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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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In praise of doubt

What we see as a stumbling block can be a step toward deeper faith

My 7-year-old son crept downstairs one night, two hours after his bedtime, and announced that he couldn’t sleep because he was too scared. I quizzed him about nightmares, scary books and horror movies on TV, and received “no” on all counts. I finally asked him what had upset him.

“I was just thinking,” he said. “What if we’re all wrong? What if there is no God? What happens to us when we die?

“Great,” I thought. “Existential angst at age 7.” None of the parenting manuals cover this.

My son—and his faith—survived his first major battle with doubt. But like all of us, he didn’t survive it because I or anyone else could provide the definitive answer that would make his doubt disappear. Instead he started learning to live with it—like we all do.

Why is doubt such a universal affliction? In some form or other, doubt seems to be a constant companion on the journey of faith. I don’t know any believer whom I truly admire who hasn’t struggled with it throughout their life.


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