Saint Theophan the Recluse
At one time or another, everyone has doubts about the faith. These can easily be dismissed, however, by opposing thoughts which reveal the truth about the divine revelation regarding both the cosmos and humankind: the order and harmony of the universe, the miracle of life, all the supernatural and wonderful miracles performed by the Lord and his saints and, above all, the testimony of the conscience of well-meaning and pure souls.
God’s works, which are proof of his existence and providence, have many sides to them. One side is brilliantly illumined and therefore perfectly clear. Another is simply illumined and therefore discernible. Another is dim and therefore indistinct. And yet another is dark and therefore invisible. This last side has to do with doubts. But this is how God has arranged things in order to test the sincerity of our soul’s search for him and also our humility. You see, God and his works can be approached and known only through humility.
You believe that where God and his truth are, that is everywhere, everything should be inundated with light, should be accessible to the senses, should inspire souls in a forceful manner, should cry aloud their divinity. Don’t you realize that, if you think like that, you yourself are wanting to prescribe how God should act? As I’m sure you’ll agree, this is absurd, because, if that were the case, the natural order of things would collapse.
God’s works are holy in themselves, but their holiness is concealed behind an invisible curtain. Why? Because God so wishes, that’s all I can say. The counsels of divine Wisdom and Love are impenetrable. There’s no doubt, however, that inexpressible beauty and abundant light are hidden behind the curtain which doesn’t allow unbelievers to see the truth. Saint Paul says: ‘ For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made’ (Rom.1, 20). How many people, though? Only the faithful and those with good intentions. Not, of course, those people who are formal believers, but those who live in a manner pleasing to God.
You have to break the nut if you want to eat the kernel, which is tasty and nourishing. The Lord doesn’t reveal his mysteries to everyone; he doesn’t cast his pearls before the swine. This is why he spoke to the people in parables about the kingdom of God. Those who had the spiritual capacities were able to understand them and were enlightened by the truth.
When seeds fall into fertile ground, you think they rot and are lost. But, through the power that God has put in them, they germinate, increase and give a great deal of fruit. The same is true of the seeds of the divine word. They’re sown in the hearts of all people, but they take root only in the receptive ones.
Faith isn’t in any way diminished by the fact that not everyone believes. Take no notice of the unbelievers. Look at real believers and see what they enjoy through their faith. The Christian faith isn’t a philosophical system, but an attempt on the part of the incarnate Christ to raise up fallen humankind, through the grace of the Holy Spirit. So watch someone who is really following in the footsteps of Christ. You’ll see how they gradually grow, how they mature spiritually and become great, no matter how insignificant they are in the world.
Take Saint Seraphim of Sarov, for example, who was a simple person, illiterate. And how far did he reach? One word of his and he stopped the mouths of widely-read unbelievers. ‘But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things- and the things that are not- to nullify the things that are’ (1. Cor., 27-28). Divine grace thus transforms all those who submit to it.
So the Lord calls you to faith. He wants your salvation. And you will be saved, if you listen to his voice and follow him steadily, without wavering. For the sake of him who loves you, trample down all doubt. In this way, you’ll offer him the greatest sacrifice, for which he’ll reward you richly. Doubts are weeds which the enemy sows in the field of your soul, among the ears of corn. Why would you let him labor for your destruction? Expel him and approach our Savior, who stretches out his loving hand to you. Humble yourself, because, as I said, God is revealed only to the humble. Pray, because your prayer is a wall around you and protects you from the attacks of the evil one. And make a firm resolution never to accept any thought of doubt. At the first appearance of one, cast it from your mind with no further ado, no matter how reasonable it may seem. In that way you’ll put a stop to all the machinations of the enemy.