Often, I find a thesaurus a source of understanding, even wisdom. Take the word “doubt” for instance. When you look it up you discover a range of meanings revealing what doubt really is: uncertainty, confusion, hesitation, indecision, apprehension, distrust, fear. If one is doubtful, searching doubt’s meaning wakes one up to what he or she is actually dealing with. Grappling with doubt one is tempted to feel discouraged, even depressed. But looking up the word, seeing it for what it is, can shake one into frank understanding. Must I accept apprehension, confusion, or fear? How might doubt be overcome?
One way to begin is to look at the antonyms for each word. For instance, the antonym of uncertainty is certainty. There are many things I am not certain of–the weather, what will happen tomorrow, the outcome of an event beyond my control, life after death, and so on. But what am I certain of? Perhaps that I exist, that I love the man I married, that love makes the world go round and violence doesn’t.
Of all the various meanings for doubt I think the one that best sums it up is fear. Fear is possibly the one thing we’d like to avoid. Fear can include a range of feelings from dismay to terror. It’s antonyms, or opposites, are where our focus is best placed: calm, confidence, equanimity, courage, hope, trust, love.
In the Bible, love is often the remedy for overcoming fear. Note the story of Joseph loving his brothers in spite of their poor treatment of him. Ruth, bereft of husband, income, and nation, lovingly follows Naomi, her mother-in-law. Daniel is unafraid when thrown into the lions’ den because he trusts in God’s protection. Moses was insecure about leading his people out of Egypt but his confidence in God enabled his success. Jesus’ entire life exemplifies his teaching to “love one another.” John’s lack of doubt rests in his statement: ” There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” (1John 4: 18).
It seems we keep coming back to one central idea, that love is our purpose, poise, and right position in all things. We can’t avoid love if we wish to live a happy, meaningful life. It takes us beyond self, lets us radiate good that uplifts others, and gracefully improves our world. Doubt doesn’t do any of that.
But doubt has one useful function: doubting deceptions. Lies demand we doubt them if truth is to prevail. A phony politician, a tyrannical boss, an evil ideology, an autocratic government, horrific violence, any injustice ought to cause us to rise up in doubt against their falsehoods. Doubting lies we debunk them, eliminate their influence, and keep truth alive.
There’s no need to stay down in doubt’s apprehension, confusion, distrust, and fear. We climb out of it when we cling to its antonyms: hope, courage, confidence, calmness, trust, remembering that. “God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (II Timothy 1:7).
Artwork: Climbing, oil/mixed media, 36″ x 36″, $975 This piece, which includes my poetry, is my newest. The poem is a bit hidden; I want the viewer to discover it rather than have it shout in his face. But since you are not likely to come see the original (though you’d be most welcome to visit my in-home gallery) I give the poem here: