By Sarah Strba
Doubt is a very scary reality when it comes to our faith and relationship with God. This past month has been hard for me and on my trust in God: I had been dealing with a heartbreak that left me questioning my worth, and whether or not God was with me. I had first been in a weird funk, shifting between resentment for this person that had hurt me and also forgiving them and praying for them. This mix of feelings lead to some extreme mood swings, which left me feeling confused and heavy; it felt like a never ending cycle. I tried to stay strong when I felt so weak by praying for this person. Praying for others, especially when I have trouble forgiving them, takes a weight off of my chest. Yet this time, I still felt a heavy weight upon my heart after praying for them and trying to stay positive when the whole world seemed against me. However, I continued to trust God, even though deep down I was unsure whether I was going anywhere or making progress in my healing. I was trying so hard to recover quickly, and turned to God whenever I felt empty. From this, I did learn some lessons from my past relationship, ones that I can carry onto future ones. I found inspiration from a group on my campus called Young Life, which I am a member of, to help me process my pain in a way that brings me closer to God. A message I frequently hear from leaders of Young Life is to continue to praise God at your mountain tops and at your valleys. I was praising God at my valley and the low point in my life, so why was I feeling the furthest away from God that I ever had been? I was waiting for His response because I really wanted my relationship with Him to progress, and I believe the most change happens during these hard times.
Days turned into weeks, and those weeks felt like the slowest weeks I have ever trudged through. I was juggling my broken-hearted and unstable emotions, grades, Young Life commitments, health, and God all at the same time. Everything just seemed like too much for me. I did not understand why I was not feeling closer to God, if you are supposed to grow closer to God by turning to Him during times of brokenness. Then, I realized that I was ignoring the doubts I kept buried deep within my heart. I did not acknowledge the doubts that I had of God’s very existence because I could not bear to allow any more dark thoughts and feelings enter my conscious mind. Finally, I cracked under all the pressure and allowed myself to admit that I felt like I could not trust God after all I had been through. After so much pain I still turned to God and praised Him, but I felt like He was not listening to me. I wondered why I should continue to trust God if that trust was not getting me anywhere. I allowed myself to feel these frustrations and my anger towards God. Through this experience, I came to realize that doubt is an important part of growing in relationship with Him. How are we supposed to grow closer to God by pretending that everything is fine, if nothing actually feels that way?
It wasn’t until one Sunday, when I attended a Young Life worship night that I experienced just how powerful God is. During worship nights, we sing Christian worship music and listen to a sermon. Many of these songs are joyful, which is wonderful, but that is not always how our relationship with God always seems. There is not much representation of music that talks about the low points we experience with God, even though those lows we feel are a reality that no one is safe from. However, there is one song that I deeply care for called “Holy Spirit” by Francesca Batistelli. As I had heard this song frequently during high school during very special Masses, this song carries a lot of meaning for me. As I looked up at the screen for the last song and I saw the familiar lyrics, I was overcome with a feeling that I have never in my life felt. My throat closed up tightly, I felt these flashes of heat, and I started to shake. The song made me quite emotional, since it is a very important song to me, and because of how fitting it is. The lyrics, “come flood this place and fill the atmosphere,” really hit me hard that night. I had been waiting for God to respond to me, and He finally did. While the weeks I spent waiting for a response were some of the longest, it was worth the wait. The powerful and incredible experience I had from my God talking to me is a feeling I will never forget. I am fully confident that during the song, the Holy Spirit entered into me and gave me life again. And as though that experience was not ‘enough’ of a sign that God exists and is actively speaking to me, that same Sunday was Pentecost.
I do not share this story to say that everyone should strive to have the same experience that I had, as everyone is on their own faith journey, but I share it to give hope to those who feel hopeless. I also share my story as a way to tell others not fear doubt, as I have found it to be an essential part of moving forward in our relationship with God.