When We Doubt
When we pray for something which is very important to us, to our health, or financial security, and when we don’t receive an answer which we can understand, it is natural for us to wonder at God’s silence.
We might at some point even begin to doubt God’s love for us or God forbid, even His existence.
This week I read a book on prayer by Sister Wendy Becket, best known for her BBC series on Art History which many of us enjoyed watching years ago.
I want to share the following quote from Sister Wendy‘s book. It got me thinking about what it means when we say we doubt God.
“The holiest person I know has never had the slightest interior intimation that God exists. All she gets back from her prayer is doubt and darkness. She experiences a terrible fear that her life with God is all imagination that there is no God, that living as a nun is a mockery. With this agonizing sense of her own personal weakness and her own absolute absence of felt certainty she chooses. She chooses to believe. She chooses to act in accordance with that belief which means in practice a life of heroic charity. This woman and others like her, because she is not alone in this heroism, is giving to God the real sacrifice of faith. This woman chooses to love God and to serve Him and to believe in Him even if she gets nothing back. It is a glory to know that she exists and that there are others like her.” (Sister Wendy on Prayer, Sister Wendy Beckett, 2006)
Often the perceived silence of God in response to our most ardent prayers can lead to a very desperate and vicious circle. We begin to believe that God has not answered our prayer because we have done something wrong or that we are unworthy of His response, or worse yet that He does not love us and this can lead us to distance our self from God and in the worst case to turn our backs on God and believe that He does not exist.
I am currently participating in a 54-day rosary challenge through the Hallow app. I’ve discovered that when I say the rosary before bedtime, the meditative rhythm of the repeated Hail Marys and Our Fathers help me to get a good night’s sleep, which is a relief to my middle of the night insomnia. This is a blessing.
But during this twenty minute prayer I also ask God why my prayers for a second part-time job, a job which is meaningful and uses my talents, have gone unanswered for so long. God’s silence is a challenge to my faith, because I love God with all my heart and I know He wants the best for me.
And so this passage by Sister Wendy was both a consolation and a relief to me to know that there exists out there in the world a holy nun who also struggles with her faith and yet makes the heroic choice to continue to serve God, even as she doubts His existence.
On Tuesday morning I hurried to Mass because I had signed up to be the Lector that morning, to do the readings from the New Testament and the Psalms before the Gospel is read by Father Boguslaw. Unfortunately, I arrived minutes too late and entered church as my friend Larry was reading the verses I should have been reading. I slipped into a pew in the middle of the church which gave me a different perspective of the beautiful stained-glass mosaic of the Madonna and Child which reaches from floor to ceiling behind the altar of the church.
As I gazed at the beautiful portrayal of the child Jesus reaching out his arms to us I understood that while it is perfectly natural for us to doubt God as we struggle with our faith, what God says back to us is that His love for us is never diminished for one moment or by any degree even when we doubt His very existence.
When we are in this place of darkness, I want to offer this prayer: Jesus, I trust in you.
Repeat it as many times as necessary. There have been times when I have repeated it unceasingly in the middle of the night when I could not sleep. It is a real consolation.
God loves us so dearly. God never leaves us, He is always with us even when our fear and our sorrow blinds us from His very near and real presence. God is with us and God loves us more than we can ever know, and nothing can ever separate us from the love of God.