Our faith develops throughout our life-span. There actually are stages of faith development which have been identified, and a healthy faith passes even through doubt. Just like everyone else in the world, Christians experience set-backs, illness, loss of jobs, death of family members and friends, depression.... Simply because we may be a follower of Christ, doesn't mean we have some magic answer to every problem which makes us immune to the questions and pain of life on this earth. When we face problems and sorrows, we may be surprised to find ourselves at times even questioning God's existence or God's love for us.
When I had a stroke at 21 I know I spent a long time with these questions. I spent several years in darkness, struggling to believe and to trust God with my life. I never received an answer to the question of why God permits evil, but after a while I found I no longer needed to ask the question. I was at peace. The doubts, the hours of soul-searching, the reading of the book of Isaiah day after day had somehow kept me in the presence of God long enough for me to absorb the radiance of his love. I knew beyond a shadow of death that he cared for me.
Doubt is a part of a faith that is maturing. If I hadn't doubted and asked questions, my faith would still be that of a teenager. In the thirty years since, my faith has continued to develop. Now I have a faith that I can share with others from my own experience of God, not just something I read in a catechism or heard in a homily. My faith has been knit into my very DNA through the questions that riddled my life after sorrow became mine.
If you are struggling with doubt, try this:
- Talk to God about your doubts.
- Read one of the four Gospels from beginning to end.
- Ask Jesus to help you have faith, for in the end faith is a gift.
Some resources that also might help you:
- When Faith Feels Fragile: Help for the Wary, Weak, and Wandering. By R. Scott Hurd. I love Scott Hurd's books. He is right on the mark when it comes to helping us naming our experiences. He asks: "When it comes to religion, are you just going through the motions? Is your faith hanging by a thread?" In his book he offers 39 short chapters which show the reader how to accept the gift of faith that God is offering to them and how to keep the flame of faith alive.
- Holy Daring: The Fearless Trust of St. Therese of Lisieux. By John Udris. Even the saints struggle with doubt. This book leads the reader in her path of childlike trust. It takes boldness to trust and to believe when things seem dark, and the road seems to have come to a dead-end. Therese shows us how to grow in filial confidence in the moments of doubt.