Saturday, October 6, 2012

Doubt Comes with Faith


Dostoyevsky  said, “It is not as a child that I believe and confess Jesus Christ.  My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt.”

Do you find it strange that I use a quotation linking doubt to faith?  But that was how I did find faith.  Not that I didn't have faith, before.  I was born with it.  I never questioned it.  It was something like having a nationality, or a propensity for cats over dogs.  Faith came with the water in baptism. 

Then came a time when I was thrown into purgatory.  I was sick, very sick.  Neither the origin, name, diagnosis, treatment, nor prognosis, was known.  I was in limbo sliding through purgatory.  I was literally wasting away, lying in my own diarrhea and no one knew why.

I wanted to die.  I was beyond caring how disgusting and repulsive I was.  I just wanted it all to end, so I prayed for death.

Sometime in my wallow of self-pity, God let go of my hand.  The thought entered my mind, “You might as well be praying to Zeus.  You'd get the same answer—NOTHING.” 

And that’s exactly what I felt—NOTHING.
That’s what I heard—piercing silence.
I saw darkness.  It was more than dark.  It was an overwhelming, shocking, stabbing darkness.
There was a cold stillness.
My soul shivered.
My God, my God why have you abandoned me?
Why so far from my call for help,
from my cries of anguish?   Psalm 22: 1-2

No one answered.  No one was present.
Was my faith being tested?
Was this a St. John of the Cross despair?
Like a drowning man, I prayed for help.  God didn’t come.  Neither did Zeus.  Was religion just a fairy tale?

Well?

I screamed in my head, BELIEVE or NOT!

My reasoning was confused.  There has to be more to life than struggling and suffering.  Doesn’t Aquinas prove the existence of God?

But I didn't feel like thinking.  I didn't have the energy or will to think about it, anymore.

I only knew that I was in an abyss of separation from something.  Out of force of habit, I prayed.  Praying was just a reflexive habit, not proof of a faith.

Gradually, as my physical condition improved, so did my emotional, mental, and spiritual strength.  Recovery was a slow process.  Spiritually putting myself in union with Christ on the cross actually helped me, emotionally and mentally.

My suffering led me to question, which was a blessing, because looking for answers led me to deeper understanding of faith, and appreciation for our Holy Mother the Church.  I had a grasp of what Aquinas was trying to say with his model of faith as an “act of will.”

Yes, faith can be ascertained by working, looking, and praying, for it.  I learned that believers are not immune to questioning and doubting.  And in my case, doubt was necessary in order to grow in faith.

So, “I proclaim His name to the assembly…” (Psalm 22:23), as I write this personal memory.

Sources cited:

Psalm 22
Summa Theologica, 2a, 2ae
The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky