Faith, Belief, Understanding, Doubt


There are times in every persons life when things don’t seem as sure as they used to. Blessed Mother Teresa is a prime example of the struggle to understand and believe. I’m sort of going thru something like that myself. I have no expectations of heaven’s existence. I’m not really sure what happens when we die and I’m comfortable with non-existence if that is to be my fate.

But on the other hand, I have an undeniable love for God and Jesus, and I can feel and see the works of the Holy Spirit in my life and in the world in general. Yet I can’t seem to make myself feel sure of salvation. I only hope with all my being that I am pleasing God, and somehow, in a crazy way, that is enough reward for me.

So my question is…is faith enough? Can I walk in faith in what Jesus promised, even as hope seems like a fading memory, and still be given the grace of His Kingdom? Is total belief required even if we don’t understand what we are believing?

When St.Peter walked on water towards Jesus was it because he believed or was he stepping out in faith? Am I making a distinction that doesn’t exist? Can there be faith without belief??

Bring on the firing squad!

[SIGN]Ready, Aim, FIRE![/SIGN]


The key statement that I see in the OP is “can’t make myself feel sure.” Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit. It is not something I can make myself feel.
Dietrich Boenhoeffer writes that faith/belief begins with obedience. There is no faith without obedience and no obedience without faith. The Apostles obeyed the call of Christ before knowing who he was. From the post, it would appear this is where you are.
I also like the prayer of Thomas Merton when it comes to following God’s will. Summarized, it says, although I do not know whether or not I am following God’s will, I believe my desire to follow God’s will places me in God’s will.


In the 8th Screwtape Letter, C.S. Lewis had his archfiend tell his nephew Wormwood about times when humans are in a down period spiritually – a trough (as opposed to a peak) he termed it. The letter concluded (and note the final sentences in particular):

“And that is where the troughs come in. You must have often wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to override a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve. He is prepared to do a little overriding at the beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. But He never allows this state of affairs to last long. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs - to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. We can drag our patients along by continual tempting, because we design them only for the table, and the more their will is interfered with, the better. He cannot “tempt” to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

Keep the faith. Can you imagine what a sorry state we would all be in were God limited to ways of action that we could fully comprehend, thereby making belief little or no problem at all?




Gerry–The idea of standing and walking is also one of the themes in John of the Dark Night of the Soul. The eagle pushes the nestling from the nest in order to fly on its own.


THAT’S EXACTLY IT! That’s how I feel right now. Thanks for that :thumbsup:

I’ve never been one to follow feelings, but I lack the vocabulary to put it into other terms. Belief is a feeling as real as love or anger, it’s just not as unpredictable or as easily moved by outside influences. So when I say I can’t make myself feel sure, it’s sort of a nice way of saying I’m having some trouble coming to terms with it. But I am willing to place my trust in Jesus, and follow his commandments. But is that enough?


You sound in great shape to me. Now I’d just pray for understanding. Faith precedes understanding, as Father Corapi says. The Virgin Mary accepted God’s will even though she did not know how the Spirit would conceive the Savior in her. Yet she accepted the call. And she is the greatest Saint!

I also think the post with the Screwtape excerpt is very valuable.


This is such an awesome thread. Kudos, Grateful4mercy!

I do not think total belief is required for anything. I saw in a CAF Posters signature black a quote from some big Christian guy that goes something like: “A person can no more diminish God’s glory by not worshipping Him than a loony can blot out the sun by scribbling ‘darkness’ on his cell walls.” That’s classic and perfect. It is reality. Faith has no bearing on reality. It’s not about what we think or feel, it is reality that matters. If it’s about faith then a person whose faith tells him in all certainty that a train is NOT coming down the tracks can sleep on them and go unscathed, but that’s not reality. The reality is he’ll be schmushed by the train.

I just don’t worry about this kind of stuff. Am I saved? Is what I am doing OK with God? What if He doesn’t like me? When I hear these kinds of questions I ask: Why would Ultimate Truth care about ?

I am aware that this attitude is shocking to a lot of people. DW and I have theological discussions all the time. I am always reiterating to her my personal maxim: God is not a . Anyone that tries to put it across that God is a in any way, is by default: most incorrect.

Talk about your firing squad stances! You, my dear, are but an amateur. So slip on your flack vest and let it roll baby roll!

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit