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“Ask a Priest: How Do I Know If I Believe Enough?”
Q: I know that Jesus died for our sins, and if we trust in him and put our life in his hands, in return we get eternal salvation. How do I know that I believe it enough? What if how much I believe isn’t enough? How do I truly believe it in my heart? I want to be saved and I want to believe, but how? I don’t want to wait till it’s too late, because we never know how much time we have left. – R.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: To have faith in Jesus is to set out on a journey, like Abraham in the Old Testament. You follow Jesus because something in you says he is really God, he is really your redeemer.
By making that initial act of faith and following him, we can verify from day-to-day experience that we have made the right decision. As time goes on, we discover the deep wisdom of the Gospel. Something in our heart tells us that we are on the path of truth.
But how do we know that we believe “enough”? That isn’t easy to measure, though two criteria might help guide you.
First, real faith translates into action. It’s not enough that we make an intellectual assent; we need to conform our lives ever more closely to the Gospel. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). In practical terms that means making time for prayer and the sacraments and doing acts of charity.
Second, we can tell that our faith is growing stronger if we always give Our Lord the benefit of the doubt. That is, accept that what he teaches us through the Church is true and good and trustworthy, and that he is charge of the universe – that there is no problem too big that he can’t solve.
Two ramifications of this are worth mentioning.
One, we shouldn’t expose ourselves to things that put our faith in doubt, such as dicey books or bad TV shows or movie or websites. We need to feed our minds and hearts with good reading, such as papal teachings, stories of lives of the saints, and solid works of spirituality. This helps us to make sure our own ideas are in line with what the Church teaches. Our own perspective can be limited and distorted; the Church with its centuries of wisdom and assistance of the Holy Spirit is there to guard us from error.
Two, we need to cultivate a habit of seeing any difficulty in life with the eyes of faith. We need to have confidence that God allows difficulties in our life to help us grow in virtue and in confidence in his help. God will give us the grace we need to bear any burden. This is crucial because difficulties and tragedies can shake our faith; handled without a spirit of faith, they can undermine our belief in God’s love for us. So in the face of difficulties our first response should be to turn to prayer and to remind ourselves of God’s closeness and concern.
As mentioned earlier, faith is a journey. It demands a constant response of trust on our part. If we can remain confident in God and stay humble, imploring his help, in the midst of any problem, then that is a good sign that our faith is deep.
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