Spouse is doubting God


#1

Hello - this is my first post on this site and I come with several questions about a very distressing situation. My husband and I have been married for 6 years and we have two children, 4 years old and 1 1/2 years old. We were both raised protestant (many different denominations during this time) and converted to Catholicism together several years ago. About 4 months ago (not exactly sure about the timing) my husband stopped receiving communion. I assumed at first that it was because he needed to go to confession but hadn’t made it yet. Anyway time went on and on until a few weeks ago when I finally asked him why he hadn’t been partaking of the Eucharist. He went on to tell me that he has been doubting whether or not God exists. I felt he sounded very near to deciding to forsake the faith and declare himself an atheist. Though he says he still believes that the Catholic way of living is good for society and he wouldn’t change who he is. We discussed it for several hours, but I don’t feel the conversation was very helpful in clarifying much. Needless to say, I was very surprised and incredibly distressed.

So all of that leads me to my questions. The first is how I should approach this with my husband. He hasn’t brought it up again since our first conversation. I tried briefly but we were interrupted by the children. I don’t want to push him but I know this is incredibly important and I don’t want to ignore it either. He is going through a stressful time sensitive period with work, too, so I’m trying to be thoughtful about his stress levels, etc. However, this is unlikely to change very quickly so I don’t know how long to wait. Other than being in almost constant prayer, I don’t know what I ought to do.

Any input would be greatly appreciated.


#2

[quote="LC12, post:1, topic:232212"]
Hello - this is my first post on this site and I come with several questions about a very distressing situation. My husband and I have been married for 6 years and we have two children, 4 years old and 1 1/2 years old. We were both raised protestant (many different denominations during this time) and converted to Catholicism together several years ago. About 4 months ago (not exactly sure about the timing) my husband stopped receiving communion. I assumed at first that it was because he needed to go to confession but hadn't made it yet. Anyway time went on and on until a few weeks ago when I finally asked him why he hadn't been partaking of the Eucharist. He went on to tell me that he has been doubting whether or not God exists. I felt he sounded very near to deciding to forsake the faith and declare himself an atheist. Though he says he still believes that the Catholic way of living is good for society and he wouldn't change who he is. We discussed it for several hours, but I don't feel the conversation was very helpful in clarifying much. Needless to say, I was very surprised and incredibly distressed.

So all of that leads me to my questions. The first is how I should approach this with my husband. He hasn't brought it up again since our first conversation. I tried briefly but we were interrupted by the children. I don't want to push him but I know this is incredibly important and I don't want to ignore it either. He is going through a stressful time sensitive period with work, too, so I'm trying to be thoughtful about his stress levels, etc. However, this is unlikely to change very quickly so I don't know how long to wait. Other than being in almost constant prayer, I don't know what I ought to do.

Any input would be greatly appreciated.

[/quote]

Hello I read your post and I just saw the best movie that might help him come back to believing in God. it was a very good movie ..based just on fact alone any way i think it might help. it is called "The Case For Christ"..... God's Love.


#3

If he is all for the Catholic way of life, let him believe what he wants to believe. It is not up to you to decide what HIS beliefs should be. As long as he doesn’t disrespect God or disrespect your religion, and continues behaving like a moral person, does it really matter?


#4

Maybe you could try reading some sort of book on apologetics or Christianity together. (I don't know if this is something you'd want to do, but I am a grad student so I tend to think the answers to every problem can be found in a book somewhere :D)

You could ask him why exactly he's starting to doubt and that could give you an idea of what to look for. But there are plenty of easily accessible beginner and intermediate level books on such stuff.

  • On Guard- by William Lane Craig - general arguments in favor of God's existence along with historical evidence for Jesus.
  • The Case for a Creator- Lee Strobel (actually this is part of a 3 book set laying out a case for Christianity).
  • Mere Christianity- C.S. Lewis (A classic summary of what Christians think; a more updated version is NT Wright's Simply Christian

#5

[quote="GTNJNightingale, post:2, topic:232212"]
Hello I read your post and I just saw the best movie that might help him come back to believing in God. it was a very good movie ..based just on fact alone any way i think it might help. it is called "The Case For Christ"..... God's Love.

[/quote]

:thumbsup: Yes. This is a good movie for just a case. I'd also recommend watching "Expelled, No Intelligence Allowed". This move discusses the concept of intelligent design and includes the hostility of many evolutionists toward intelligent design professionals with the same or even better credentials. The last 5 minutes shows a side of a a famous atheist scientist that will blow your mind if you don't already know.

So many people think that they are so intelligent that they fail to see how rediculous they look in the context of their own imperfection. Doubting God is normal, we all do that at times. But acting upon it is something different. Prayer and fasting are your best weapons against the evil one tempting him to disbelief.


#6

As others have said, my immediate reaction would be to reach for a book. Mere Christianity helped bring me back. Also the "Handbook of Christian Apologetics" by Peter Kreeft is very good.


#7

[quote="samiam1611, post:3, topic:232212"]
If he is all for the Catholic way of life, let him believe what he wants to believe. It is not up to you to decide what HIS beliefs should be. As long as he doesn't disrespect God or disrespect your religion, and continues behaving like a moral person, does it really matter?

[/quote]

For people with faith it matters very much. For many people, their faith is the core of their marriage.


#8

One of best things you can do for him right now is to pray for him. We all have times of doubt and darkness. Make a novena to St. Rita or St. Monica- they both had husbands who were disbelievers and were converted. Or say St. Faustina's prayer, which Jesus said He would always hear for conversion- "Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in You." Make extra little sacrifices and offer them to God for your husband. Go and spend an hour in front of the tabernacle and tell Jesus all about your worries about your husband or anything else. Doing these things can be much more helpful for a person who is struggling- especially if they rebuff your efforts to help them outwardly. By all means, try to guide him with literature or discussing the matter with him- but if he remains unconvinced, always have recourse to prayer.:thumbsup:


#9

Mother Theresa wondered for many years if there is a God. Her journals, read after her death, showed how she wrestled with this problem for years and years.

Her response was to continue to receive the Eucharist, continue to perform the works, and to pray for faith to return.

If someone as holy as Mother Theresa can have doubts, how can any of the rest of us feel threatened by such questions?

I would make it clear to your husband that he is expected to set an example for his children, and that he promised to educate them and raise them in the faith. By refusing to partake, even with doubts, he is not fulfilling the promises he made at their Baptisms.

Tell him you can understand having doubts, but that he has an obligation to continue living as if he does not. That obligation is to you, to his children, and to God. Failing to do this is, in effect, repudiating his marriage vows, and his promises at his own baptism and his childrens. He needs to continue on, and to pray for faith.

If he refuses, you may well have grounds for an annulment. I would suspect that his "conversion" was phony, if he simply refuses to provide the example that a husband and father should provide.


#10

[quote="The_Old_Medic, post:9, topic:232212"]
Mother Theresa wondered for many years if there is a God. Her journals, read after her death, showed how she wrestled with this problem for years and years.

Her response was to continue to receive the Eucharist, continue to perform the works, and to pray for faith to return.

If someone as holy as Mother Theresa can have doubts, how can any of the rest of us feel threatened by such questions?

I would make it clear to your husband that he is expected to set an example for his children, and that he promised to educate them and raise them in the faith. By refusing to partake, even with doubts, he is not fulfilling the promises he made at their Baptisms.

Tell him you can understand having doubts, but that he has an obligation to continue living as if he does not. That obligation is to you, to his children, and to God. Failing to do this is, in effect, repudiating his marriage vows, and his promises at his own baptism and his childrens. He needs to continue on, and to pray for faith.

If he refuses, you may well have grounds for an annulment. I would suspect that his "conversion" was phony, if he simply refuses to provide the example that a husband and father should provide.

[/quote]

Great post. My husband, who probably qualifies as an atheist, has "faked it" for the children's sake, even though we didn't take those vows when we first got married. He knows it means everything to me that the boys see us united as a Catholic family. I think that he receives graces from taking the Eucharist no matter what he does or doesn't believe. He says he doesn't need confession, who am I to tell him he does??

I pray to the Holy Spirit for him every night. I lift him up during the day whenever I think of him, which is often. It is painful beyond belief to deny Christ. People who doubt - well, we all do, sooner or later. But those who go on and affirmatively answer, "NO, God doesn't exist!" well, they have to be in very severe pain. I know they are.

To the OP: Pray, pray, pray without ceasing for your husband! There are tons of great apologetics books. "The Case for Christ" is very good if your husband is the academic type or the scientific type. Lee Strobel was an atheist journalist when his wife rather suddenly converted, and at first he was really angry at her. But then he started to see Christ come out in her and he was intrigued, but he couldn't accept Christ until he could satisfy his doubt. He was just like Thomas, "Show me your hands and side, Lord, and I will believe!" He found all the evidence he needed and then some.

CS Lewis is, to me, more of a heart massage than anything else. Yes, he has the philosophical arguments but his message is so direct and accessible. I recommend CS Lewis to all baby Christians.

There are others. I would pray the rosary every day for your husband, but yes, he needs to understand that the children are watching him, and doubt or not, he needs to fulfill his Catholic vows.


#11

Thank you for all of the advice. I have been and will continue to pray for him constantly. I have read some of the books mentioned and I know he has as well, but I may try to encourage him to read them again. He is a scientist and very proof oriented...he says at this point intellectually he would consider himself a deist or an agnostic but that he thinks we have to put aside intellect and just choose to believe in God even though he is not satisfied that there is proof he exists. So, if intellectually he isn't in agreement with the teachings of the Church but he puts it aside and chooses to believe God exists and continues to go to Mass, etc. So would he be considered to be in a state of sin holding that belief...?

If he is constantly doubting the existence of God, I read elsewhere that he should not receive communion. Is that incorrect? My gut reaction was that, since he hasn't rejected God and still recites the creeds, etc, he should continue to pray and take it and go to confession, etc.


#12

Two more suggestions then. “Proof” often confuses people because when people think of proof, they often think of some sort of mathematical proof that gives 100% certainty. Instead of thinking about “proof” for God, encourage him to think of “evidence” for God and then there is enough evidence that belief in God is rational and right. (This is how science works anyway)

If he is science and proof oriented, then maybe it does make sense to start some people who use modern physics and science to offer reasons for belief, so I would again suggest William Lane Craig and maybe Lee strobel. Criag’s On Guard and Strobel’s The Case for a creator which consider modern scientific evidence and it’s implications for belief.


#13

[quote="LC12, post:11, topic:232212"]
Thank you for all of the advice. I have been and will continue to pray for him constantly. I have read some of the books mentioned and I know he has as well, but I may try to encourage him to read them again. He is a scientist and very proof oriented...he says at this point intellectually he would consider himself a deist or an agnostic but that he thinks we have to put aside intellect and just choose to believe in God even though he is not satisfied that there is proof he exists. So, if intellectually he isn't in agreement with the teachings of the Church but he puts it aside and chooses to believe God exists and continues to go to Mass, etc. So would he be considered to be in a state of sin holding that belief...?

If he is constantly doubting the existence of God, I read elsewhere that he should not receive communion. Is that incorrect? My gut reaction was that, since he hasn't rejected God and still recites the creeds, etc, he should continue to pray and take it and go to confession, etc.

[/quote]

I don't think he needs to stop taking the Eucharist, in fact, he probably needs Jesus all the more right now! Read the life of Mother Theresa and you will see she went through a very long "dark night of the soul" herself! And didn't know if God was there or if he heard her prayers. Yet she never stopped doing charity and never stopped taking the Body of Christ. If I were doubting, I'd run, not walk, to the nearest adoration chapel. Man, does that experience cut through anything negative! :)

There are actual scientists who have gotten to the end of everything they knew intellectually and found God waiting there for them. Some of them are nuclear physicists, the people who study the tiniest bits of this huge universe of ours, and some are astronomers, the ones who study the universe's size and what's in it. I don't have any names right now but I will do some poking around to see if I can find a few books for you.

If it's any comfort, my husband is also a scientist and wants proof. In fact, he got what he considers negative proof when God never answered his fervent prayer that his parents would not divorce (because they'd be damned to Hell). He got the message from God (not really from God but he thought so) that if anything was to happen in this world, he himself had to MAKE it happen, not pray about it. He shut the door on God and has never looked behind the door again. Puts large pieces of furniture against the door every chance he gets. You get the idea.

I wish my husband would have the kind of life-changing experience I had when our first son was born. Or whatever God needs to use to wake him up. I pray for the Holy Spirit to seize his heart and show him reality. I will pray for your husband too. But definitely urge him to continue to go to church, at least for family unity.


#14

[quote="LC12, post:11, topic:232212"]
He is a scientist and very proof oriented...he says at this point intellectually he would consider himself a deist or an agnostic but that he thinks we have to put aside intellect and just choose to believe in God even though he is not satisfied that there is proof he exists.

[/quote]

That is true that one must put intellect aside to believe in God. The fact that he is choosing to is a good sign for your family. I mean not as good as if he went back to the way he was [the way you thought he was?] of course but it's kind of like a compromise and willingness to compromise is a good trait to have in a spouse! Not to mention that he isn't just doing it to humor you, he genuinely wants to continue to be a part of your religious life.


#15

I’m sorry but I disagree with this. Not to sidetrack this thread, but this has been hashed out enough by enough brilliant minds on both sides of the debate. It is not true that intellect must be put aside to believe in God. Belief in a first and ultimate cause is not irrational, not any less rational than it is to conclude on the basis of intellect that there is no God. What is true is that demand of absolute proof will always leave one disappointed, the old saw about extraordinary claims demanding extraordinary evidence is really just another way of saying “Do a miracle for me God, right now for me personally, or I won’t believe”.

And this doesn’t help the OP anyway, which should be the point of responses to her.


#16

:confused::confused:

Read some of what St. Thomas Aquinas has written and tell me if that is “putting intellect aside!!!” I find that I can hardly get through a page without my little brain wanting to nearly explode with the profundity.

Dear one, please don’t start answering others’ posts while understanding very little about faith and the intellect!!!


#17

How about inviting some folkes whom you know have had big experiences with God to come and eat with you and your husband… Then ask them to share. Personal testimonies will help your husband be reminded that Jesus does exist and He is the same as He was at the time of the Gospels.
Most people need to experience God as a reality in their own life and that of others… intellectual gymnastics won’t give us that life changing experience. Seeing and hearing how God works will.


closed #18

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