A true and living faith is never a destination; it’s a journey. And to move forward on this journey we need doubt. Faith is not based on certainty. Think of it this way. We often cling to certainty-seeking faith like one might a map as if the map itself is actually the territory. But our “map” of God is never the complete and fully truthful reflection of the territory. We can only be genuinely open to going deeper with God if we hold our maps in a flexible way.
This kind of openness recognizes the benefit of doubt. This kind of doubt makes room for us to struggle on the inside of our relationship with Jesus because our faith is not found in how certain we are, but in the faithfulness of Christ.
Exploring the doubts we might have inside this relationship allows us to be honest, open, and as objective as possible as we work through issues without fear that the faithful love of Christ for us hangs in the balance. And the freedom to explore these kinds of doubts makes us adept at remaining humble as we remember that our maps are always limited and tentative, whether we are talking about our relationship with God or other people. The map is not the territory.
With our confidence in the faithful love of the self-sacrificial character that Jesus displayed on the cross, exploring doubts can free us to honestly explore our map for ourselves. Knowing how easy it is to be self-deceived, this kind of doubt allows us to explore whether we really believe what we say we believe.
More importantly, it empowers us to better relate to God, whose perspective is always further beyond our own than the stars are beyond us. Doubts that you explore within your relationship with Jesus can give you the space to wrestle toward an ever-deepening, increasingly intimate relationship with another. Doubt is not the enemy of faith. It’s a much-needed companion.
If you’re among those who have felt the need to try to avoid doubt and strive for certainty, if you are among those whose security has been wrapped up in a commitment you made at some point in the past that you thought “sealed the deal” between you and God, or if you are one of those many who embraced the idea that faith is an invisible thing that has no necessary connection to how you live, day in and day out, maybe it’s time you consider a reframe. Maybe it’s time to let go of the certainty of your map and embrace the relationship.
—Adapted from Benefit of the Doubt, pages 150-152