"That which does not kill you makes you strong." I hate hearing that when I'm going through difficult times, and yet I think it's true that overcoming adversity leaves us stronger than before. Similarly, exercise creates tiny tears in our muscles that, when healed, leave the muscles stronger. So why have I been thinking that my faith is supposed to start out and always remain strong, without those pesky doubts sneaking in? I'm finally beginning to see that questioning my faith, and working my way through the doubts, leaves me with a stronger foundation, a surer faith.
For three years, ever since I found God again, I've been convinced that I'm not a good enough Christian because I so frequently have doubts. I also have a lot of trouble with the concept of prayer – I don't know how to do it properly, I don't remember to do it often enough, I don't do it long enough. I get distracted and find myself thinking about all sorts of things, so that my prayers, rather than really ending, just sort of fade out. And I've been convinced that I'll never learn how to do it. So what kind of Christian does that make me?
I never quite give up, though, and it's finally paying off. During my recent experiences with recurring depression, I have wondered how a kind and loving God could allow me to suffer like this, and have at times been convinced that I'm not going to make it through to the other side. I'm finally seeing some improvement that I think is going to continue – I see that as a reminder that I haven't been alone in this, that God has been through it with me. He may not always work as fast as I think he should, but somehow things always work out in the end.
I can't remember how many times I've been convinced that some situation was hopeless, or dreaded facing something because I was sure it was just too awful to contemplate. I've been wrong every time. The next time I feel that way, I remind myself that nothing has ever been quite as bad as I feared it would be. Rather than taking comfort from that thought, though, I always answer myself by saying "Yeah, yeah – but this is the time it will finally be true." But this week I realized that I'm looking at my current unemployment differently. It's been upsetting, and I really don't know how things are going to turn out in the end. But, for perhaps the first time ever with such a serious situation, I have no doubt that things will indeed work out. I have no idea how, but I know they will. Somewhere along the line, while I was busy doubting, the foundation of faith has gotten much stronger than I realized.
And somewhere along the line, I also seem to have opened myself to prayer. Last night I started out with my usual spiritual mumbling, got distracted, dragged my mind back to praying… And then I seemed to settle into the prayer, and was able to express myself more eloquently than I've been able to while praying. After some time I started to recite the Apostles' Creed, as I often do. But this time was different – as I spoke the familiar words, I was nearly overwhelmed by the feeling of my heart swelling, a physical sensation that made it hard to even breathe for a brief moment. I have never felt so at peace, so sure that my prayers were being heard.
I'd like to think that I'll never doubt again, and never feel awkward about praying. I know better than that, though. But perhaps I'll move on to new and different doubts, giving me a chance to move on to a new and different faith. And if I lose the sense of ease I felt about praying last night? Well, at least I can pray to recapture it!