Belief and Unbelief

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A stunning winter scene in Oscoda, Michigan

At times, we who are believers temporarily forget that we believe. Something interrupts our life in ways that can throw us off center. Circumstances assail us with doubt until we wonder if we believe at all anymore. It is a frightening place to be, especially for those of us who have most always had an unwavering faith in God.

But I have counseled with many a person who has lost her way and who finds herself questioning her belief in God. I recently had a long email conversation with a man raised as a Christian, but who simply did not believe anymore. I find it enlightening when a person dares to doubt God out loud. I find that the raw honesty of that person creates an even stronger foundation upon which to rebuild faith.

Bishop Steven Charleston wrote this about belief and unbelief:

I do not know, or pretend to know, the why and how of what I believe. I only know that I hear the sound of something moving through the winter branches, riding the sharp wind, speaking in an older language than words. I trust, more than I understand, watching and listening, waiting for the clouds to tell me secrets, for the water to sing a song from before the birth of fire. I am not here to tell you what to think. I am only here to walk with you as we follow tracks in snow.

So may each of us find refreshment and renewal in the questioning of our belief. May we find God again in the places we walk. May we trust even when we don’t understand.

2 thoughts on “Belief and Unbelief

  1. “[Mother Teresa] once said, ‘If I ever become a saint, I will surely be a saint of darkness.’ She was referring to something that only a handful of people knew in her lifetime, that for upwards of fifty years, Mother Teresa experienced the pain of the absence of God. The living saint often felt abandoned by God or even that God does not exist. Once a visiting bishop was kneeling in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament with Mother and her nuns. A note was passed to him from the saintly foundress, which read, to his infinite surprise, ‘Where is Jesus?’ That she lived through this crucible for decades, even as people routinely saw her as the very paragon of holiness, shows forth a third dimension of her saintliness. To be a saint is to allow Christ to live his life in you. Indeed, St. Paul said, ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me;’ and this means the whole Christ. Jesus was a person of service to the poor and needy, and Mother certainly embodied this aspect of his life; Jesus was a person who prayed intently and for long periods of time, and Mother participated in this dimension of his existence. But Jesus was also the crucified Lord, who said, at the limit of his suffering, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ To allow Christ to live his life in you is, therefore, necessarily to experience, to one degree or another, the absence of God, to undergo the agony of the crucifixion in all of its dimensions. St. John of the Cross, the greatest mystical theologian in the Church’s history said, quite simply, that there is no path to holiness that does not lead through the cross. Though it is a high paradox, the fifty-year darkness that Mother endured is, therefore, one of the surest indicators of her saintliness.” – Bishop Robert Barron, Saint of Light, Saint of Darkness

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