When you're having trouble with your faith


#1

...what keeps you going? I mean personally.

I've gone through a lot of periods when I've had great difficulties with believing certain things about our faith, or with religion in general. They're somewhat embarrassing when I think about them, because it reveals how shaky my faith really is.

What's gotten me through many of those times is the Eucharist. It's hard to explain, but I feel a fear in my heart to doubt God when I reflect on Jesus' real presence.

This quote from G.K. Chesterton has also been very strengthening: “To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.”


#2

[quote="Luke_K, post:1, topic:178524"]
...what keeps you going? I mean personally.

I've gone through a lot of periods when I've had great difficulties with believing certain things about our faith, or with religion in general. They're somewhat embarrassing when I think about them, because it reveals how shaky my faith really is.

[/quote]

You can't embarrass yourself, shame is a social emotion. Do you mean you're embarrassed when talking about your faith to others? Or do you just find religious doctrines hard to swallow?


#3

[quote="redhen, post:2, topic:178524"]
You can't embarrass yourself, shame is a social emotion. Do you mean you're embarrassed when talking about your faith to others? Or do you just find religious doctrines hard to swallow?

[/quote]

I don't find religious doctrines hard to swallow...It's like most of the time I view myself as having pretty strong faith and being close with God, but then it will all get flipped upside down so easily sometimes and I feel stupid for having been proud of myself before. And then I'll realize the truth and how I was wrong, and feel lowly for ever having doubted in the first place. Shame doesn't have to be a social emotion. If you're mature enough to know what you're capable of, then you can feel shame for yourself for not living up to what you're supposed to be.

Maybe God is testing me to make me humble. I feel like St. Thomas the apostle, and I'm wondering if other people feel this way and what they do to get through it.


#4

[quote="Luke_K, post:3, topic:178524"]
I don't find religious doctrines hard to swallow...It's like most of the time I view myself as having pretty strong faith and being close with God, but then it will all get flipped upside down so easily sometimes ...

[/quote]

I'm not clear on the idea of strong - weak faith, and every grade in between. You either believe or you don't, right? The only alternative I see is say "I don't know" (agnostic).


#5

[quote="Luke_K, post:3, topic:178524"]
I don't find religious doctrines hard to swallow...It's like most of the time I view myself as having pretty strong faith and being close with God, but then it will all get flipped upside down so easily sometimes and I feel stupid for having been proud of myself before. And then I'll realize the truth and how I was wrong, and feel lowly for ever having doubted in the first place. Shame doesn't have to be a social emotion. If you're mature enough to know what you're capable of, then you can feel shame for yourself for not living up to what you're supposed to be.

Maybe God is testing me to make me humble. I feel like St. Thomas the apostle, and I'm wondering if other people feel this way and what they do to get through it.

[/quote]

Hi,

I go through the same things as you :) But through prayer, I've come to realize that these moments of "doubt" are not really doubt at all, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. From what you've written, it doesn't sound like you are trying to doubt, these are just honest questions/concerns you have about your faith, and it's during these moments that you have a difficult time reconciling your faith with reason. This is a wonderful thing!!! Realize that during these moments, God is actually blessing us. He is testing our faith. He is training us to rely on our faith during times of uncertainty - to rely on our hearts instead of our intellect. I definitely sympathize with the feelings of "pride" you feel after going through these times of uncertainty, but what you (and I) need to remember is that, if our faith is never tested, is it really faith at all? If we just blindly believed everything about our faith without asking questions, and felt guilty after every moment of uncertainty, we would never be trained to rely on our faith. God knows that it makes us feel good to "feel like we know all the answers." In reality, we don't - no one has and no one ever will. When God throws something at us that we can't grasp intellectually, He is training us to depend on our relationship with Him and the love He has for us to get us through it. Ironically, it is this "doubting" of our faith that actually strengthens it! :newidea:

Please know that you are not alone, and that you should NEVER stop questioning. It is not prideful to feel confident in your faith, but during moments that we don't feel comfortable and have these spiritual "confusions," it is only a blessing from God calling us to grow in a deeper relationship with Him, and a profound opportunity to learn more about the faith He has given us :thumbsup: You are in my prayers


#6

[quote="redhen, post:4, topic:178524"]
I'm not clear on the idea of strong - weak faith, and every grade in between. You either believe or you don't, right? The only alternative I see is say "I don't know" (agnostic).

[/quote]

I guess you could define it by what it takes to make one doubt or lose faith. One person may stop believing once they encounter a seeming contradiction in the Bible, another person when they learn about abuses in the Church, or another person when they suffer through a life catastrophe like the sudden death of a spouse or child.


#7

[quote="redhen, post:4, topic:178524"]
I'm not clear on the idea of strong - weak faith, and every grade in between. You either believe or you don't, right? The only alternative I see is say "I don't know" (agnostic).

[/quote]

As the father of the little possessed boy says in the Gospel according to Mark, "I believe, help my unbelief!" He may even have had quite a strong faith, relative to many - but he was still aware of its frailty. He had enough to belief to ask Jesus to heal his son, but he also qualified his request - "If you can." He wasn't sure if God could do it.

When I have doubts, I pray about it. I also find it helpful to mentally review old arguments that got me to where I am now - especially arguments from St Thomas Aquinas and C.S. Lewis. For me, doubt is generally an emotion, rather than an intellectual objection, so reason is a good antidote.


#8

I thought of a couple of scriptures you might consider. You mentioned the first person who came to mind–poor old Doubting Thomas. He struggled with belief, even though he was in the very presence of Jesus during his earthly ministry and a witness to the miracles He created. But Jesus knew even His closest disciples would struggle with doubt. Jesus took Peter, James and John to the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:26-27) so that they could be “eyewitnesses to His majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). They even heard the voice of God the Father proclaiming “This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased. Hear ye Him” (Matt. 17:5). In spite of all that, Peter still had a terrible moment of doubt during the trial of Jesus, even to the point of denying that he even knew Jesus!

Then of course there is the incident on the Sea of Galilee, when the Apostles were without Jesus on a boat and in fear for their lives. (Matthew 14:22-33). Jesus called Peter to come to Him on the water. As long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he did not sink even though he must have been buffeted by the waves and blown about by the fierce winds. I think those winds and waves could be considered an allegory for the doubts, fears and troubles we all experience in our own lives. Peter did not sink below the weight of those difficulties until he took his eyes off Jesus. But as soon as he began to focus more on the wind and waves than on his Lord, he began to sink. Jesus caught him by the hand and said “O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt” (Matthew 14:31). Jesus came in contact with the doubts of His followers throughout His earthly ministry. He never sent away His followers because of doubt. He is such a kind, gentle, patient and loving God!

I think doubt is part of the human condition. In those moments we can cry to God like the man who brought his possessed son to Jesus for healing: “Lord, I do believe. Help my unbelief!” (Luke 9:23).

“Be strong and bold: have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not fail your nor forsake you” (Deut. 31:6).

I will certainly keep you in my prayers, LukeK!


#9

pcg2 and Student09 gave good answers.

There is not one saint, priest, or faithful person of any kind who has not experienced these “dry” periods. We question things that can be genuinely confusing, and sometimes we even question things that we know to be truth. Our faith must be tested by making sure it survives questioning and “doubt”. You are still a Catholic, and a stronger Catholic than you would have been without those doubtful times. So rejoice! Thank God that He strengthens your faith and brings you right through the bad times.

It is also helpful to read the logical arguments for the faith when you are feeling doubtful, as Student09 said. Scott Hahn, C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton are wonderful apologists who have helped me through rough times exactly like the ones you are describing.

The best advice I can give you is to keep going to the Eucharist. Recieve at mass as often as you can, go to confession when you need to, and pray, pray, pray. When you get one of these dry times, go to adoration. Sit before Jesus in the tabernacle or monstrance, and tell Him how you feel. Talk to Him like you would a best friend, that is why He is with us. Tell Him exactly what doubts or problems you are having, tell Him you trust Him completely, and pray that He will use these hard times to strengthen your faith as a Catholic.

Student09, good post, and I will certainly be praying for you! I came into the Church this past year (Swam the Tiber Easter Vigil 09 :slight_smile: ), and I absolutely love the strong faith that is often found in converts. May God bless you in your journey!

Peace and blessings,
Frank


#10

Miss Linda, your post is very helpful as well! It popped up after I made my post, I certainly did not mean to exclude you :-)

The advice of your brothers and sisters in Christ can be very reassuring and helpful, but remember, when you get good advice from one of us, it is only because God chooses to speak through His faithful people, His Church. Trust in God, not in man.

May we all pray that we do only the will of the Father, so that He may speak and work through us. Mary, spouse of the Holy Spirit and Seat of Wisdom, pray for us!

Peace and blessings,
Frank


#11

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