Catholic Confessions: My Prayer in Doubt and Despair

By: Natalie Plumb

I thank God every day that He is truly a God of justice. And I thank God every day for Purgatory, too: I like to believe that He will not base your fate on what you did at the very moment you die. He loves to give us one million second chances. I think His justice will prevail above all, and your whole life will be laid out before you as you knock on the gates of Heaven. I firmly believe that.

Allow that to be encouragement when you doubt His sovereignty, will, justice, love, peace…. Doubt can be an overwhelming emotion. It can quickly lead to despair.

Despair is quite possibly the most dangerous emotion to have. It lacks hope. It lacks trust. It lacks faith. It completely lacks virtue. It digs, deep into your feelings, and comes out with “I doubt,” and never “So be it.”

Ben1Though I am a naturally optimistic person who believes all things are foreseen by our Creator, I have had many moments in my life when I’ve doubted that, and Him. And I’ve acted on that doubt frivolously. Do yourself a favor: Try not to change your mind concerning a decision when you doubt His goodness. Do not change the course of your actions when you are in the midst of despair. Pray to get out of the hole first, so that you can see light shedding on your circumstances in order for you to discern – something we will talk about next week.

Most recently, I’ve struggled with doubt in the form of having faith in God’s divine providence. I am an ocean away from the man I love. He lives in France, and I in Washington, D.C.

Long distance relationships are naturally at risk of being full of doubt and despair. That’s a pretty common reason for their not working: Where is your hope? In seeing the person soon? In moving eventually? It is a hard question to answer in the moment, when your fullest emotions – love, desire, hope, and so many more – mercilessly insert themselves into your will.

But the more I think about it, the more I realize how much stronger the distance we’ve experienced as a couple has strengthened our relationship more than I think it could have been strengthened had we been in the same country for the last half year (and then some).

Astonishingly, we haven’t grown further apart, but closer, because we rely on God to move us and to change us. In getting closer to Christ, we are closer to each other. When we can’t talk to each other (you know, that silly 6-hour delay thing) we must talk to God.

lovetriangleThink of the triangle: Each of you and God is at one of the intersections. As each of you grows closer to God (and His point on the triangle), the closer you as a couple get to each other. Your segment gets shorter. Amazingly (and oh so joyfully!), the sins we had before, both individually and as a couple, in the same country, are no more.

God knew that all along. He knew that distance would help us to grow spiritually on an individual level. We needed to be apart long enough (seven months, and counting) to become better persons for the other.

Cliché statements like “There is light at the end of the tunnel” and “The darkest hour is just before the dawn” are really not cliché at all, but true. Periods of doubt, as with periods of dryness, which we discussed last week, are there to form you into the person God wants you to be.

The truest version of you as a Child of God is waiting to be formed. And you will never stop growing, even if your circumstances make you doubt His plan. That is exciting, not despairing.

Dearest Jesus,

We know in our heads and in our hearts that You are here and that Your will is just. We know that You wish the best for us, and that nothing comes to be before being filtered through Your hands. But our circumstances are pulling at us to lose faith and to make unwise choices.

Pull us back, Christ Jesus. Pull us back into Your arms. Pull at the strings of our hearts to trust you again. Give us the virtues that we need to honor Your will, trust in Your providence, and have faith in Your works.

Grant us faith, and no more doubt. But if it be Your will, grant that the doubt that we do have might change us and form us, and inspire us to grow only deeper in the carrying of our crosses. Let this journey be speedy and light, if you will it. And never leave our side.

Praise be to You, for every cross we bear! We know it is no heavier than the one you carried for us.

Amen.

Next week, I’ll write about discernment, my final post on prayer in dryness, doubt and discernment.

Natalie writes on Thursdays about faith, dating, relationships, and the in between. May her non-fiction stories and scenarios challenge you. May they help you laugh, cry, think and wonder.

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