Jesus, I Trust in You! Help My Unbelief!

One of the many devotions I gained in my college years was a love for the Divine Mercy Chaplet. This is also the first year that I finally prayed the Divine Mercy Novena all the way through. (Thank you Pray More Novenas!)

I don’t know if it’s just me or if other cradle Catholics have this problem (or heck, even Christians in general), but I always feel like it’s one thing to believe in the core values and all the doctrines of Catholicism, but it’s another thing to have faith that God is actually a part of our lives in every moment. Many people ask for God’s providence in times of crisis, but often forget to ask for His help in our daily lives. Yes, there are people who pray their Morning Offerings, myself included. But there are a lot of areas I feel a lot of doubt about.

It’s not just about my everyday problems like finding a full-time job or having some semblance of a social life outside of the internet. I also struggle with a lot of loneliness. Although I consider myself to be an introverted person, I still want someone that I can talk to about anything and yet also “be” with without having the need to talk. I also want that same person to watch my favorite shows with me and cry and laugh with me, or at least understand what I’m feeling. I always forget, during those times that I wish for someone, that Jesus is always there to listen. I love Him, I really do, but it’s not the same as having the physical presence of a person, hearing someone’s voice, and sharing moments with a person.

I also struggle with a lot of self-doubt, mostly about said lack of job and love life. Although I still long for companionship, I also have doubts of finding anyone who fits those longings. I struggle with basic conversation sometimes because of my social awkwardness. Sometimes, I don’t see myself as beautiful or even pretty, just average. Again, it just comes from a lot of times in my life when I felt like Eponine, always on my own and never getting the guy.

We all like to make fun of Doubting Thomas, who will never live down his moment of unbelief. But I’m probably right there with him, refusing to believe until I see proof. My intuition and emotions have often been wrong, so I constantly ask God to prove to me that He is listening. Except, I act more like an entitled brat, expecting God to grant my wishes and dreams. I know better than that, and yet I still do it. I’m pretty sure a lot of you can relate.

I’m not saying all this because I feel like whining and complaining about #firstworldproblems. I’m just saying that faith isn’t just about believing in a bunch of doctrines, traditions, and Sacred Scripture. It’s about trust. It’s about putting your trust in your faith. It’s during these times of doubt and loneliness that I turn to God more than ever. This is where the Divine Mercy Chaplet comes in.

If there is any word that I can use to describe Saint Faustina, it would be “Trust.” She trusted in God when it came to her vocation. But that was just the beginning of her story. She trusted in God implicitly when she began receiving visions, in spite of other sisters in her order being dismissive of her. How she lived with such bitchiness, I will never know.

Whenever I pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, I usually pray it as an intercession for others. But whenever I listen and sing along to the song version (either on EWTN TV or EWTN Radio), I slow down in praying it and really feel the prayer on a different level. I ask God for His mercy and offer up my loneliness. The words “I Trust in You” start to resonate in me. And even though I don’t feel the trust right now, I have a glimmer of it. And sometimes, that’s enough.

Faith and Trust vs Doubt and Discouragement

One of my favorite quotes from CS Lewis is “There are far, far better things ahead than anything we leave behind.” I keep going back to that quote whenever I face a setback.

I know you guys are probably gonna laugh at the idea of a twentysomething having a quarter-life crisis, but the fact is that it happens. I apply for jobs and don’t hear back or I get the interview, but not the job itself. I fall for guys who never give me a chance. I have a million writing ideas but get writer’s block as soon as I see the blank page of a word processor.

I know that God has a better plan for me. It would be nice to know what that plan was, though. I mean, what could be better than having a full-time job, having a car, driving where I want to go, and having a normal relationship? I’m not exactly sure if it’s in God’s plan that I stay at home blogging and only talk to people through the internet.

There are times that God led me to wonderful things that ended up changing my life for the better. The real test is living out that faith and trusting God on a day to day basis. To quote my favorite show “The hardest thing in this world is to live in it.” Believe me when I say that it’s sadly true. It’s hard to live life on a daily basis not knowing what’s gonna happen next, not knowing where life is going to lead you, and faced with a world that is seemingly indifferent. And it’s easy to think that this world is indifferent and to try and create our own meaning or to go the other direction and wallow in angst for the rest of our lives.

But by the grace of God, I am not a nihilist. I think that there is a bigger meaning to life. But I’m not anti-nihilist, either.  The universe is not indifferent to us because God created the universe and he created us. I think that while God has a plan, he always incorporates free will. But there are moral absolutes. I studied way too much Aquinas in my college days and one frustrating thing about reading his works is that I ended up asking more questions. (Which was the point of the Summas, apparently.)

So I don’t have a label for my philosophy, not yet anyway. I’ll always be asking questions and find answers that make me want to know more. And while I don’t like the core value of existentialism, I can say that I can make the most of the time I have now and push forward towards making it better.

Of Affliction and Comfort

There’s this misconception that religion and faith are only there so that people can feel mildly better about themselves and their lives and especially about dealing with their loved ones. Naysayers against religion compare faith to a crutch or a drug.

When I woke up this morning, I did not want to get out of bed to pray my daily Lectio Divina. I wanted to stay in my bed and scroll through my Instagram feed, even though I wasn’t even wearing glasses. But fighting against my lazy body, I got out of bed, put on my glasses, and started praying. Why?

To paraphrase a familiar quote, religion has a dual purpose: to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.

My friend Justin AKA “ChurchTriumphant” on YouTube goes more into this in one of his videos:

Or to quote one of my favorite writers

“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”- CS Lewis

Even though I love being Catholic, it’s not always easy. I’m still trying to figure out stuff about the church that I don’t understand. I don’t like debates about politics. And I don’t have a particular group that I can readily identify with beyond my circle of friends. Back in college, I divided my time between two groups: my devout, Catholic friends who introduced me to new prayers, devotions, and saints and my non-Catholic friends whom I talk to about stuff I loved like anime, Harry Potter, shows I watched at the time, etc. Very seldom did I ever find friends that encompassed both.

But maybe that’s sort of the point. No one group of people or even one particular person can satisfy us completely. And whatever we believe in can’t just be a feel-good quick fix. All the best saints struggled with some sort of problem throughout their lives and some of them were priests, sisters, brothers, and even popes. Mother Teresa struggled with a period of darkness where she felt that God was the furthest thing from her heart, to the point of almost being nonexistent. St. Maximillian Kolbe was a war prisoner. Mary, the mother of Jesus, dealt with the loss of both her husband and her child within her lifetime and had to bury both of them. Pope John Paul II had Parkinsons’ disease. Not to mention this often heard quote:

“Jacob was a cheater, Peter had a temper, David had an affair, Noah got drunk, Jonah ran from God, Paul was a murderer, Gideon was insecure, Miriam was a gossip, Martha was a worrier, Thomas was a doubter, Sara was impatient, Elijah was moody, Moses stuttered, Abraham was old,… and Lazarus was dead. God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the CALLED!”

Faith has a way of changing people for the better. And change always requires a period of discomfort.

There is a difference, however, between being pushed out of your comfort zone and going to extremes in the names of whatever you believe in. It’s one thing, for example, for me to, say, go to a convention of 30,000 people and ask one of my favorite actors a question that ended up making him feel uncomfortable just because he asked. It’s another thing to do the stuff  that Renee mentions in one of her Lent-themed videos. Going on extreme diets, fasts, or juice cleansing isn’t as much going out of your comfort zone so much as pushing yourself off of a cliff without a parachute and believing that you’ll land safely in the water from a thirty-story drop.

So where’s the balance? The balance is with God. It goes back to what I said about falling in love with the process. Let God guide you through whatever changes you’re going through or ask God to start a change in you right now. After all, according to science, an object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force.

Lent Days 27-29: Waiting In The Desert

There were a few reasons I didn’t write the past few days.

Monday’s Lenten Reflection talks about how posture can make a difference when it comes to prayer. Fr. Robert Barron quotes psychologist William James who says “…it is not so much sadness that makes us cry as crying that makes us feel sad.” Without going too much into detail as to why, I spent Monday night crying. And what hurt more than the crying was a feeling of disappointment in the world as a whole and a sense of despair. God was far from my mind that night, in spite of the fact that I went to Mass the previous morning. I neglected my prayers and drowned myself in distractions.

Yesterday’s Lenten Reflection asks: “Have I tried to live on something other than God?” That answer was a resounding “Yes.” In spite of me praying to make up for the previous night’s neglect, I felt like I was saying my prayers instead of feeling them. And I went back to my distractions, wishing that the past couple days never happened. I tried to focus making something positive out of the sadness I felt, but negativity is a very heavy emotion. God felt very far yesterday. The worst part was that for the past two days, I didn’t even feel like taking pictures for my 365grateful project or updating this blog for a progress report. (I’ll make up for that by doing a progress report post on Easter.) 

The reason for that was that I felt some serious doubt. I knew in my head that God probably understood how I felt, but He himself felt so far away that it was hard for me to believe that God could understand the specifics of my emotions. I struggled with sleep for the past few days due to my sadness and last night, I could only pray how I felt. There wasn’t any formality in my prayers, just me venting to God out loud and in my thoughts about my sadness and despair. “Help my unbelief,” I said.

Today’s Lenten Reflection seems to reflect how I feel right now. I’m in a waiting period in more ways than one. And as I look back on the past couple days, I realize that right now, I feel spiritually dry as a side effect of my impatience. Patience was never my strength, as I said before. But thankfully, the Jesuits have a prayer for what I’m feeling. For now, I can pray for the desire for God’s presence. And even when I don’t want that desire for God’s presence, I can pray for the desire for the desire of God’s presence. For now, that’s all I can do, and that’s enough for me and for God.