Walking our Faith: If you ever lose your faith in God
September 14, 2018
It can arrive like a cloud that covers the sun on an otherwise beautiful day. It can happen anywhere, to anyone, it happened to me in the middle of Mass one day.
It can be an unexpected medical diagnosis that changes our future. It can be a small prayer that goes unanswered and suddenly becomes an emergency. It can be the image of a refugee child washed up on a distant shore after the boat he was using to flee a war-torn country capsizes and there are no lifejackets.
It can happen when a crisis in the church undermines our trust and causes us to question who and what we can believe. It can happen when the world seems arbitrary and cruel and the forces of evil seem to outmatch the forces for good. It can happen because one more thing becomes the tipping point after so many disappointments. It can happen when we experience the silence of God and believe he is no longer present.
Losing our faith can happen suddenly or gradually. It can take us unaware or be something we see approaching in the periphery. Either way, when it arrives we are staggered.
Feeling angry or ashamed because we thought our faith was unshakable can move us into isolation. When confronted with our faith's surprising frailty we may leave our church and turn our back on God.
What should we do when we lose our faith?
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First, don't be afraid. Losing one's faith happens to everyone — from the most dedicated pastor or priest, to a father or mother — and yes, it's happened to me, more than once. There came a moment when I was sitting in church and in the back of my mind a voice whispered, "Do I really believe this? Do I look silly to unbelievers? What if God doesn't exist?"
I found myself for the remainder of the service trying to find a point to stare at, to summon the feelings of adoration I usually felt at this point in the service. Instead my mind wandered, and I realized five minutes had passed and I had no idea what the priest had said from the pulpit.
In fact, I'd lost track of the entire liturgy and was left with the nagging feeling that my trust in God had slipped away.
If you ever feel this way, you may think, "I must not be a good person if I have these thoughts." Or, "It must be my fault." These ruminations will cause you to get stuck, rather than to address the cause and find a solution.
Find someone you can speak to. For me, it was my priest, Father Emmanuel. He is a thoughtful pastor who shared experiences from his own life, as well as Bible scriptures, to encourage me. I also called my mother. At the age of 91, she is the most spiritually grounded person I know. I can share what I'm thinking and she isn't be surprised or upset. She will speak from experience and spiritual maturity.
The point is to get your feelings into the open. Our thoughts, like the monster in the closet of our childhood, become manageable when we turn on the lights and confront them out loud.
Once you've cleared the air and put your concerns into perspective, you will realize God is with you and for you. God's love for us never leaves us, even when we feel alone. Father Emmanuel pointed me to this scripture: "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." (Matthew, 11:28-30, MSG)
Most importantly, seek God. I go to Mass on Saturday evening or Sunday, or even a weekday morning. I attend the weekly hour of silent prayer, known as Adoration, at St. Mary's. When we feel we've lost our faith is when we need to be in God's presence the most.
When I am not in church, the psalms are an enormous source of comfort and strength because they reflect my pain and my desire for reconciliation: "I am losing all hope; I am paralyzed with fear. I remember the glorious miracles you did in days of long ago. I reach out for you. I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain. Come quickly, Lord, and answer me, for my depression deepens; don't turn away from me or I shall die. Let me see your kindness to me in the morning, for I am trusting you." (Psalm 143: 4-8) The gift of the psalms is understanding that we are not alone in our feelings, that others have been here and emerged redeemed and whole.
Then I turn to God in prayer.
As I drive into town, I turn off the radio and talk out loud, pouring out my heart, confessing my fears and anger, I hold nothing back. God knows our heart, so when we turn to him in prayer we are doing so for our own benefit. Because as we express our deepest fears, we are re-establishing our relationship with God. In that space is where he will reach out to us and reaffirm that we are never alone, God is always with us. God always loves us. We don't have to be alone. We can trust God with our faith.
Suzanne Anderson lives in Breckenridge.
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