Some Thoughts on 'Belief'

Sometimes it can be very easy to ask the question, “Why do I believe in God?” Usually, the query is much more subtle, and most often we simply reaffirm our belief that there must be a God, since otherwise things would not make sense. Then we go on with life.

However sometimes—in the life of any Christian who is seriously trying to follow the Lord in his or her life—we face more serious, potentially grave doubts about our belief in God. Especially in light of our cultural and societal influences, it is becoming easier and easier to ask, “Isn’t it just silly to believe in God? I can’t ‘prove’ him…it doesn’t really make any sense.” While this doubt is certainly much greater than the first, I think that it also provides a much more profound chance to reaffirm our true belief in the God who really does exists, even if sometimes unclearly.

It can be tempting to think of ‘belief’ as something abstract: “I believe in God because I am able to rationalize his existence in my mind, and that makes sense. Therefore, he must exist, and I must believe in him.” In reality, nothing could be further from the truth! ‘Belief,’ by its very nature, implies that the thing being believed in is not ‘known’ in our strict, scientific sense. On the contrary, it cannot be know if we are to believe in it. This is especially true for God, who we will never fully understand because of his infinite mystery; our knowledge of him will always be one based on belief, never empirical science.

With that in mind, can we really consider ‘belief’ as something we do at one time and don’t do a few minutes later? Rather, shouldn’t our definition be based more on our habitual practice of acting in accord with the will of God that we know through our faith? In fact, even if we can’t convince ourselves intellectually that God exists, or that there is any good reason to believe in him, if we are still following his laws and loving him with our daily works, then have we really stopped believing? This is not to say that we shouldn’t seek to understand the Lord in the teachings that his Church hands on to us, or in the ways he reveals himself in very human, rational terms (e.g. through philosophy, theology, the beauty of nature, etc.). However, in the end, we should not be discouraged by our whimsical feelings of doubt, which are very human and—in the end—very finite.

Really, seeing belief as a more integrated, habitual reality allows us to understand it in a much more realistic sense. God does not demand that we dissect and parse him out, like a math problem. Instead, he desires that we come to know him in a similar manner as our mother, father, husband, wife, etc. We don’t believe in their love because we can scrutinize it or even feel it at times; we believe they love us because we come to know them and truly know their love for us. Why? Because we love them back. Precisely the same is true with the Almighty God of the universe; if we hope to believe in him—to know him—we must simply and consistently love him above all things.