety, how much mystery.”

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