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.