Suffering and temptations against faith, hope and love

I could have posted this at the spirituality forum but I also wanted the views of non-Catholic Christians as well, plus Jews and even others. Have you ever gone through such anguish that you found yourself doubting the existence of God, Christ or the truth of your faith and wondered if you’ve invested so much energy, emotional and intellectual capital in a big hoax? Sometimes this happens to me, especially this year, but last year as well, but never during my first few years after conversion.

I’m curious as to how y’all deal with it per your own faith tradition? Is it a sin per your faith/tradition or merely a trial?

I think you just need to realize that when you feel those temptations that it’s Satan who’s behind it. You just need to keep in your mind that Satan is trying to draw you away from God and that the “hoax” is your thoughts of doubt and not your belief in God.

Satan’s ploy’s can be very tempting, you just need to cling to the truth during these times. Remember, if you cling to God and stand against Satan, then Satan will flee from you…

All the diverse forms of Judaism state that good deeds, based on the interpretations of the Law, are more important than faith. It’s somewhat similar to the statement “faith, hope, and charity (love), all three, but the greatest of these is charity (love).” However, I think Judaism is more behavior-oriented than faith-based compared to Catholicism, not that the latter denies that faith is meaningless without works. Thus, if someone identifies themselves as an atheist Jew but still BEHAVES according to the moral tenets of Judaism, of which the person may be ignorant, that person is regarded as a Jew. Being Jewish, while technically meaning born of a Jewish mother, is more than simply that. With respect to doubt, therefore, it is NOT sinful to question G-d’s benevolence or omnipotence, or even G-d’s very existence. Judaism has a long history of such doubting and accusing G-d of injustice, suffering, and evil. There is a very personal relationship between Man and G-d. It is thought that if G-d wanted His existence to be crystal clear, He would not have given us a rational mind and the free will to doubt. A little doubt can also be desirable since it prevents one from becoming too arrogant in one’s beliefs by keeping one humble. I think most of us, if we’re honest, have from time to time questioned the existence or benevolence of G-d. (However, I recall that Billy Graham once said he never doubted; but who knows for sure?) The important thing, according to Jewish teaching, is to behave in a moral, Torah-based way, even when doubting. We are asked to go beyond our human reason and emotions–and, at times, even our faith–by observing the guidelines that G-d has prescribed for us. Such behavior can serve to restore our faith.

If one thinks of God as having human features and attributes, then doubts about His existence is bound to enter one’s mind.

Notice how atheists always begin their arguments that God does not exist?.. They will almost without fail, always start by attacking the supposed human features and attributes of God.

And so, this would be my suggestion to anyone who may harbor doubts about the existence of God i.e. think of the Almighty as the Creator and Sustain-er of the Universe and any such doubts which might enter your mind will very quickly disappear because Science will tell you that it is simply not possible for the Universe NOT to have been designed.

Atheists are simply unable to challenge your belief in a Creator and Sustain-er of the Universe because Science absolutely does not support their arguments that the Universe and all that exists within it happened all on it’s own without any design.

My personal spiritual group does not have any consequence for doubting your beliefs. In fact, it is encouraged to explore all belief systems and to find the truth for yourself. Most that I know pertain that the life style you live by is more important than what you believe, and by your life style you honor the things that we stand by.

Many people after their first few months/years start to question what they truly have joined. But just remember, this is a valuable experience. I don’t know where your life is headed, but all you can do is hope for the best and pray that you will find happiness. Good luck on your path, wherever it may head. :thumbsup:

Well, thanks for your input, Hamba, but I was not talking about atheists and their arguments at all. God being the creator and sustainer of all being is also standard in all forms of Christianity.

I was talking about a spiritual experience, not a rational debate about God’s existence. I’m talking about where on a very deep and personal level, in a very experential way, one seems to go through a little bit of hopelessness- feeling that God is not hearing/present to them, when previously, God’s presence and benevolence to them was much more deeply felt and tangible. At times, when the anguish or problems are too much, and one’s prayers seem impotent, thoughts enter the mind like- What if none of this is true? What if you are really on your own in all of this? Because it feels like you’re praying to a wall. Of course, at that point, you react by pushing it away- you say, God is wisdom and we are all foolish, He knows what he’s doing. You remind yourself of former experiences of God in the past and tell yourself that God is real, just quiet. But sometimes the thoughts don’t go away easily.

Is this considered a sin of doubt with your faith? How does your faith deal with those who experience it, or help them?- What are the remedies?

I’m pretty sure every person of faith has felt something like this before. I know I have. For me, it helps to go to the Psalms. When I was a child my church would always sing an adaptation of the 61st Psalm, and it always comes back to my mind when I face moments of doubt and defeat:

1 Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer.
2 From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
3 For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.
4 I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah.

I think about what David must have felt when he uttered that first line: Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer." I think he might feel like I do many times when I come before God–not always confident that my prayer will be heard. But as he begins to cry before God, he remembers who his rock is. That is what we must do. We must use moments like this not as times of discouragement, but as times to remember and rejoice in the goodness of God, what he has done for us in the past, and what he will do for us in the future.

It is hard sometimes, but we must never lose sight of who it is we cry out to and turn to in time of trouble. Jesus is the rock that is higher than us. His ways are not our ways, and even when it feels like we’ve been abandoned that isn’t true. God is a shelter for us, a strong tower against the enemy. He hides us in his wings, and we abide in his house forever.

That was beautiful, Itwin. Thanks.

“And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me - indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided.” … (Qur῾ān 2:186)

One needs to first be obedient to the Lord and then have faith and patience when we supplicate to Him. Secondly, we must also never despair that the Lord is not listening to us because that is the sign of an unbeliever.

I think that it is best for the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself to answer your question:

“The slave continues to be answered, provided he does not pray for a wrong action or severance of kin, as long as he does not become over-impatient." It was said, “Messenger of Allah, what is over-impatience?” He said, “He says, ‘I prayed and I prayed and I did not find Him answering me,’ so he stops short at that and ceases making supplication.” … (Muslim hadith no.2735)

One needs to first be obedient to the Lord and then have faith and patience when we supplicate to Him. Secondly, we must also never despair that the Lord is not listening to us because that is the sign of an unbeliever.

An answer totally in agreement with a Catholic understanding of God.:wink:

Basically the OP is asking how to handle these types of temptations.
What is the alternative? Doubt, dispair, hate, or some version of these.

I believe the underlying inquery is “why temptations at all?”.

The Our Father says, “lead us not into temptation”,which dosen’t say “take
away our temptations”. Temptations serve a good purpose, for they show us
what our spiritual character is made of and whether we love God with our
whole heart. St. Paul asked that his temptation be removed from him, and it was denied for God said to him “my grace is sufficient for you.”

Temptations as God allows, for he knows all, is a good thing, and only a bad
thing if we fail to pass the test he permits us to experience.

So the first thing we should be doing is to bless Him for trusting us and to
see temptations as an opportunity to draw us closer to Him.

For a temptation against faith, we make an act of the will, and say,“I
believe Lord everything you say.” That is in contrast and in spite of
our emotional feelings. If our emotions are going in the opposite
direction of our will, all the more pleasing is the act of faith, since
God is not proding us along with consolations, and we have to do the act
of faith and fight our strong emotions to the contrary.

The devil of course tries to make us think otherwise, that if we are not
emotionally into our faith, then that is a sin, to overwhelm us with his
favorite trick, discouragement. And of course everyone has blue Mondays
and feel as tho their faith is weak. But that is not the case.

The will is the governor of our faith and determines what we assent to.
And that alone determines the strength of faith even tho our feelings
are screaming the opposite.

Just a few thoughts.

Hi MaryBeloved: I understand your suffering, and feel a connection to you through your experience that you’ve having. You know, everything happens for a reason. Whether we like it or not, we get what we need right when we need it. This includes trials of faith and even catastrophe. But ultimately, any views where we conceptualize God with the mind turns about to be a hoax in a sense. It’s a hoax of our own making, not of God’s making. It’s just the mind trying compartmentalize things using a conditioned order from the world of form in which it operates. While the world of form is an epiphenomenon of God’s consciousness, and while God is present throughout creation, God’s consciousness, while permeating the world of form, is independent of it, and beyond comprehension within it’s limited parameters.

But rest assured that even if you came to be committed to a position that God didn’t exist, everything else you can perceive around you does exist, at least at the level permitted by sentient experience. So, if we come to realize that God is present in all things, and is in fact the inmost self of all things, this is the same as there being no God really. We come to understand that there is no separate being that we might imagine on a jewel encrusted throne attended by cherubs from the ceiling of Liberace’s bedroom. He is simply the being at the heart of this thing and that, or the super-conscious presence in all things. He is also their cause, as well as that which guides the complex interplay between the endless variety of His expressions throughout the cosmos that we seem to experience as being separate. What we commonly call consciousness is really only sentience. Consciousness is far beyond that. Until we become aligned with that consciousness, we are only able to perceive Him in the world around us. I think this is why Jesus told His disciples that He was in the bread and wine. Basically, it is an invocation to “see Me in all things.” This is because He truly is all things, including the bread and wine. So rather than there being no God, it turns out that really there is none but Him. One who sees this truth never dies (as He promised), because they are present with and one with the cyclical and unending flow of life, and therefore freed from the illusion of death. From there, he can be felt even in the breath, or perhaps His presence or being espied in the heart of a person who says they are having a crisis of faith, is adored again in human form by those who can see Him.

For me, the only thing that has worked is reading about miracles.

First the Lanciano Eucharistic miracle convinced me. Then I heard a claim that it could have been a fraud, i.e. someone could have substituted a human flesh in and pretended it was the original miracle flesh. So after that Therese Neumann convinced me. She lived only on the Eucharist, and even Hitler was scared of her. Medical commissions examined her, and a Hindu Yogi wrote about her and verified her account. Near death experiences have also helped; it was a bit comforting how a 3 year old protestant child will have a near death experiences where they see Catholic objects, such as the wounds depicted on Christ’s hands. (See Heaven is for Real.)

According to Paramahansa Yogananda, Therese Neumann said during his visit: “One of the reasons I am here on earth today is to prove that man can live by God’s invisible light, and not by food only.” His judgement was: “I realized at once that her strange life is intended by God to reassure all Christians of the historical authenticity of Jesus’ life and crucifixion as recorded in the New Testament, and to dramatically display the ever-living bond between the Galilean Master and his devotees.” When Paramahansa Yogananda questions the notion that Therese Neumann had lived eating only a daily eucharistic wafer for the past 12 years, she states that she lives by God’s light. The renowned yogi then suggests, “I see you realize that energy flows to your body from the ether, sun, and air.” Therese then smiles and expresses her happiness that he understands the way she lives.[12]

I think that doubt can be both healthy and good. :slight_smile: It was not for me as I lost my faith and stopped attending Church, but then why would God send Therese Neumann if we weren’t supposed to doubt? Her whole life is a witness to doubters such as me.

I also think about the miracle of the Catholic Church. It is the only institution that claims the TRUTH. There is not another religion on Earth that people genuinely take seriously and claim is the truth; most religions are seen as cultural relativism, even by the believers, and not truth. The more you study the history of the Church, the more convincing it becomes.

This is actually one of the “dark nights of the soul” spoken of by St. John of the Cross. The experience is actually not uncommon among spiritual people or those whom God is leading to a higher level of sanctity.

Sometimes, it is not merely temptations against faith. Sometimes, it is also temptations to despair or feelings of utter frustration and helplessness. This is when the poem “Footprints in the Sand” become significant. If you want to read this short poem, here is a link:

Well, I don’t know about St. John’s dark nights. There was a time I considered it, but truthfully, I don’t have his “signs”, at least not all.

But what you write about the feelings of utter frustration and helplessness, coupled with temptations against hope (to despair) is right on the money. I found myself thinking just last week that this Lent has turned out to be the truest Lenten experience of my life, and I found myself telling Our Lord that this time, the cross he picked for me is a bit excessive and that I couldn’t bear it even though our faith tells us that this is what is expected of us. It’s quite easy during the good times (spiritually speaking) to imagine that I’m a hero and that I can suffer even martyrdom for God- It’s quite another to actually do these things when you meet in your path particular difficulties that seem custom made for you in a way that defeats you and all your former fantasies about yourself and does not even allow you to entertain such falsehoods about yourself for a minute, at least not during the actual experience.

Thank you for the poem. It takes an act of faith to practice it, as it’s hard to actually believe it in your bones, when your felt experience is that God is either absent or not listening. I thank God that they are not continuous (for me) and that somehow he finds a way to communicate to me through different mediums, that he’s real.

Thanks, Sufjon. It seems that you have been so lost! Or is that just my perception?

Hi Marybeloved: Yes, I had that experience for a number of years, and I fully understand the feeling. It’s part of the process I think. I once read where Mother Teresa suffered from it off and on as well throughout her life. If such a great example as she should suffer through that, then who am I to complain, right? :slight_smile: For me it eventually took me to a different understanding than what I had been exposed to, so I do think there was some benefit to it. You can be assured that it’s leading you someplace, and I know you’ll be okay.

Your friend,

No I’ve gone through such anguish and suffering I knew without doubt I was living by Gods Mercy by the moment. It sorta went like this, “Do you believe in your God?” Yes! Then walk through the fire. Turned out Trial by Fire, all Blessing. I’ve seen horror turn to Gods Blessing, and what I thought by ego was Blessing turn to dirt. I couldn’t even define life good or bad if not for the Church and Mystics.

I felt him very early as a child, there was a positive knowing then. But the reality of it all hit me like ton a bricks years later as I was skipping down the yellow brick road. I guess I got the test first and the lesson later. He knew much more that I and was telling me “look I’m here, you don’t know now what you will need to know later”

Until I read the poetry of “Footsteps” I never realized it was Him carrying me. It dawned on me how indepted I was then.

Fear nothing of this world, only the one who judges your Soul eternally. So the verse goes. Everyone is waiting on a diagnosis, some just don’t realize it. Everyone receives one, I’m more shocked that others are shocked when they see it happen. Not that its not tragic. No such thing as borrowed time, chance, don’t believe it. Just expiration dates. And thats the amount of time you have to get it right. and you don’t know how much it is. So tarry not, least you be lost.

When you feel nothing? Thats the Lord being a Father and allowing His children to walk on their own a bit. Definately part of the process. So stay on track because He’s definately watching.

Decrease in the spiritual realm equates to increase in Church/Eucharist/Prayer IMHO. Its a mixture on to much physical world and not enough spiritual. I believe one must reverse that equation. The more responsibility you take on through the spiritual world, the more is expected of you.

And onward we go. I suppose we could contemplate on, Actually IMHO we don’t do enough of it around here. I’d rather find God anyday than be an expert on the Doctrine on how to find God and never find Him. :smiley:

I read your posts elsewhere about the mystics, enlightening as usual, though I didn’t comment. More reading or more contemplation?


Actually, my friend, I meant that YOU (Sufjon) seem so lost from CAF lately, it seems to me! I haven’t seen you around here for a long time, I was wondering if that is true (that you haven’t been coming here so much lately) or if it was just my perception. :slight_smile: But thanks for the words of wisdom, as always.:thumbsup:


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