Plowing Through A Thousand Difficulties

No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:62)

Faith doesn’t swerve. Faith reaches the most solid ground, God. We believe; we don’t let go; we don’t fudge, hedge bets, go by halves. To believe in God and in His Christ is to invest everything, our souls, in His truth.

John Henry Newman
Indeed, for us to know anything = knowing a tiny part of what God knows. When we wrap our minds around anything at all, we do it with the God in Whom we believe.

Believing means that every act of our minds co-operates with God; nothing ever happens in there without Him. All knowledge, even if it is something after which we have striven with great effort—all of it is ultimately His gift. For us to doubt Him would be like the 10th floor of a building getting the idea that there is no such thing as a 9th floor, or a 1st-8th floor, or an earth.

Does this mean, though, that the intellectual life of a Christian flows smooth all the time, like melted butter in a little ramekin for dipping your lobster-meat? Not exactly.

When the Lord Jesus prohibited in the strongest terms any defection from faith, He did not simultaneously promise that we would always understand everything. Quite the contrary. He said: “The wind blows where it wills. You hear the sound, but you know not where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Faith in God comes as a gift from God. Easiness sometimes comes with it. Often it does not.

When John Henry Newman entered the Catholic Church after decades of inquiry, he did not understand all the Church’s doctrines. In fact, Newman struggled with the most basic doctrines about God’s existence. But he never doubted. As he wrote, “a thousand difficulties do not equal one doubt.”

Newman believed based on the authority of the One in Whom He believed, as we do. Understanding comes as it comes. Again, to quote the great Cardinal:

A man may be annoyed that he cannot work out a mathematical problem…, without doubting that it admits of an answer, or that a certain particular answer is the true one.

On the hard days—on the days when we find ourselves annoyed that we cannot work out the problem—we keep our hands on the plow anyway. We are not dealing with an equal or lesser intelligence, after all; we are dealing with the mountain upon which the little fern of my own mind is growing. Tomorrow is another day. And tomorrow, like today, belongs to the one, true God.


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