The doubt in faith

“The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.”- Anne Lamont

This quote really confounds me because as a young person growing up in a religious Christian household, I was taught to believe in the certainty of faith. I memorized the famous scripture. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,”Hebrews 11: 3. Though, the very essence of the verse is saying that faith is unsubstantiated, I grew up believing that it was real and tangible.

As a child, faith was fact. Faith was certain. Faith was believing that I would get into college. Faith was knowing that I would graduate. Faith was believing that I would get a job right after college, save black people, meet the man of my dreams and raise a family. Faith was believing that my life would turn out just the way my 16 year old self lying in bed dreamed it would be. I was so sure about my future because I had faith.

Over a decade later, I’m realizing that faith isn’t so simple. My life didn’t happen as I had hoped for. The events in those years that led up to today have not lined up the way I believed it would. And now as I contemplate my last week at my job, I wonder if the faith I had as a child was even real.

I didn’t have faith. What I had was certainty.

And certainty is an illusion.

There is nothing certain in life because life happens. In my blog, 27 Going on 30, I wrote in my first post,” Life has taught me that things don’t happen as you’d hope for.”

Yet we as humans love certainty. We believe in it. We have faith in it. But it isn’t real.  In actuality, it is trust that we mistaken for certainty. The child that is certain that her mom will pick her up after school every day is actually exhibiting trust. As I sit on the fourth floor of my apartment, I may be certain that the floor won’t collapse. Yet actually, I am trusting that the constructors built this building soundly. Trust me, certainty isn’t real.

What is real is doubt.

Doubt is defined as feelings of uncertainty. We worry tirelessly about our past, present and future. We are uncertain of our looks or how people view us. We doubt our abilities and power. These are real emotions and feelings that we’ve all  experienced at one time or another in our lives. We feel doubt in our bodies to the point that it can destroy our health. We become overwhelmed with these feelings of anxiousness and try to find ways to relieve ourselves from them by seeking security and reassurance.

However, as crazy as it may seem, I’m beginning to believe that we need to doubt. We need to be uncertain and to worry a little in order to have faith. I can only have faith when I realize and choose to accept that I don’t know the outcome. I have to embrace doubt in order to be free from it.

Faith is about not having all the answers. That definition of faith is a whole new concept for me. This means that faith is risky. Faith is scary. Faith is uncertain. That is why having faith is so difficult. We struggle with it because it is perilous and it takes courage to actually have faith.

However, though faith is a struggle, I find this new definition comforting. My new meaning of what faith is, provides an opening for me to be human. I can worry. I can have doubt. I can fear because it is natural. I just can’t dwell on these feelings. I just have to accept  uncertainty and trust that the universe will do its job.

So now when I lay in bed and the magnitude of my situation hits me full of worries, doubt and fear; I am choosing to hold on to the simple belief that though I feel uncertain of what my future holds, everything will be alright. That’s pretty darn scary.

But that’s faith.




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