receives many questions that have similar themes. Here
is a summary of one that seems to include all the elements of human doubt in
Gods Will in our lives that most of us experience at one time or another. CatholicView wants to share the answer to this
question with everyone who reads and studies this web site.
ONE QUESTION RECEIVED
"After a lifetime of devotion
and love for my Catholic religion, I am on the verge of losing my faith. I have suffered from depression for decades and
neither medication, counseling, nor my religion has been of any help to me in this
perpetual darkness. I have prayed
ceaselessly, hoping for some sign that God will succeed where medicine has failed. Now, as I enter the final phase of my life, I am
forced to admit that this God really does not care. As
a father, I would do anything to help my children. I
cannot see why God, the Father can be anything less than a Father to His children. I know its down to faith but we cannot live
by faith alone. The early Christians had
faith and saw how God intervened directly in their lives, but that does not seem to happen
today, especially when children suffer and die horribly from hunger and disease, their
poor mothers crying out to God to help them in their agony but to no avail.
In the immediate now, I look for assistance but find nothing but
cold silence. I hate atheism but now the
desperate thought comes to me that it might be right.
Forgive me, but at times I rail against God and ask Him if He cares whether I end
my life in despair or continue to live with this gnawing doubt.
I meditate on Christ on the cross and say the
rosary frequently, sometimes twice daily. I
look at the cross and marvel at a God who gives Himself up to be crucified. Its a wonderful thought. But the people of God need His help now. Atheists throw this in our faces where is
your God? And I cannot tell them that from my
own desperate experiences, He did nothing for me through my entire life. Nothing I begged for through dark days and nights
were ever answered. I have come to Him and
never have found the rest He promised. I have
tried to leave all in His Hands only to have to rely on my own."
ANSWER FROM CATHOLICVIEW
You are so overwhelmed by the negative that you are losing faith and hope in
life and yourself. Your depression has taken
your energy for life out of you. You have
battled your disease (clinical depression) for many decades yet you have not given up. This shows that you are a strong person, a person
ruled by hope even though you cannot see that hope through your pain. For that, I am grateful for your fighting spirit! You have overcome so much despite what life has
thrown at you. Keep going forward. You are obviously stronger than you think.
Your struggle is shared by so many people in the world. You are not alone.
Even scripture is filled with this kind of pain and sadness of what seems to be
abandonment by God. The psalmist wrote in
Psalm 22 (Psalm 22: 1-3) which was quoted by Jesus on the cross: My
God, my God, why have You forsaken me, far from my prayer, from the words of my cry? O my God, I cry out by day and You answer not; by
night, there is no relief for me. Even
Jesus gave voice to these human emotions as He gave His all on the cross for you and me
As for your particular situation, I must tell you honestly, I dont
have a quick and easy answer to your doubt in God and His plan for you. I can give you all kinds of platitudes and nice
little trite Christian sayings like God is with you and that through
faith in God, you can overcome anything. You
have been told that and, to be honest with you, that is not an answer but it is easier to
say such nice things than dealing with human situations that seem beyond our personal
control. Life is not easy, suffering is a
reality, and there are no easy answers.
So, lets start with this: Stop
focusing on your depression. I know this is
going to be hard because that is what you have been doing every day and every minute for
the last few decades, a habit that will be hard to break.
Because of the nature of depression and the brain chemical imbalance that it
creates within you, you have an uphill struggle, a struggle that some others share with
you. Oddly, it is a vicious circle of sorts: severe sadness changes the brain chemical balance
that deepens powerlessness into depression which causes more sadness which causes more
chemical imbalance in the brain. You are not
alone in your struggle even though your depression has isolated you from the world and
even from family and friends. You feel alone
in this nightmare. So, it is time to break
the vicious circle of depression.
How does faith fit into all this?
Here are some things that I know to be truth.
There is a God. There is a Creator who
brought all life into existence. You know
this basic truth in your heart. This same
Creator has made you for a reason and purpose. There
are no accidents when it comes to life, just challenges and obstacles to overcome. No one is immune from suffering and we all suffer
because of the effects of sin, others and my own. So,
suffering is not Gods fault but the fault of other peoples actions, my own
actions, and the luck of the draw. Thats why I asked you not to focus on
depression. Instead, focus on
creation, life, beautiful things, the so-called blessings that we have in life. Life is meant to be lived to the full. So, it is time to make a decision to get out of
the habitual rut of seeing depressing things and get into a new life habit seeing the good
things around us all. Treat yourself to
something joyful. Get out of yourself, walk
in your neighborhood and see the wonder of nature. When
I feel depressed and isolated, thats what I do get out! I walk, smell the flowers (and take my allergy
medications), see life in all its forms. Then
I am overwhelmed by Gods presence all around me.
Instead of focusing simply on sadness (and therefore, myself), I am reaching
out. Simply by doing this, I begin the healing process in my brain that will bring me
Notice I said peace and not happiness. Happiness is fleeting, but peace is forever! My peace of mind is what gives me stability, not
happiness. I seek peace. I gain that peace through my trust and faith in
God who knows what is going on. And that is
what our Catholic faith promises: peace. Remember what Jesus said to His disciples when He
met with them in the Upper Room after His death and resurrection (John 20:19-22): Peace
be with you. As the Father has sent Me, so I
Here comes prayer
since prayer is a dialog between God and myself, and
not some kind of rubbing the genie in a bottle and getting a wish, I want to
dialog with the Creator. That demands that I
stop talking and take the time to listen. (I Kings 19:12-13) After the fire, there was a tiny whispering sound. When Elijah heard this, he hid his face in his
cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave [to meet with God.] You
mentioned that you pray the rosary often and marvel at the cross of the crucified Lord
Jesus. This is ONLY a start. You must be silent.
You must rest in the presence of the Lord.
This is how I do it. I close my
eyes. I breathe deeply and silence my words
and my desires. Thats the hard part. My mind is racing all the time. I too am filled with doubts, questions, wants, and
desires. I find myself talking to God as if
He is Santa Claus. Thats when I stop
and say to myself, Be silent, be at peace. Shhhhh. Peace.
As I slow my mind and soul down, I begin to see good things, such as my
favorite food, my family, my favorite tree, the smell of something delicious. I revel in
that. I allow myself to enjoy the peace and
let it fill me. When I open my eyes sometime
later, I say, Thank you, Lord, for all your blessings!
I dont ask for anything. God
is not Santa Claus. He is my Creator, my
Lord, my Father. As Saint Paul writes in
Philippians 4:7: Rejoice in the Lord always! I shall say it again, rejoice! Have no anxiety at all but in everything, by
prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all
understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
And just like my own earthly father could not intervene in all my concerns
and problems, our Father in heaven allows us to be free agents in this world, with free
will, making our own destiny, our own decisions, and does not intervene in all my
situations. My earthly father allowed me to
make mistakes and did not save me from some things so that I could learn how to live and
be responsible. Our heavenly Father does the
same for us. What seems like abandonment is
really God allowing us to be free will human beings, learning along the way how to be His
loving presence in the world. Yes, you have
to rely on your own because you are not a child but an adult. You are accountable for your free will actions to
God, others, and yourself. And God wont
stop us; to do so will take away our freedom. We
can only love if we are free. So, dont
focus on the seeming injustice but focus on what can be done to change things.
there we go
prayer, especially silent prayer, MUST lead you to
change the world even if it is only your little corner of the world. That is what is going to get you out of your
depressed world. Without this kind of faith
and prayer dialog with God, you will not be able to move forward and find the peace that
will give you stability and inner strength.
There are no easy answers. I too struggle with doubt. I too ask God
why this and that. I too get angry with God Who seems really distant
sometimes. There is no sin in doubting. There is no sin in getting angry with
God since He demands my own honesty in my dialog with Him and myself. There are no
immediate answers to the pain of this world and the pain in my particular life. So,
we go forward and live life to the full and make a mark on this world, a mark that will
improve the world around me. Once again, I must say that I am impressed with your
courage and your strength. You are strong. You are a faithful person.
You have not given up. It is time to change old habits.
Do not focus on sadness but focus on blessings. Do not stare into the
face of depression with resignation but laugh at it. And with your dialog with God,
you will become secure and stronger each day. I wish I could make all your pain go
away. But you need to get "back on the horse and ride". Only you
can do that. I can't do it for you. And neither can God. But He rides
with you telling you in His own way, "You can do it! I believe in you!"
- CatholicView Priest Staff