Sunday, July 31, 2011

Faith in the furnace

Our faith in God is often tested in the furnace of life. If our faith is based solely upon answered prayers, that furnace will burn our faith away.  That's why it becomes so important for us to know what we believe and why we believe it, to have a personal relationship with God, and to pray regularly for the insights we need to withstand that furnace.

My moment of truth, the day that I realized why I didn't need for God to answer another prayer of mine for me to continue to believe in Him or to continue being Catholic, came when I received a vision of a man coming and delivering much needed financial help. It didn't happen, and I felt abandoned by God. I went on a walk, tears streaming down from my eyes, and had to ask myself a very important question: would I still believe even when God didn't seem to be delivering? The answer, before this day, had always been no. Major disappointments in my prayer life had always led to a loss of faith and stepping away from the Catholic Church.

That day, though, I asked myself another question - an even more important question: Did I believe in God because of answered prayers or was there some other reason I believed? What, exactly, was my faith founded upon.  As I sorted through the answers, I realized that my faith was founded not on the basis of whether or not God answered my prayers, but on the basis of the positive changes in me that I saw taking place when I was faithful to God.  Simply put, I loved better and with greater depth when I was faithful to God and obedient to the Catholic Church than I ever did or could when I went my own direction.

Suddenly, the tears dried up. Prayer was part of my faith life, yes, but it was no longer the litmus test I used to base my belief upon. I became grateful for the false vision, for the disappointment of that moment and its heartache.  I had my answer, an answer that gave me a faith that could not be shaken by outside forces.  It is an answer that gives me the strength to persevere in the trials, to cling the tighter to my faith and my God when the storms of life come.

Of course, I am still human. I do  have moments, especially when I am under a lot of stress and life seems to be getting the better of me, that I need to go back and remind myself of why I believe. However, I have never had a time yet when reflecting on why I really believe has not renewed my faith and restored peace to my mind. I know why I believe. I know I love you better as a faithful, practicing Catholic than I ever did as an atheist, an agnostic, a Wiccan, or any of the other things I called myself in the days when I was in charge of my life.  I know that my Catholic faith constantly challenges me to love more deeply and fully, and gives me the tools to achieve a unity with others that I cannot achieve on my own. And so I believe.

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