The Illuminating Power of Doubt – Maya Reinfeldt

An increasingly common sentiment among my friends, peers, and community is that the past few years have been awfully chaotic and upsetting to the maximum. Both domestically and globally, tragedy overlaps with injustice, people polarize at alarming speeds, and climate disasters sweep the planet hand-in-hand with a pandemic. Thus, I’m quite certain that I’m not alone in feeling something very troubling for any person of faith: doubt.

My religious identity is a creative, albeit confusing mix of a Russian Orthodox background and elements of spirituality, morality, and ethics that I’ve picked up throughout life. Two things I know for certain: I believe there is a God, and I believe that he is good and loves humanity unconditionally. In light of this, the past few years have raised some questions that I’m certainly not the first to grapple with. Why is any of this happening? How could any God that loves his people allow so many of them to suffer, die, and live under oppression? How could a benevolent higher power let innocent lives be lost in the grip of a deadly virus? And finally, am I a bad believer for entertaining these doubts? In response to these questions, one could search the Bible or any religious text for answers, consider the element of free will and its consequences, attempt to find a moral justification for humanity’s suffering, or simply lose faith.

I don’t pretend to have any answers for my doubts, nor for the same doubts that have plagued religious peoples for centuries. I don’t personally believe that any tragedy, be it a disease, natural disaster, or social issue, is a punishment from above, nor do I believe anyone deserves to suffer. I also don’t believe that my God would love me less for raising such questions. But can I explain why the God I have put my faith in let this happen? No. Thousands have attempted to tackle these bewildering issues, and thousands more will.

I have come to see, however, that for every instance of doubt there follows something that only affirms my belief in the power of a good and loving God and his spirit in humanity. I see this confirmation in basic, mundane human kindness, in protests for what is right, in those who risk their lives to save others, and in anyone who continues to persevere despite what’s been leveled at them. Though I’ll never know why tragedy occurs, I certainly see the best of humanity pushing its way forward with every fire put out, every COVID patient saved, and every child fed. Knowing myself, I’ll never be fully satisfied with an unjust world, but these slivers of faith are enough to go on for this lifetime. They are enough to give me the strength to help others and fight for what is good.

There’s something that I’ve realized, and it’s quite wonderful. Without doubt, faith wouldn’t be exactly what it is: faith. A deep belief in something you can’t see or know, a trust, a bond beyond logic and without proof, some certainty that the beauty of human kindness is encouraged and guided by a hand from above. If we knew for certain that there exists a God or any higher power, if we could speak to its motives, we would lose the beauty and elation of true, irrational, passionate faith.

Questions for my CRGC fellows: what is the sharpest instance of doubt you’ve felt over the past few years? How have you dealt with it? What expressions of your faith help you cope? Though my response is formed through my faith, I’m curious to hear every perspective, religious or atheistic.

7 thoughts on “The Illuminating Power of Doubt – Maya Reinfeldt”

  1. Hello Maya,

    I have to admit that with faith there are times I dealt with doubt, not in terms of the existence of a higher being like Allah (God) but more so how much tragedy seems to happen in this world. Tragedies like violence, disasters, and violence in the name of faith. I have come to the conclusion similar to yours that even with all this bad there is good, people coming together and helping one another. That good that I see in people, the coincidences in life, and the hope that a lot of us hold for a better tomorrow I feel is directly God sent. I also feel though without questioning one doesn’t really know and understand God and their faith. So questioning or doubt is normal, and can even be a means of looking into your faith deeper and growing closer to God.

  2. Hi Maya!

    I am so impressed that you tackled such a big issue in your blog post. It’s really cool that you’re willing to put yourself out there and take a stab at maybe one of the biggest questions that all people of faith have always grappled with. I really agree with what you said about how faith can’t exist without doubt, because otherwise it would inherently be something else, and that something would be less powerful and profound. The whole doubt thing is something I have been thinking about this summer especially, because I felt like I was starting to slip and sometimes think there wasn’t a god at all, which sometimes made me really upset because I had worked so hard to get to the point where I could confidently say I believed in G-d. But I’m trying to retrain that thought process and tell myself that “believing in G-d” is not a static thing, and your faith is something that will fluctuate your whole life. Another little thing from the summer that I keep coming back to is that in Hebrew the word for faith (אמונה) and the word for trust (אמון) are only one letter apart. Faith is built upon trust, literally in the root of the word, and faith cannot exist without trust. That one letter, ה, that you add to the word for trust to change it to faith is also a shorthand for G-d in Hebrew. Faith is literally trust in G-d. Trust means letting go and staying with the idea that things will work out, even if you have no proof or confidence in the moment. And that’s kind of what faith is, or at least how I’ve been trying to think about it recently.

  3. Great post, Maya! I love your comments on human kindness and faith. Those are two powerful ways to help us keep going and combat the darkness of doubt. There have been instances in my life where I have wondered if I was ‘good enough’ or ‘qualified’ to do certain things. There have been other times where I questioned where I stood before God and how I could draw closer to Him. In each of those situations, faith and prayer were very important to me. I think a large difference between faith and belief is action. So, to me, faith is the intersection of belief and action. Prayer is a way for me to act on my belief and really connect with God. Prayer has been a great strength to me and has helped me through the toughest times of my life. I find great comfort in being able to connect with a Heavenly Father (God) that is listening and cares about me personally. That has had a profound impact on my life and helped me keep moving forward through my doubts and other difficult trials.

  4. Hi Maya,

    This is a really interesting topic for a blog post and I am so glad I got to hear your perspective on it. I definitely agree that faith, without doubt, wouldn’t be faith. That being said, faith has never really been my thing. As someone who was once very religious, I often compare the ideas, terminology, and beliefs of my past to my present existence (which is very much so atheist). One of the concepts that has undergone the biggest transformation is the notion of faith. When I was younger being so-called “strong in your faith” was the most admirable of qualities, then it became the aspect of religion that troubled me most. I am still at odds with faith, however, I have been trying to reconcile as of late. Primarily, because faith is still highly valued among some of the people I love the most, and, until I end my feud with faith, their beliefs will likely remain very foreign to me.

  5. Hello Maya! I related to your post quite a bit! I have asked the same question that you have been asking yourself – how can God unleash such a wrath upon the world where many innocent people were killed not to mention the millions of people who were affected in other ways such as experiencing economic hardships and possible loss of loved ones. While I have searched for the answer myself and looked to my faith for guidance, I have still found it hard to grapple with the unrest that is going on in the world right now. I especially resonated with your point that this uncertainty and doubt is what makes our faith stronger and is what partly defines faith. I think the happenings of the world have shown me that the journey with my faith is constantly evolving and changing – at times I feel as though Sikhi can provide all the answers to my troubles and ensures and I feel in tune with what I have learned. Other times, I feel the opposite – frustration and sadness. However, like you said, despite how tough circumstances can be, I still believe that the essence of God is loving and there is a divine light (or Jot) inside of everyone that is often shines even brighter during trying times. For example, I have seen people bonding and trying to maintain social connections like never before. I have seen self-less acts by front-line heroes that are truly admirable. My faith has allowed me to view what is going on around me in a positive lens. Great post Maya – really enjoyed reading it!

  6. Hi Maya,

    I had some pretty intense doubts around this time last year. It wasn’t about religion; instead, it was about my career. I was an Engineering major, and I was gradually coming to the realization that I hated it. I had some lonely nights and some major grief over figuring out what to do, where it all went wrong, how to tell my parents, etc. I’m not religious, but I get the feeling these are some of the same problems those doubting their faith experience. I, for one, felt a tremendous weight off my shoulders after making the change. They say the grass gets greener and the sky turns bluer — it’s true, it really is.

  7. Maya,

    The most recent streak of doubt was not too long ago. It wasn’t my most intense, but it is similar in a lot of ways. I want to believe that people are good and that my goals aren’t too difficult to achieve. I struggle with trying to navigate the overlap between school, career, family, and myself. I sometimes think that I take on too much. That I’m too gullible or too optimistic in trying to believe that the walls that people build up will come down and everyone can be friends. It’s too complicated and overwhelming. I think to myself, ‘please don’t let everything backfire and blow up in my face. Please let me be able to do good and let that benefit everyone.’ Also recently, I was reminded of what usually helps when I get worried like this. Remembering that this is “Hukam” or the ‘command or divine order’ from Waheguru. That everything is supposed to happen in exactly how it happens and I have no control over anything except how I react. This is similar to ‘going with the flow’ or ‘trusting the process.’ Letting myself go and allowing myself to feel comfort from Waheguru’s Hukam is something I’ve found to be reassuring and continue to explore and share with others. Everything happens for a reason, and the best thing I find I’m able to do is remembering to breathe and that everything will alright.

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