Faith and doubt

I began writing this post because of a prompt from one of my friends who asked if I’ve written anything about faith and mental illness. I wanted this post to go a certain direction, but as is often the case, the original idea morphed into a totally different beast.

This is another post I’ve been struggling to finish. Out of all the things I’ve written for this blog, this is one of the most vulnerable and painful. It’s been quite the undertaking, and I’ve been working on it for over a week.

Bear with me as it is a culmination of many complicated emotions.

Faith has always been an integral part of my life. I grew up in the church, and I got baptized at the ripe age of ten. In some ways, my faith was stronger as a ten-year-old than it is now.

I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point, seeds of doubt about God were planted in my mind. Those seeds of doubt have been growing for a while; they’ve metastasized into my heart, and I’m not sure how to uproot them.

I’m ashamed of the doubts, and I’m jealous of people whose faith seems strong and unwavering.

I get hung up on God being the creator of everything.

I mean, who created God?

How did he come into existence?

How is it that he’s always been there?

Does anyone else get caught up on that?

Or is it just me?

I cannot be open about these doubts, right? People will think I’m a bad Christian.

I don’t pray very often, but when I do, it usually turns into me cursing God. I seem to be angry with him most of the time. I’m not sure why that is. I’ve been through a lot, but so have other people, and I don’t think they curse God.

My brother told me recently that one of his friends from high school remembers me “owning” someone during lunch when they tried to argue with me that God doesn’t exist. I have no recollection of that event. But I wonder where that faith went. It was there when I was seventeen or eighteen.

Where’d it go? How can I get it back?

Since I doubt the most fundamental thing about God, can I really believe anything else about Christianity? Can I really proclaim to be a Christian with all of these doubts? Will I have to pretend my entire life, or will I be able to find my faith again?

One of my close friends tells me that everyone has doubts, which might be true, but surely mine are a bit more extreme. Sometimes I feel like I go to church solely out of obligation; because it’s expected of me as a member of my family. But I still go, even on the bad days; could that be a demonstration of deeply seeded faith, instead of severely engrained doubt?

I honestly do not know.

I want everything about God to be true. I think my soul needs the hope and grace believing in God provides, and maybe the doubts are okay. Maybe my friend is right and everyone struggles with doubt. I vacillate back and forth with what I believe in my core.

As I’ve worked on this post, I feel like I’ve been bouncing between the two extremes of belief and doubt. I don’t know where I belong.

When I was going through my first episode, I never prayed for myself. Until recently, I thought it was a guarantee that I’d get better, but my brother told me my family didn’t know if I’d ever get regain my mind. I guess I was really sick.

I know my family and friend’s support helped pull me through my episode, and maybe their prayers had a lot to do with it as well. But prayer is another thing that I have doubts about.

Why should other people’s prayers make me better when my prayers didn’t make a bit of difference for Ray and my grandma, who both died from cancer?

Do prayers actually work? Why can’t I “get” it? Why is it such a chore and a grind? Why do my prayers turn into rants against God? Why am I always so angry with him?

My most frequent prayer to God is one asking for death, and he has yet to answer that prayer. I think I have some resentment towards him because of that.

I’d really prefer not to commit suicide because there’s agonizing pain left behind for the family members and friends of the person who died. But if it was just an accident. People could more easily accept that, right?

I’m currently attending a spiritual formation class on Sunday mornings, and last week, we were encouraged to reflect back on the day every evening this month and try to identify moments when we felt loved by God. The teachers made it sound relatively straight forward, and I shared the exercise with one of my friends and asked her to be my accountability partner.

The first night, I texted her my reflections from Saturday and Sunday. I somehow managed to explain the exercise to my friend in such a way that she understood it better than I did. When I shared what I thought was a good answer, she told me the practice isn’t about me being good or doing good things. It’s about feeling loved by God because I am enough. Because I am me. Not because of something I did or accomplished.

I don’t even know how to identify that feeling. I have no idea the last time I felt loved by God. I see God as a wrathful, angry God. I feel like I have to do good things to earn his love, but nothing I do is ever good enough.

I am not enough. Not even not goodenough. I’m just not enough. Period.

I felt ashamed when I realized I don’t know how it feels to be loved by God. My friend said I’m just out of practice, but I’ve never been in practice. I’ve always viewed God this way. I’m not sure where that comes from.

Upon writing this, it seems like my doubts about God might stem from my feelings of never measuring up to his standards. Maybe I’m wrong, but it feels like the two are connected.

It’s hard to believe in a God whom I don’t feel loved by. It was painful when I realized I have no recollection of God’s love feels like. Painful because I feel like I’m a bad Christian.

Painful because of a deep longing to be loved unconditionally.

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