Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Dealing with Doubts

Q: Lately I have had a lot of doubts about everything that I stand for as a Christian. Everything in my life seems to be going lousy. My family is always yelling. I don’t think my mom and I can ever have a peaceful conversation. I don’t understand why all this is going on. A friend of mine said that it isn’t my fault and that my mom is just going through stuff and I should understand. She said all I have to do is have faith. I pray all the time, but it doesn’t work. Everything is just so overwhelming at times and I don’t know what do to.

A: A lot of people doubt their faith at times in their lives, especially when their lives seem to be full of pain or dismay. Questioning your faith is not wrong or something to be ashamed of – it shows that you’re human. Imagine how empty your faith would be if you simply believed it because someone told you to believe. The thing to be careful of is the temptation to throw away your faith when times are hard. Just because you can’t see God’s answers to your prayers doesn’t mean He’s not listening.

In his book, Why Bad Things Happen to Good People, Rabbi Harold Kushner references the Book of Job from the Old Testament in order to explain suffering in this world. He notes that in the story of Job, the reader makes three assumptions: 1) God is an all powerful being, in control of everything that happens in the world; 2) God is a just God, who gives every person what they deserve; 3) Job is a good person. The problem that comes up is that only two of these are plausible at one time – if Job is a good person, and God is in control of everything that happens, then God cannot be a just God for letting Job suffer the way he does. Likewise, if God is a just God and is in charge of everything that happens, then Job cannot be a good person. Kushner’s resolution is that maybe God is not in charge of everything that happens in this world. Kushner points out that instead of seeing God as in charge of the suffering in our lives, as One who controls the bad things that happen to us, we must start seeing God as experiencing with us the suffering in our lives, as One who gives us strength to pull through when we have none.

Life wasn’t meant to be easy, and nobody can claim that it’s fair all the time. Everyone suffers at some point in his or her life. The trick is to learn how to work through the chaos around you. Some people listen to music, others take long walks, and others turn to creating art when they feel overwhelmed. One thing that I have found very helpful in dealing with hard times in my life is talking about it with someone I trust, such as a friend, a teacher, a priest. By not talking about what’s bothering you, all of that pain and anger is bottled up deep inside of you, which will only keep you unhappy in the future.

Maureen D.