With Inspiration from a talk by Jeremy McClung
When we first become Bahá’ís, there are often things in the Writings which we find difficult. Striving to learn and understand is a gradual process, requiring wisdom:
Since we are all imperfect and have to learn the perfect standard which Bahá’u’lláh has unveiled, there are often things in the Teachings themselves which individual believers find difficult, and which they have to strive to learn and understand. All the believers are growing and this is a gradual process. Each one, as you say, must develop wisdom, and with this must realize the fundamental importance of the unity of the community and the bond of love and affection among the believers, for the sake of which he will sacrifice many things. … (The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 631)
God has asked us not to doubt by following our idle fancy, but to give in to whatever proof God has given us:
If thou dost ponder a while, it will be evident that it is incumbent upon a lowly servant to acquiesce to whatever proof God hath appointed, and not to follow his own idle fancy. (The Báb, Selections from the Writings of the Báb, p. 122)
He wants the doubters to rise above their doubts:
Let the doubter arise, and himself verify the truth of such assertions. (Shoghi Effendi, Messages to America, p. 17)
When our hearts turn to God, He’ll open our eyes so we can recognize His truth and no longer need arguments and proofs.
And when the heart is turned unto the Sun, then the eye will be opened and will recognize the Sun through the Sun itself. Then man will be in no need of arguments (or proofs), for the Sun is altogether independent, and absolute independence is in need of nothing, and proofs are one of the things of which absolute independence has no need. Be not like Thomas; be thou like Peter. I hope you will be healed physically, mentally and spiritually. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 383-384)
Doubts are dispelled by reading the Writings:
We are certain that when you share this letter with the friends and they have these quotations from the Scriptures and the Writings of the Guardian drawn to their attention, their doubts and misgivings will be dispelled and they will be able to devote their every effort to spreading the Message of Bahá’u’lláh, serenely confident in the power of His Covenant to overcome whatever tests an inscrutable Providence may shower upon it, thus demonstrating its ability to redeem a travailing world and to upraise the Standard of the Kingdom of God on earth. (Shoghi Effendi, Wellspring of Guidance, p. 44-56)
The only remedy for our doubt is to admit we might be wrong; that Bahá’u’lláh’s knowledge is from God and be willing to surrender his feelings and thoughts to Him. The very act of submission opens our hearts and allows true knowledge to come in, so that every trace of conflict will disappear:
The only remedy for the individual who still has a glimmer of faith in his heart, but who has doubts about the Cause, is to admit that he may be wrong in his assessment of the teachings of the Faith, to affirm that Bahá’u’lláh’s knowledge is of God, and to surrender his feelings and thoughts completely to Him. Once he submits himself in this way and perseveres in doing so with sincerity and truthfulness, the channels of the grace of God open and his heart becomes the recipient of the light of true knowledge. He will discover, some time in his life, either by intuition or through prayer and meditation, the answer to all his problems and objections. Every trace of conflict will disappear from his mind. He will readily understand the reasons behind those very teachings which previously baffled his intellect, and will find many mysteries enshrined in the utterances of Bahá’u’lláh, mysteries of which he was completely unaware in earlier days. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 2, p. 218-219)
Now that we’ve got a taste of what the Writings say about doubt, let’s look at how it relates to fear.
Doubt is really behind anxiety and fear – we might think we’ve accepted God’s love in our lives; we might think that we trust that He has a plan for us; but if we’re feeling anxious about the future, it’s because we doubt that He will really be there for us, opening the doors and paving the way. We believe in God, but we doubt that He will provide for us or give us what we need tomorrow.
How much do we really have faith and trust in God’s bounties in our lives?
One minute we think we might trust God, and the other, we take matters into our own hands because we don’t think He heard us; or that He is able to intervene. For example, maybe you’re having some trouble in the area of money. Perhaps 60% of you trusts that God will provide and 40% doubts you’ll be able to meet your expenses next month.
In another part of your life, you’re worried about your children. Will you be able to do a good job as a parent? Will you be able to protect them from the tests of this world? Maybe you only trust God with 20% of that and think you have to do the other 80%.
Or what about forgiveness? Do you believe that God has forgiven you for mistakes you’ve made in the past? Maybe you’ve just come back from feast; or heard a beautiful prayer chanted and you believe about 70% that God loves you and has forgiven you, and 30% that you’re going straight to hell.
Other areas you might doubt God’s presence is in your marriage, career path, job, health, finding purpose of fulfillment in life; bitterness over what someone else has done to you. Maybe you know what the next step you need to take in life is; but you doubt that God will meet you there.
So life is going along, and you sort of trust God on all levels, until something bad happens. Perhaps you lose your job, and all of a sudden your trust level with God plummets down to 2% as you believe that your financial future is in your hands and not God’s. You become worried, and obsessed about what to do next, absolutely forgetting to trust God. Now your belief that God loves you has also plummeted because why would He cause you to lose your job if He loves you?
Every day the gauges of trust in God’s ability to provide for us in every area of our lives goes up and down with the changes and chances of this world. Sometimes they all go down to 2% trust in God at the same time, and that isn’t enough to hold us through the test. This is what brings us to a crisis of faith. Everything we’ve built our life on in terms of trust in God goes down at once, and we’re on shaky ground regarding our faith.
Doubt is a normal part of our spiritual journey. It’s one of the tests God sends us for the perfection of our souls, so when you’re faced with it, don’t freak out; don’t feel there’s anything wrong with you.
God wants us to trust Him, to have faith that he will provide us with everything we need, but He doesn’t expect that it will be 100% in all areas of our lives, all the time. Jesus said that all it would take to move a mountain was to have the faith as small as a mustard seed.
If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.’ (Matt. xvii. 20.)
God understands how hard it is for us to trust a God we can’t see. He asks us to be merciful to those who doubt.
The more clarity you have in terms of your own doubt, the easier it is to face it head-on. Like everything in our lower natures, it doesn’t like to be brought out into the light of day. It often disguises itself as a nagging doubt, worry, anxiety, fear that something bad is going to happen, guilt, workaholism, pessimism, obsessive behaviour, a need for control. Underneath it all is a doubt that God is going to do what he says He’s going to do.
A belief that tomorrow is going to be worse robs us of our joy, and prevents us from living in and enjoying the present.
Once we bring it to the surface, we have a choice and can better face it.
Every doubt you can name is an opportunity to exercise faith.
Doubt is opposite to faith; not the enemy of faith – it’s the tool God uses for our growth.
You can go to the gym and look at all the equipment as your enemy and see it as too hard; you will never be able to get healthy. It’s the same with doubt. Without doubt, your faith is never going to grow. We have to face each doubt as it comes along or we’re never going to grow.
We never get to the point where we’ve conquered doubt entirely. We conquer one and there’s another we need to work on; just like when we master a certain weight, we need to move on to the next level. We can’t just go to the gym for a few weeks and we’re strong for the rest of our lives. We have to keep exercising those muscles or they will atrophy.
God asks us to trust him a little more every day so our trust will grow. We need tests to help grow our faith. Our faith is the core of our relationship with God; without it, we can never grow closer to God.
Like everything in the faith; we seem to need opposites (were it not for the cold . . . )
You can’t will yourself to trust God, any more than you can will yourself to trust another human being. Our faith grows the more we get to know Him, just as it does with other humans, by seeing his trustworthiness over time.
There are only 2 things we have control over – our thoughts and our actions. Most of us have developed mental patterns over time including our struggle with faith and doubt. If 40% of us trust God’s ability to take care of us and 60% don’t; we have a choice about which we’re going to be. We can turn our mind, thoughts and attention towards trusting God or we can trust the voice of our lower nature which says we can only trust ourselves.
Make a list of all the ways God has come through for you in the past, to help you focus on believing he will continue to do so in the present and future.
Daily reading of the Writings and memorizing passages will help us remember to trust God. It helps us remember that God is who he says he is; and therefore we can trust Him.
Sometimes we need to lean on the faith of others. Perhaps we’ve never seen evidence of God working in a particular way in our lives, but we might have a friend who did; and we can trust that maybe if God was working in their lives; He could be working in ours too.
Once we know the areas in which we don’t trust God; we can ignore it, and focus on turning our attention to all the ways in which we can and do, so that our trust can grow so big there’s no room for doubt.
You don’t have to trust God 100% in order to act as if you did. Even if you only trust God 1%, you still have a choice to act as if you trusted him 100% – In the 5 Steps of Prayer we learn to act as if it had all been answered. That’s how we grow. We see God come through, so we can trust him more.
Fear is doubt in disguise.
Sometimes we have such high levels of doubt that we don’t even have a grain of mustard seed of faith. Ask God to give you a sign. God is merciful. He wants us to have faith. He stands ready to answer whatever we pray for.
For more in this series, please see:
How has this helped you understand doubt differently? Post your comments here: