“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part.” ~The Apostle Paul
Last week, Jason wrote on his experience navigating faith and doubt, especially when things become more gray than black-and-white. In his post, he explores how faith demands that we engage difficult questions, face unsettling facts, and withstand vexing trials, and how doing so can force us to re-assemble certain of our beliefs in a way that will enrich them, not diminish them. Read it.
Like Jason, I’ve also traveled through several “dark nights of the soul,” where certain principles I thought were rock solid have slipped into this chasm of uncertainty. But I’ve come to realize that the darkness need not be scary! Instead, those nights now make me so grateful for those rare (and merciful!) beams of bright light that illuminate my soul and my way forward.
Now, maybe you’ve attended a Mormon church and been shocked at how convinced everyone is of what they believe. The oft-repeated phrase “I know God lives” may sound incredible to you. “Do they really know?” you might ask. “How could someone actually know something like that?” And you might wonder if you, too, could ever be so convinced.
My hope is that if you have ever been tempted not to return to a Mormon church because you feel a little less certain about things than everyone else, that you’ll reconsider. And also that you’ll friend me on Facebook . . . because you and I have a lot in common.
Many—like myself—are cautious about what we cannot see. We empathize with “Doubting Thomas” and see him as “normal” rather than weak. To us, faith is not measured by the number of facts we know. It’s about how we act within that very real space between what we can know and what we cannot— that gray area where belief and disbelief are both plausible conclusions amidst a dearth of evidence.
Confession: I’m usually a little skeptical when people express their spiritual convictions with black-and-white certainty. It’s not that I don’t think they are sincere. It’s just that it doesn’t work that way for me. Where some people have an experience or feeling and say, “This definitely means X,” I experience that same feeling and say, “This very well may mean X…but it could also mean Y…or Z…” To be sure, there are pros and cons to this mindset, but I want to say in no uncertain terms: if you’re like me, there’s a place for you in our church!
In fact, recently, I’ve tried to look really hard at my life to figure out what I can really say I “know” is true. Surprisingly, I came up with far fewer things than I expected. There are things I hope, things I believe, but only a few things that I can confidently say I “know.”
I hope that Joseph Smith saw what he said he saw when he described Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appearing to him as a 14-year old boy.
I believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God like the prophets of old.
I know that devoting myself to the church Joseph Smith founded makes me feel closer to God than anything else I’ve done.
And here’s another:
I hope Jesus Christ’s words in the New Testament were recorded correctly by the authors of the Gospels.
I believe Jesus Christ suffered for my sins and was resurrected so that I can live again with him in heaven.
I know that building my life around Jesus Christ’s life and teachings helps me become the best version of myself.
Make no mistake: I’m modest in my conclusions about what I really know, but I’m bold in my devotion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. How can this be? Well, frankly, because faith isn’t about the things you know; it’s about your commitment to those things you cannot. At the end of the day, my faith is measured by how I act in the face of uncertainty.
I remember my darkest night of the soul, when I feared that everything I had ever believed and trusted was just a nice but delusional story. I went to the chapel on a Tuesday afternoon, found a dark room tucked away even though the building was hauntingly still. There I begged a God I wasn’t even sure was listening for something, anything, that would allow me to hold on to these hopeful tales of eternal families and life after death. And in that darkness, that uncertainty, I discovered my faith. I haven’t stopped walking that dimly lit path since, and I could not be happier for it.
Take, for example, a scientist. Daily she might confront evidence that seems incompatible with an intelligent design to the universe. She will see widely accepted theories completely abandoned because of the latest discovery. Conviction may be impossible for her. She may be unable to say more than that she hopes there’s a God. But I firmly believe that the scientist who yet walks the faithful path — even if feebly—manifests a most powerful kind of faith.
So if you’re like me, and you find it difficult to say you “know” something that seems unknowable, please don’t think there’s anything wrong with you. In fact, maybe that’s exactly how faith works. Some people believe faith is about suspending reality, but I think it’s about embracing it, and the reality simply is that there are a lot of difficult questions. And within that not-so-black-and-white space, there are things I hope, things I believe, and a few things I just know.
Here’s one more:
I hope that God listens to my daily prayers.
I believe that God exists.
I know that believing in God gives me hope.