How do I believe the Church? (overcoming deep-seated disbelief?)

I think that my Christian life is based on wanting the Church to be right, rather than actually believing that the Church is correct. Thinking of Christians martyred elsewhere, I can imagine myself being in that situation, and responding, “I don’t know if it’s true, but I hope it’s true. I want it to be true.”

I think most of my problems in life come from not actually believing the Church. I regard my suffering, my condition in life, God’s apparent silence and absence (especially contrasted with Biblical depictions), all as evidence that Christian revelation is false. When I look at the world and my experiences, I see evidence for atheism, deism, perhaps even pantheism, but not theism.

I’m reading through the Bible and the Catechism again, and I listen to EWTN and “Catholic Answers Live” (CAL) fairly constantly, and I’ve read a lot … I would say I know more about Christianity than most Americans. I’m at the point now listening to CAL that I’m fast-forwarding through the questions for which I already know the apologetics answer. Three of the fairly regular guests I don’t even listen to because they don’t say anything I don’t already know.

I think my problem is with those areas mentioned above, that I simply cannot conceive of God being silent and allowing certain kinds of suffering, or I cannot see how to reconcile it with the Bible (e.g. Jesus’ promises). I pray for an increase in faith, etc. but remain stuck in this state. What should I do? What is God doing?

God can be very frustrating. I’ve had experiences which, in my opinion, indicate very clearly that God is present. For example I’ve had “double whammies” on three occasions (some time ago now) where something like a breath going through you in waves from head to foot (very pronounced, hits you without warning, and clearly imposed from an external source) hit me.

Each time, and every time, it was used to highlight a phrase someone else was saying - in the first case the leader of a “Scripture Union Beach Mission” quoting from the OT about David, and on the other two occasions when my home church pastor quoted about St. Paul in one instance, and CS Lewis in the other.

**The only reason **I remember those phrases today, word for word, years later is because I got hit by the “double whammies” precisely as the speakers uttered the relevant quotes.

But it’s one thing to get direct experience - it’s another when for years on end God remains silent - when you lose your job, when others conspire against you, when you see others who just seem to have all the openings, and when you see the suffering of others - and nothing happens. Heaven is silent - a brass sky just burning down on you.

If we’re going to rely on Biblical characters to help us through those stages, then we might think of Moses on the back side of the desert for 40 years, all washed up. Or Joseph in prison for years. Or the Israelites as slaves in Egypt for decades (they probably weren’t slaves for the whole 400 years), or Daniel in Babylon, or St. Paul in the desert getting his head together (and later writing “… we are often perplexed…”), or Abraham waiting till his wife is in her nineties to have a child, or the Babylonian captivity for 70 years.

We might consider Christ was sidelined for about 30 years, and then only lived for another three once he started his public ministry. How’s that for a short career?

We might consider the suffering of the Soviet Christians for 70 years.

In the end, we’ve just got to consider that God knows what He’s doing, and that His thoughts are not our thoughts.

Maybe He thinks that 50 years of earthly suffering is not too high a price to pay for an eternity of the “beatific vision”. There might in fact come a time when all your sufferings and frustrations have as much lasting impact as a bad dream - it wakes you up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, but you can hardly remember it in the morning.

I might even take my own advice!

How many times do you mention the word I in this post? A lot.

Get out and do some service work. Change your focus and see if that helps.

Here’s a thread dedicated to what the saints said about suffering:

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=542373

This is one example:

From St Faustina’s Diary - 343
I thank You, Jesus, You who first drank the cup of bitterness before You gave it to me, in a much milder form. I put my lips to this cup of Your holy will. Let all be done according to Your good pleasure; let that which Your wisdom ordained before the ages be done to me. I want to drink the cup to its last drop, and not seek to know the reason why. In bitterness is my joy, in hopelessness is my trust. In You, O Lord, all is good, all is a gift of Your paternal Heart. I do not prefer consolations, but thank You, O Jesus, for everything! It is my delight to fix my gaze upon You, O mysterious dwelling places, and there I am at home. I know very well the dwelling place of my Spouse. I feel there is not a single drop of blood in me that does not burn with love for You.

Peace,
John Marie Philomena

I agree with this, but also wonder about the balance in your life. Do you do anything simply because you enjoy it? God made creation for us to enjoy and learn about Him, don’t be puritanical. We all need to relax because God made us that way.

Additionally, your reading and listening seem to be limited to what one might call elementary theology. It may be time for you to search for other topics, and maybe even intermediate-level things. Reading and hearing about the saints may be one place to start.

Forgive me if this is blunt, but do you have a solid reason to believe you’re in a state of grace right now?

What you describe is simply an absence of the supernatural virtue of faith — which is a grace that allows us to assent to revealed truth. No amount of intellectual work can get us there. No amount of knowledge or mental gymnastics or force of will can accomplish this. It must be a gift which we are given, lest we should boast. (St. Thomas would describe someone who lack supernatural faith, but yet who believes certain doctrines, as simply having a human opinion that comes from themselves and not from God.)

I know how that might come across, as I was an atheist for a period of my life. Right! That’s just a cop-out. It’s a way to get me to accept something without sufficient evidence. Maybe. But what if it’s all true, and what if you are incapable of belief in truth, not because of your intellect and education and an absence of evidence, but because you lack the inherent ability to do so? What if there’s a block that’s blinding you in a subliminal or even a conscious way? What if you are a wonderful example of how consistently valid, human, and realistic Catholic theology is on this point?

So again this compels the question, is there a reason to suspect you may actually lack faith because you lack sanctifying grace in your soul?

Don’t answer me, I just would encourage you to at least consider that aspect of things.

I’m going to steal this from a gentleman that wrote it on another thread…“Become a listener and a doer, not a reader.” Hope this may help.

If I were an apostle after touching Jesus’s wounds and watching him ascend into heaven… I would have said “But was that really him? did we really just see that?”…because I am hard headed.

With that said I believe the Church. If you are research minded and capable of understanding, do so. It takes a lot to root out “Church teaching” vs what someone says it is…when you do, you should find that there is nothing that is not clearly sensible. If you are not research minded and highly capable of understanding many things… trust the church as it will not hurt you to do so :slight_smile:

Tonight I had a disagreement with a mentally-ill woman I know from church (she’s not Christian but attends due to interest, superstition, and prior history) that culminated in me going to the police after she tried to follow me home to learn where I live. (There’s a lot of back-story here; suffice it to say that I’m unhappy with how it turned out, and I’ve probably made her cry and be very upset, when the entire time I was trying to help her.)

Overall, there is much suffering, including incidents like these, that I cannot reconcile with the Church’s doctrine of God being wise, our Heavenly Father, interested in having a relationship with us, etc. I came back to this thread trying to get answers: I feel like I am being asked to do something unreasonable, namely disregard my experiences and my logic to hold blind faith that the Church is correct. How is it reasonable to believe that God is our Wise Heavenly Father when there is great suffering we cause accidentally, which we are powerless to stop, and which God refuses to stop?

Trying to answer this question myself, “It’s reasonable because we have rumors about miracles (e.g. St. Teresa of Calcutta healing a man’s brain swelling) and a historical record suggesting Jesus Resurrected. You must accept that you are finite and merely don’t understand why the suffering is good and why God is silent and apparently absent and why this is also good.”

That answer looks to me like mental gymnastics. It’s not persuasive for the Archdiocese of Calcutta and Pope Francis to merely say “believe it because we say so” (where is all the data published for scholarly analysis?) and I’m not convinced the historical record is complete – it seems I must do more study to see what the Jews and Romans of that time were saying in criticism of the Christians, whether the Resurrection really is the best explanation for the New Testament documents and the Christian movement.

Trying to answer this question myself, “It’s reasonable because we have rumors about miracles (e.g. St. Teresa of Calcutta healing a man’s brain swelling) and a historical record suggesting Jesus Resurrected. You must accept that you are finite and merely don’t understand why the suffering is good and why God is silent and apparently absent and why this is also good.”

That answer looks to me like mental gymnastics. It’s not persuasive for the Archdiocese of Calcutta and Pope Francis to merely say “believe it because we say so” (where is all the data published for scholarly analysis?) and I’m not convinced the historical record is complete – it seems I must do more study to see what the Jews and Romans of that time were saying in criticism of the Christians, whether the Resurrection really is the best explanation for the New Testament documents and the Christian movement.

We take and have to take full and total responsibilty for what we do, not demand or expect a kind of "Get out of jail free "card’

Suffering is never good, Not ever, yet we can learn from it,
Relationship does nor mean equality or being treated as a favourite. We are no in this for r own gain but for Jesus and for others,

Leave your intellect out of this please. It is all so simple a small child gets it, As does a less intellectual person.

PS you also have free choice . Odd description of your religion too!

I have had several times in my life when I was stone cold … Catholic still … but stone cold … couldn’t feel a thing … and then suddenly something would happen and it was like I was awoken from a spiritual hell and placed into a spiritual heaven … has happened to me quite a bit in my lifetime … I’ve been placed into a spiritual heaven only recently from having gone through a spiritual hell … and for some reason I have had many graces given to me through confession and communion in the short time that I’ve been back … and one of the greatest graces that Jesus has instilled in my soul is the realization that all the pain and suffering I have gone through (and believe me, there’s been a lot) … that all that pain and suffering is a gift to me … it is the gift of being allowed to carry the Cross with Jesus … and I am now thankful for this gift … and I can now understand the pain and suffering that I have gone through in life … and I know for some reason that going forward I will no longer fall into a spiritual hell … that this spiritual heaven that Jesus has brought me to will continue … but I must also understand that it is by grace that it will continue … and I must be vigilant to receive these graces by confession and communion … and also by following the law of the Catholic Church to the very best of my ability … and when I do sin … as we all do … I must feel sorrow for those sins … and understand that I am human … and I have the mercy of Jesus to fall upon … and all will be okay … and Jesus will give me the strength I need to overcome sin and to continue to carry my own cross, until one day I will be with Him in glory … although I know that I may have to go through the fire of purgatory to get there … I know that my cross that I carry will at least get me to purgatory, where I will have the grace of knowing that I have succeeded … I will one day see the beauty of my Lord.

Sounds like you life is out of balance. You are THINKING, reading, studying too much.

Try some more action. Some service work. Some fellowship.

:thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:

Excellent advice. You cannot think your way to believing. As others have recommended, receive the Sacraments frequently. Do you have a spiritual director? If not, I hope you’ll try to find one. With all these thoughts running through your head, you may need a spiritual anchor to hold onto. Also, I’ve found improving my prayer life can help a lot. I’ve repeated that prayer (Lord, I believe. Help my disbelief.) many times when too many questions are racing through my head.

Praying you will find some peace. God Bless You.

Posted by ethereality
How is it reasonable to believe that God is our Wise Heavenly Father when there is great suffering we cause accidentally, which we are powerless to stop, and which God refuses to stop?

Jesus gave us the secret to this…she forgives you and you forgive her.
That is the sign of a christian’s love…not to hold a grudge and to pray for one another. What would it prove if we lived in a vacuum where nothing happened?

As a matter of fact, it is even better to offer one’s hurt from another person for the very person who gave the hurt. That’s what Jesus said. To do good to those who hurt you.

…Why is God silent and apparently absent…

But he isn’t absent, because he is in our soul, and the soul is in our body. St. Paul said, “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit…”

The Holy Spirit thru his gift of counsel does influence us in the things that we do … that is if we are aware of him and ask him. And sometimes without asking he will inspire us with his thought and direction. That is what the gift of counsel does. Sometimes without thinking we know by his prompting what the right course is. So he really isn’t absent and not silent. But he needs our attention and awareness. So the first thing we should do in all that we do is to pray to the Holy Spirit to lead us.

Psalm 15
You will show me the paths of life, the fullness of joy before your face, and delights at your right hand until the end of time.

Yet others would say this is “your guardian angel”. So how do you distinguish between the Holy Spirit and an angel? Without this necessary clarification, it looks indeed like self-delusional imagination.

There is also the objection: I have tried asking both my guardian angel and the Holy Spirit for insight and help on various occasions, and nothing happened. I could not tell any difference between those occasions and other occasions in which I hadn’t. “God was helping you in those situations even in which you hadn’t asked for the help,” you might reply. While that’s possible, I also seem to be in the worst physical state I’ve ever been in – my life is worse than it’s ever been, all while trying to do God’s will – and it’s not clear to me that my spiritual state is better than it’s been in the past, despite my efforts to grow in virtue and knowledge. Maybe it is better and I’m just depressed from so much suffering; I’m not sure.

May you and yours be filled with loving kindness. May you and yours be well. May you and yours be peaceful and at ease. May you and yours be happy.
Having faith is very difficult and doubting is very easy, yet all we need is the faith the size of a mustard seed. Let go-let God. Take a few deep breaths and with each breath out exhale your worries away.

So how do you distinguish between the Holy Spirit and an angel?

To me it doesn’t matter because God can speak for himself or send his angel to deliver the message. In any case, it is still the Holy Spirit’s message. The difficult part is saying “yes” like Mary did to Angel Gabriel. So what the child Samuel said in the OT is, “Speak Lord, for your servant listens”, is the correct frame for our thought.

I have tried asking both my guardian angel and the Holy Spirit for insight and help on various occasions, and nothing happened.

Again, this is only my personal insight. At times when he doesn’t answer it is because we already know the answer. At other times we don’t really want his answer because we are not ready/willing to accept it. And some times because what we ask is really not an “ask” but put in the form of a demand. To sum up, we want to hear only what we want to hear.

But a true request is sent with absolute love accompanying it, with perfect trust in him and in his devotion to us. And this may not be possible unless we put some real effort into understanding how much he truely loves us. “Ask anything in my name …” means if you ask in my name, then you must also ask in the way I asked which is “thy will be done”. And what Jesus said to his Father, “they will be done”, Jesus meant. And is the only acceptable way of the prayer of petition.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t keep praying for our request to be done in hope, but that still should end in expressing our confidence and love in him.

…and it’s not clear to me that my spiritual state is better than it’s been in the past, despite my efforts to grow in virtue and knowledge.

Yes, I agree, it is difficult to measure growth in the spiritual life especially with its ups and downs. But some have suggested that growth can be measured but not on a day to day basis. Looking back two to three years or so as we were then, and then looking at our life with God today, we should see some growth, even if it is not as much as we had hoped.

Maybe it is better and I’m just depressed from so much suffering; I’m not sure.

I’m sure it must be very depressing to suffer that way, as I know it would be for me. I don’t have a specific answer for you in this, but just know that there is an answer … It could be an number of things or combination of things goin on. I really wish I could tell you because I know you are trying your best under very much darkness.

In another post these to sites were recommended for cronic pain.

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=1022736

lovecrucified.com/

It seems that there are a good number of people who suffer all the time.
I hope this might be of some interest and help.

i really like the book He and I by Gabrielle Bossis.read it, maybe it will help you?

he says to her one time,
“If you want to gain strength to make a sacrifice,
don’t look at the sacrifice. Look at My joy.”

maybe this will help you offer up your suffering.

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