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“Ask a Priest: What If I Have Trust Issues With God?”
Q: My faith journey has not been easy. I grew up in an easy-going “Catholic” home. I only started to learn about my faith the year COVID started. I am in RCIA am going to be confirmed soon, but I have a not-so-good secret. I have very bad thoughts about God. They are blasphemous and distrustful. I recently learned about what it is to be cynical, and I think that I am very much a cynical person. During my conversion (such as it was) I struggled a lot to trust in the existence of God, and wondered if Jesus was lying, etc. I still struggle with those things. Deep down inside I know that God is not evil and that I can trust him, but I physically can’t get myself to do it. There are times when I put my guard down, and try to see Jesus for who is really is, and I realize he was actually very kind. The problem now is that I am set to get confirmed in a couple of months. I don’t want to get confirmed if I am being cynical, I feel like Judas. I should also mention that I am not just cynical toward God, I am also cynical toward other people. I know that sometimes this is due to being hurt in the past. I remember a time when I had a childlike trust, and I can still remember how that slowly faded away. I haven’t been to reconciliation out of fear of what the priest might tell me, so I am here to get advice from you. – L.R.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: It’s good that you are honest about the struggles you are having. This shows a basic sincerity, which is an important foundation for any growth in the spiritual life.
The first thing to discern is whether these hard-edged thoughts are simply temptations, or something that you are pondering and accepting.
Whenever we take a big step in the spiritual life it’s not unusual that the devil, the world, and the flesh will throw up obstacles. If you make an act of faith and trust to receive the sacrament despite these resistances, you will be blessed for it.
It would be good to present your case to a spiritual guide who can ask follow-up questions. If that isn’t an option, you can make an appointment with your pastor or another priest to get some guidance to see whether you should hold off on confirmation for now until the spiritual struggles have been addressed.
If you don’t feel ready to receive the sacrament of confirmation, there is no shame or sin in waiting until you feel ready. But you should decide that with the help of a spiritual guide.
You mention that some of your cynicism comes from being hurt in the past. There might some trauma at work here, so you might want to work on the cynicism with a licensed counselor. Not all problems that affect our spiritual life come from the devil; sometimes the struggles we face have their roots in our family history or other childhood experiences.
It’s not uncommon that our relationships with people can affect our relationship with God. If we are distrustful toward others — say, a parent — then we might also aim that distrust at Our Lord.
A few suggestions might be worth considering.
First, it helps to meditate on God’s personal love for you. He created you out of nothing, he holds you in existence at every second, and he even sent his Son to suffer and die on a cross for your redemption. This is a God you can trust.
Your core identity is that you are a beloved daughter of the Almighty. He has a soft spot for you and only wants your happiness and holiness.
The act of faith that sets you on the right path is an assent of the will; it’s not about feelings. It’s not a physical thing that we force ourselves to do (like push-ups).
Second, it would be good to take advantage of the sacrament of confession. It’s one of the great treasures that God gives us through his Church.
The sacrament can be a great source of healing and grace – which is why the devil might tempt us to avoid it. In any case, I doubt that you will shock the priest, so don’t be afraid to approach the confessional.
Perhaps it might help to read up on some lives of the saints – they had to deal with an imperfect world, too. One suggestion is Butler’s Lives of the Saints.
The saints are flesh and blood like us, and their ability to keep focused on Christ amid a messy world can inspire us all. For God calls all of us to sanctity. And that means he’ll give us the grace to reach it.
It might help to read the New Testament. It tells, in part, of how the early Church flourished despite the pagan world around it. Early Christians learned to see that the glass was half full, not half empty.
Remember, too, that part of the grace of confirmation is to make us soldiers for Christ. The Spirit will give us the strength we need to be lights amid the darkness.
Also, try to get involved in some volunteer work. When we help others in need, we learn to put our own difficulties in perspective.
And stay close to the Blessed Virgin Mary through the rosary. She will intercede for you. Count on my prayers.
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