Book Review: Doubt is Just Another Way to Say You’re Thinking it Through

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Christians often behave as if they’re afraid of their own questions. 

Perhaps this comes from preachers to don’t want to face the same questions in themselves and who attempt to answer the anguished “Why?” of a suffering parishioner with platitudes or, occasionally, accusations of a lack of faith. 

But the truth is, there is a reasonable basis for these questions.

“Life,” as President John Kennedy famously said, “isn’t fair.”  

Sometimes the rich get rich, the good die young and bad things happen to good people. 

That alone is enough to drive any sensitive person to take a good long look at claims that God is all-powerful, all-merciful, all-loving, all-knowing and all-just. 

If that is true, why aren’t the baby rapers of this world piles of ash? Why didn’t Hitler die along with so many others in World War I? How is that the heads of big banks can bring down whole economies and get paid off with our treasure to refrain from finishing the destruction they created?

I could go on.

And on. 

But the point is made.

This God of ours, with His long list of “alls” can seem a poor fit for the reality of what is often cruel and difficult human existence. 

Sensitive, thoughtful, nerdy people, as Kyle Cupp, the author of Living by Faith, Dwelling in Doubt describes himself, are bound see the conundrum and ask themselves their own little whys. These questions are not the Why of a mother whose son was murdered in front of her house, or a girl who was raped and beaten and left for dead. They are the confused questions of a bystander who sees this and cannot balance the two columns, one a column listing God’s attributes, the other a column listing the many instances of “where was God?” that they see around them.

People who are caught in the snares of life’s anguish don’t ask these questions, or if they do, they don’t ask them in the same way. The irony of dwelling in doubt is that the doubts tend to vanish when you are confronted by the hardest realities. There is no choice then but to live by faith or to die psychologically. More to the point, these deepest pits of human suffering are when the Holy Spirit meets us most reliably and in ways that undeniable. 

Backward as it seems, intense suffering, which sparks doubts in those who witness it, often increases faith in those who endure it. 

Mr Cupp has had his own life’s hardships. He’s dealt with them by living in faith, all the while shadowed by nagging doubt. But difficult as the things he’s borne, they do not reach the level of all-eclipsing cataclysm such as sometimes happen to people.

There are things that are not survivable without God. It is possible for some people to survive them physically, but without God they will never be intact again. 

Perhaps the one such encounter that everyone must face is their own death. Without God, death means annihilation. People can pretty that up or, more often, just dismiss it from their thoughts when death appears far off on a horizon they don’t expect to ever reach. Most people who talk blithely about dying without God do not, in their hearts, really believe in their own mortality.

But actually facing death your own death for real is quite another matter. The blithe burbling dries up and your tongue sticks to the roof of your mouth.

It is the time when people make the final choice as to whom they belong, the point at which that choice becomes eternal. 

Everything — every grief and small annihilation we face in our lives up to that point — is a practice session in making the eternal choice. Doubt is not a sin. It is not a lack of faith. It is simply thinking it through. 

What matters is not so much the question, for in essence all these questions are only one, what matters is our answer. Dwelling in Doubt is simply the question in whatever form your life experiences direct it to.

And that question, directed to Our God Who made us, is, “can I trust You to be Who they tell me You are?”

The answer is either living by faith or going the opposite direction and turning your back on the only hope you have. 

Kyle Cupp writes an honest book with Living by Faith, Dwelling in Doubt. He lays bare many of his own sorrows and weaknesses. By his own confession, he is a nerdy, introverted man. But his prose reveals a strikingly honest person who is not afraid to admit that there are days in which the faith he lives by dwells in doubt. 

Our Time in the Sun and the Stories of Our Lives

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Watching a young person grow into a productive adulthood is one of the deepest pleasures in life. 

I’ve witnessed this process in my godson, Jerome Krug, as he’s moved from a devout teen into  seminarian on the road to the priesthood. Jerome has a blog, To Love and Be Loved. His insights and ability to express himself with the written word have developed as he’s matured. 

I want to share a post that he wrote recently because it expresses one of the key insights of living in this life. “These are the days of our stories,” Jerome writes, which is another way of saying that our time is now. Solomon referred to it as “our days in the sun.”

The life each one of us is given is its own story. The things we do with our time become the living witness of who we are, what we value and what or who our gods may be.

A question that grows out of this is, when you come to your day to die, what do you want to have done with your life? What do you want the story of your life to say? What do you want to have used your self, your “time in the sun,” to have accomplished? 

From To Love and Be Loved

These are the days…
This weekend my brother Joseph is making his First Communion. As our family prepares for this priceless ritual lots of family members have come into town(including myself). Last night I was sitting around listening to the elders of our family tell their stories. Talking about the presidents they remember, the civil rights struggles witnessed, the wars lived through, the years following the Second Vatican Council, and many other stories of brokenness and togetherness seen in their lifetimes. 

They talked about how fearful they are that their grandchildren are growing up in a country in perpetual war, trying to establish values in a strikingly materialistic consumerism, a secularism which challenges the sacred depth of our faith, and the busyness and pragmatism that keeps so many people from slowing and quieting down long enough to realize where we are or how we are doing or where God might be nudging our hearts to go next. 

As they talked about all these things, as they told their stories, I had a simple yet remarkable realization that has been ringing in my ears and my heart every moment since: these are the days of our stories…these are the days of my generation’s stories. This is the time that we will bring to those who follow us.


The story is central to the human experience. Story is a part of every Catholic liturgy, a part of every family gathering, a pastime of the young and of the old, the point of Facebook and Twitter and cave paintings, of Scripture and of biographies. The story tells us what we cannot forget about where we have been and what we have done and the things we have gone through. 


Stories become a powerful force forming a sense of what matters to us and leads us to seek messy, real, discursive truth instead of black-and-white, comfortable, tamed “truth”. In the story we learn not only who we are but also Whose we are; in the story of our lives and the lives of the many we discover Providence as real and moving and calling and challenging.


These are the days of our stories.


My generation is thirsting for story: for the stories of our elders and ancestors, for the stories of our God and His people, for the stories we live today and tomorrow and the tomorrows to come that we long never to forget. Storyteller and theologian John Shea says, “Our greatest sin is that we forget.”


May we be a generation that never forgets. May we never forget where we’ve come from, where we’ve been, where we’re going, what we’ve overcome, who we are, Whose we are! 


These are the days of OUR stories. 


Let us drink deeply from the cup of each day. And everyday drink from the cups of days past, years past, lives past. Drink deeply of today!


Telling the stories of today to the people of tomorrow will save our souls, will integrate our sins, will heal our hearts, and will grow our love of self, of others, and of Other.


Drink deeply of every today, for these are the days of our stories. (Read similar posts here.) 


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