Counsel The Doubtful
Week 3 | Spiritual Work of Mercy
“And convince some, who doubt.” (Jude 1:22)
Sister Helena Burns
Saint Paul the Apostle took great care with those he called the “weak in faith.” He told Christians to bend over backward to accommodate them and not scandalize them. He determined to be “all to all” in order to bring as many as possible to salvation.
To counsel the doubtful requires a tremendous amount of patience. If people are doubtful by nature, they may relapse, over and over—much to their own frustration and that of anyone trying to guide them. If we are in a position to do the counseling, we really need to thank God for giving us a strong faith. Constant wavering can be a real cross.
We do not need a degree in theology or catechetics to counsel the doubtful. We all know that some of the most convincing people of faith have been the simplest individuals we’ve known. They just love God and their neighbor and live straight from the heart. Counseling the doubtful means not turning away from people’s questions, misgivings, or fears. It means being a solid rock in the midst of the storms of others’ intellects, wills, and emotions that cause them to be “blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6). It means painstakingly researching what we ourselves are unable to answer, in order to explicate and reassure, or simply to find and recommend the very best resources.
Counseling the doubtful can also mean, perhaps, enduring slings and arrows against us, God, and the Church by those doubters who are wounded and lashing out. (Whoops! Now we’re in the territory of another spiritual work of mercy: “bearing wrongs patiently.”) Instead of having a kneejerk reaction of taking offense and answering in kind, how about being kind? You obviously have a treasure that these people do not. They want what you have. Rebuffing them is propelling them further from what they want and need. Sometimes we also think that we need to “defend” God from or against those who are doubtful. As EWTN’s Doug Barry says “God is a big boy.” God doesn’t need us to defend him, but these hurting doubters do need our forbearance. People should be able to say of us, “If your God is anything like you, I want to know him.”
Excerpt taken from Chapter 10 of Beautiful Mercy. Get your free copy of the book (just pay shipping).
Have you ever been in a state of doubt? If so, then you know it is an extremely vulnerable place to be in. The only cure is Jesus. Think of Saint Thomas when he exclaimed, “My Lord and My God!” Clarity is a rare but powerful commodity.
If you know someone who has doubts, encourage that person to ask questions. Be open, honest, and loving in your responses. If that person is you, ask questions. Be open, honest, and loving in allowing yourself to do so.
Precious Lord, fill me with your love and joy a love that breaks down barriers and a joy that is contagious.