The role of doubt in the development of faith
At an age when many of my contemporaries are grandfathers, or even great grandfathers, I’ve discovered the truth of something I read about while still a college student. Grandparents are often more sympathetic to the burdens and challenges that young people face than their own parents. Age seems to mellow us out and make us more sympathetic to the challenges young people face. We become less judgmental because we’ve been down the same road and know that, in the end, these young people will come out just fine.
Some time ago I had the mother of a boy of about thirteen arrive at the monastery, son in tow. She was upset because her son had declared himself an atheist and she was afraid he was in danger of eternal damnation. I sat down with the boy and told him that each one of us had to come to a personal awareness of the reality of God for ourselves. Doubting the existence of God, I told him, is all part of building a personal relationship with God. If we simply go through the motions without seeking a real relationship, we might as well be atheists. My own youth was filled with great spiritual struggle as I sought to fill the void I felt within my heart.
Most young people struggle with questions about things eternal. It is part of relationship building. Like the young lad who visited with his mom, I struggled with doubt. The only difference was that my struggle happened during my college days. It was a period of time when I was filled with anxiety for the future and fearful of making the wrong decisions. I understand the issues facing young people today because I was a young man with the same fears and struggling with many of the same issues.
Knowing as I do now the importance of being honest, I told the mother to let her son explore for himself the reality of God. It was better for him to question the existence of God than to simply feign belief. At the same time I told the boy he needed to attend church with his family because it was important to be obedient to his parents and supportive of his younger brother. After all, one does not tell his parents that he’s not going to attend school just because he doesn’t see his studies as important.
The God this boy was rejecting is the very false image of God that I have long rejected. The God I have come to know personally is not the same god I rejected in my youth. The God revealed in Jesus Christ is the One Whom I’ve personally experienced and Who first sought me out.
If we are to have a personal relationship with God we must be open and honest and unafraid to question. The Lord wants us to be real with Him. Like the sound relationship that one sees in a long and successful marriage, a relationship with God must first and foremost be based in honesty and truth. Love and trust come with time and experience. Our relationship with God is something that builds over time, like all relationships.
These sixty-eight years have led to a great deal of peace in my heart and an ever growing love for the God that first loved me. I KNOW God exists because I’ve experienced His great love in a personal way. It is now my heart felt desire to share my love for God with the youth of today. They, like me, need to discover God for themselves and build upon a relationship that began with their inception.
With love in Christ,
Photo: Three young Canadians men spent the weekend with us, and were joined by two Seattle Pacific University students, for the Sunday celebration of the Divine Liturgy.
Monday July 7, 2014
5th Week after Pentecost. Tone three.
Apostles’ (Peter & Paul) Fast. By Monastic Charter: Food without Oil
Nativity of St. John the Baptist.
Venerable Anthony, abbot of Dymsk (Novgorod) (1224).
Righteous Youths John (1566) and James (1569) of Meniugi (Novgorod).
Martyrs Orentius, Pharnacius, Eros, Firmus, Firminus, Cyriacus, and Longinus, in Georgia (3rd c.).
St. Nicetas, bishop of Remesiana (414) (Neth.).
Venerable John, monk, of Yaransk (Solovki) (1561).
St. Michael, great prince of Tver (1319).
New Martyr Panagiotes of Caesarea in Cappadocia (1765) (Greek).
Translation of the relics (1492) of Martyr John the New (1332) to Suceava, Romania (Romania).
Synaxis of the Righteous Zacharias and Elizabeth (Greek).
St. John the Hermit of Bohemia (904).
St. Athanasius of Paros (1813).
St. Gerasim (Dobroserdov), bishop of Astrakhan and Enotaeva (1880).
You can read the life of the saint by clicking on the highlighted name.
“Blogs and social networks give us new opportunities for the Christian mission…Not to be present there means to display our helplessness and lack of care for the salvation of our brothers.” His Holiness Patriarch Kirill
The Scripture Readings for the Day
Put on Christ
11And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. 12The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. 13Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. 14But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.
The Law of Liberty
14 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. 2For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. 3Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. 4Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.
Dedication to Theophilus
1 Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled[a] among us, 2just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, 3it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, 4that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.
John’s Birth Announced to Zacharias
5There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.
8So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, 9according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. 11Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
13But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
18And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”
19And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. 20But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”
21And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple. 22But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless.
23So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house. 24Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, 25“Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
Birth of John the Baptist
57Now Elizabeth’s full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son. 58When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her.
Circumcision of John the Baptist
59So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias. 60His mother answered and said, “No; he shall be called John.”
61But they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.” 62So they made signs to his father—what he would have him called.
63And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, “His name is John.” So they all marveled. 64Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God. 65Then fear came on all who dwelt around them; and all these sayings were discussed throughout all the hill country of Judea. 66And all those who heard them kept them in their hearts, saying, “What kind of child will this be?” And the hand of the Lord was with him.
67Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:
68“Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited and redeemed His people,
69And has raised up a horn of salvation for us
In the house of His servant David,
70As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets,
Who have been since the world began,
71That we should be saved from our enemies
And from the hand of all who hate us,
72To perform the mercy promised to our fathers
And to remember His holy covenant,
73The oath which He swore to our father Abraham:
74To grant us that we,
Being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
Might serve Him without fear,
75In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.
76“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;
For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,
77To give knowledge of salvation to His people
By the remission of their sins,
78Through the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;
79To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”
80So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.