There are several reasons why we might begin to wane in our faith. On some level, this is part of the spiritual life. We may not always feel close to God when we’re suffering or in a particularly difficult season. But if we’re sincerely striving after Him, even if we don’t feel God’s presence, we still may indeed have a robust and healthy faith. In fact, as Saint Peter writes, “although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7). In other words, our faith is often tested by suffering for the glory of God.
Yet, there are also times when we might be to blame for our lack of faith: when we have given into certain behaviors or attitudes that pull us away from God, that weakens our faith as opposed to strengthening it. If you’re currently struggling with your faith, below are five reasons you might be.
We can become indifferent about our faith by being overly concerned with the pleasures of the world. In fact, Jesus talks about this very danger in His Parable of the Sower, when He speaks of those who hear the word of God but “then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit” (Matthew 13:22).
We can allow many things to occupy our minds and hearts: pleasure, entertainment, worldly success, achievement, and so on. When we allow things like these to become the most important things to us, then we can start to become indifferent when it comes to God and our faith.
Saint Maximilian Kolbe explains, “The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience … God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.”
Self-sufficiency is often regarded as a high value in our culture. We are taught to take pride in being able to take care of ourselves, solve our problems, and set out to secure the life we want for ourselves. Of course, it’s noble and necessary to take responsibility for our lives. In fact, in recovery, we often need to learn to do for ourselves what we’ve relied on others to do for us.
But taken to the extreme, it can leave little—if any—room for God and His grace. As much as we may think otherwise, we are dependent on others and God to truly flourish. Therefore, when we neglect our dependent, created natures, we can begin to believe we don’t need anyone—including God—to help us.
Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta warns us of the need to shed our self-sufficiency to experience Jesus in our lives: “Your self-sufficiency, your selfishness, and your intellectual pride will inhibit His coming to live in your heart because God cannot fill what is already full.”
It takes little to notice the mistakes, failings, and sins of others, especially those involved in the Catholic Church. Of course, when it comes to such things we are justified in feeling hurt, angry, and disappointed. Yet, we can allow our anger to grow out of control, causing unreflective prejudice against religion and any encounter with God.
This is a danger that Alcoholics Anonymous informs us to be on the lookout for: “We, who have traveled this dubious path, beg you to lay aside prejudice, even against organized religion … We missed the reality and the beauty of the forest because we were diverted by the ugliness of some of its trees.”
When we allow our prejudice to become unreasonable and blinding, we are only able to focus on the “ugliness” that we see in the Church or the world, keeping us from also seeing the beautiful and good, both of which reveal to us the love of God.
We can be tempted to turn away from God when things in our lives haven’t worked out as we had hoped, expected, or believed they would. We may have had certain dreams that didn’t become reality. We may have suffered broken relationships, ones that cannot ever be mended in this life. We may have met head-on with tragedy, disappointment, and harsh trial after harsh trial. And as a result, we may have turned from God in defiance, allowing our anger and bitterness to drive our lives.
Yet, by being unwilling to ask, genuinely, what the Lord’s will is for us and what He is doing in our lives we’re unable to ever see how a certain tragic event or disappointment has opened up the way to greater reliance on God and a life filled with His loving presence.
Scrupulosity is an obsessive reliance on controlling our relationship with God by always trying to do (or not do) more. We mean the term in its non-psychological rendering since there are some people who struggle with scrupulosity (also known as Religious OCD) and don’t do anything wrong despite feeling an intense need to do more and more to maintain their relationship with God.
We are talking instead about the form that has to do with pride and a lack of trust in God’s providential care for us. It has to do with following all of the “rules” and saying all of the right “words.” This type of relationship is emptied of trust, humility, and the acceptance that nothing we do or don’t do is ever enough to earn God’s love, which is always freely given to us. But when we strive to earn God’s love over time—and realize we cannot ever “earn it”—it can lead to despair, resentment, and even addictive behaviors.
By being aware of the above five obstacles to our faith, we can help ensure we don’t let any of them take root in our hearts. Further, by maintaining daily conscious contact with God through prayer, attending the sacraments regularly, and being part of a recovery group and faith community, we can keep these five detractors of faith at bay.
Are you interested in learning more about how you can work the Twelve Steps from a Catholic perspective to find healing in your life?
Catholic in Recovery is excited to announce the launch of The Catholic in Recovery Workbook: A Guide to the Twelve Steps in the fall of 2022. The workbook offers a guide for working the Twelve Steps of recovery from a Catholic and sacramental perspective and is designed for those impacted by a variety of addictions, compulsions, and unhealthy attachments (alcoholism, drug addiction, lust addiction, etc.), loved ones of an addict, and anyone else desiring to surrender their life to God’s love and care. To stay informed about the workbook’s launch, discounts, and related content, please sign up for our CIR Newsletter.