In contemporary church-y, Jesus-y culture, we have little language to express doubt; and little room in our paradigms for sitting in the tension of it. Mostly, you are either in, or you’re out. I find that lots of people have a sophisticated (or at least wordy) theology about doubt and they know all the right answers, and usually those are the folks who have never actually traveled it. It’s easy to say, from a place of faith: you should put a lid on your doubt.
I don’t want to do that.
My personal experience with doubt has been informative and valuable. I feel that Jesus’ response to my doubt has always been a gracious “Here, touch my hands and side” (1); and “I saw you under the fig tree” (2). For better or worse, I want to explore it, to remember what it felt like when I was there, and allow it to portray my faith in relief, with depth and shadow and dimension. I feel pretty sure that to doubt is to admit that mystery is an ingredient of faith, a color in its spectrum.
This litany uses more poetic imagery than most of what I post. But I have found that regular words aren’t enough to give vent to doubt. If the entree is hard questions, it needs a side of groaning, and a chaser of silence.
Honestly, if you are in a season of doubt, and you are able to pray this (or any) prayer at all, well, good for you. And if your “sometimes” is moving toward “always,” then Blessings, Sister. Blessings, Brother.
Litany for Doubt
God, sometimes we feel as if You are not there at all.
We cannot hear You through the static of our emotions,
the cacophony of voices,
the fullness and the void.
We cannot see You in the fabric of the visible and scientific.
We cannot feel You in the tension and the grit.
People say “God doesn’t exist” and sometimes we believe them.
We want to believe You.
We want You to be Good. Love. True.
Help our unbelief. (3)
We have been hurt. Shattered, perhaps.
We have been disappointed, and are inclined to minimize risk.
We can say with the Psalmist: “All day long I have been afflicted,
And every morning brings new punishments.” (4)
Let Your grace pierce the armor we set about ourselves.
Have mercy on us in our doubt, and meet us in our weakness.
Where we are skeptical, be gracious to us.
Where our expectations are unmet, be generous to us.
Where we have unanswered questions, gently teach us.
We acknowledge that doubt is an opportunity to become deeply quiet,
On our own we can hardly open the door for You.
We will need You to stealthily creep in.
We will need Your patience, and all the loving-kindness You can muster
To make up for our lack.
If there is any language we can understand,
Surely it is Love.
If there is any small spark our eyes can see,
Surely it is Love.
- John 20:27
- John 1:48
- Mark 9:24
- Psalm 73:14