Thoughts on Doubt and Love

“Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

When I was on my mission, my mission president’s wife told us,

“You can’t convert anybody above your own level of belief.”

I remember feeling vaguely uncomfortable when she said that, because I was never quite sure how well I believed.  Given the way my mission turned out, I guess she was right.

I have always doubted, from the time I was a child.  It’s difficult to describe how it feels to grow up in doubt.  When other kids were playing in the mud or dressing up dolls, I spent hours asking God to assure me I was right in His eyes.

And then comes the inevitable extension: when doubt evolves into something more. When familiar words and rituals that once brought strength become a source of confusion, even anger. When peace gives way to pressure.  When clarity becomes despair–

And you find yourself straddling two worlds that might look different but are really the same: those who know it’s true, and those who know it’s not.

Is there no fellowship for the uncertain?

I’m reading the Gospel of John right now, and I’m struck by the Master’s tenderness toward the outcasts, the unjust, and the downtrodden. And I’ve always loved the story when the man approaches the Savior with his sick daughter and cries out with tears, “Lord I believe; help thou my unbelief!”

Christ doesn’t hesitate; He heals the child.

Doubt is a lonely road.  But there are moments, even when I’m languishing in utter confusion and near despair, that I feel His presence near me, urging me to look up, reach out, move beyond myself and lift another.

I think one of the most profound implications of grace is the realization that everyone–everyone–is in need of the Savior’s loving kindness.  The sinners.  The haters.  The overconfident. And the doubters, too.

About Katie L

A doubter by nature, a believer by grace.

Posted on March 26, 2009, in Thoughts on God and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Katie–This meant so much to me! I love it. I totally linked to it 🙂

  2. Katie,
    I enjoyed reading this post. I can totally relate to what you’re saying. I too am an outcast, a believer caught up in doubt. I doubt, but not in God or my Saviour. I doubt that I can find others, like me, that have been through many spiritual trials, coming through it not knowing who to turn to, who to trust… I read a book called Holy Longing that really helped me. The author stated our search, our seeking – just like you’ve been doing since childhood, asking God for assurance that what you believe is true – is not just a means to an ultimate end. Rather, our spiritual journey IS the final destination.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I look forward to reading more of your blog.


  3. Katie,

    I appreciate this, My struggle has lead me to try to sort out what I actually do believe, what experience (spiritual, intellectual and otherwise) has confirmed and start there rather than worry about anything that is too hard to swallow. It has been both liberating and difficult, distressing, lonely etc.

    My take is that the most important lessons don’t lend themselves too much to doubt. The reality and goodness of love, friendship, family bonds, charity, spiritual experience, life, compassion. You may doubt the interpretation of all of these things but their reality can be confirmed. I suppose I let God reveal himself through those things when he doesn’t seem as real as I had supposed before and when the Church seems to be just one of many competing/conflicting viewpoints.

    At any rate, good luck with your search through doubt. I appreciate your comments and thoughts.

  4. Laura, thank you for the link! I’m glad you enjoyed the post–and I hope you’re doing well! 🙂

    Mitch, welcome to the blog. That’s a cool thought about our journey being the actual destination. I think I’m beginning to learn more and more that there is a lot of truth to that idea.

    Jared, are you saying that it is difficult to doubt the existence of love, friendship, family bonds, etc.? I’d agree with that–they are tangible things you can feel and experience. Where I get confused is when I have those experiences in places I “shouldn’t;” when I’m pondering a concept that seems to contradict the teachings I was raised with, or when my idea of revealed truth so directly conflicts with another’s. It’s difficult to sort these things through and make sense of it all sometimes.

  5. I couldn’t agree with you more. . . The primary untruth that we sometimes learn in the church is that life is somehow simple, that answers are clear and always available. In my experience life is chaotic, messy and very unclear. I know of good things but the interpretation of everything is very difficult. Essentially I stopped trusting in the interpretations and now try to see the experiences behind them. And I still don’t know if that is the best way to go.

    I do hold on to some things. I think that when we find security in some system of belief we sometimes stop seeking verifying experiences in other areas.

    One of the most puzzling yet insightful places in the Book of Mormon for me is Moroni 7:12-15

    ” 12 Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; . . .
    13 But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.
    14 Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.
    15 For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.”

    It says that the way is perfectly clear, and that everything good is from God.

    Well, it may be an unorthodox way of looking at this but the only way I can make sense of this insight is to understand that good, and God must be found in other places besides the places it “should”. We have to judge, but all we have to go on is our own ability to detect these good things. I think this means we should be allowed that ability to detect, even when it differs from conventional ideas.

    I think what we have to focus on is where our heart is and what we are seeking. I think that we have to trust what is certain to us but learn also what is certain to others and try to strip away the. Focusing on the fact that we doubt can make us forget everything that we actually know. Thinking that we already know, and pushing away doubts, fools us into thinking we know things that we don’t and stifles us from finding more Good.

    I “have my doubts” as to whether I have got this right, but on some level I found that there are some things that I can trust and build on, even if I end up not fitting in.

  6. “The best way to know God is to love many things.”
    -Vincent Van Gogh

    “You are so young, my son, and, as the years go by, time will change and
    even reverse many of your present opinions. Refrain therefore awhile from
    setting yourself up as judge of the highest matters.”

    Why focus on the details? The details will drive us insane.
    Knowing the “mathematics” of God’s divinity won’t make me any closer to Him or mankind.

    (all I have is a couple quotes for you Katie 🙂 Take care)

  7. Katie, I am going to link to a couple of posts from my own blog recently. I don’t know how your spam filter works, so I am going to submit a couple of links in separate comments – leaving this one without a link just in case.

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