Saint Theophan the Recluse
Almost everyone has doubts about the faith at one time or another. It’s possible to dispel them, however, with opposing arguments which confirm the truth of the divine revelation regarding the world and humankind: the order and harmony of the universe; the miracle of life; all the other supernatural and magnificent wonders of God and his saints; and, above all, the testimony of the conscience of well-disposed and pure souls.
God’s works, which are evidence of his providential care, are multi-faceted. One side is blindingly obvious. Another is merely luminescent and discreet. Another is opaque and hard to make out. Yet another is dark and, hence, invisible. It’s this last aspect which gives rise to doubts. But this is a result of the fact that the Lord arranged things thus in order to test how far our soul’s search for him is genuine and whether we’re humble. You see, God and his works can be approached and known only through humility.
You believe that where God and his truth are, i.e. everywhere, everything should be inundated with light, should be palpable to the senses, that souls should be inspired powerfully and should proclaim their divinity aloud. Don’t you see that, by thinking in this way, you’re trying to define the way in which God should act? And, as I’m sure you’ll agree, this is unthinkable, because, were it to happen, the whole of the natural order of things would crumble.
God’s works are in themselves divine, but their divinity is hidden by an invisible curtain. Why? I’ll say no more than this- that’s what God wanted. The counsels of divine love and wisdom can’t be discerned. There is, however, no doubt that there’s inexpressible beauty and abundant light behind this curtain which prevents non-believers from seeing 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). But by whom? Only those who believe and are well-disposed. And, of course, not those who believe in a formal way, but those who live in a way that pleases God.
You have to break a nut to eat the kernel, that which is tasty and nutritious. The Lord doesn’t reveal his mysteries to everyone and doesn’t cast pearls before swine. This is why, when he spoke to people about his kingdom, he told them parables. Those who had the spiritual wherewithal understood them and were illumined by the truth.
When seeds fall into the ground, you think they rot and are lost. But, through the force that God’s put into them, they sprout and grow and produce in large quantities. The same’s true of the seeds of the divine word. They’re sown in all human hearts, but sprout only in those which are fertile.
Faith isn’t diminished in the least by the fact that not everyone believes. Don’t concern yourself with non-believers. Look at those who truly believe and you’ll see what they enjoy through their faith. The Christian faith isn’t a philosophical system but a way for Christ, as God and human person, to reform fallen people through the grace of the Holy Spirit. So look carefully at those who follow in the footsteps of Christ. And you’ll see how they gradually grow, how they mature spiritually and how great they become, even if they’re insignificant to the rest of the world.
Take Saint Seraphim of Sarov, for example, who was a simple, unlettered man. And how high did he reach? With a word he stopped the mouths of the widely-read non-believers: ‘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). This is how divine grace transfigures all those who surrender 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 steadfastly, without wavering. For the sake of him who loves you so much, trample down every doubt. In this way you’ll offer him the greatest sacrifice and will be richly rewarded. Doubts are weeds sown by the enemy in the field of your soul, among the ears of corn. Why do you allow him to wreak your destruction? Expel him and draw near to the Savior, who stretches out his hand to you in tenderness. Humble yourself, because, as I said, God reveals himself only to the humble. Pray, because your prayer fences you about and protects you from the assaults of the enemy. And take a firm decision: never entertain thoughts of doubt. As soon as they appear, cast them from your mind without further ado, no matter how reasonable they may seem. In this way, you’ll put a stop to all the machinations of the enemy.