Testing Faith

One of the privileges of our ‘online presence’ as a community is that we are often entrusted with the most heartfelt pleas for help. People pour out their sadness, their anxiety, their need, confident that we will pray, and pray perseveringly, even when they themselves feel they have been wrung dry and are incapable of anything more. If they make their plea public (we never do, except in anonymous terms), it irritates me profoundly if someone jumps in with a statement such as ‘Offer it up’ or implies that the sufferer is somehow wanting in faith because he or she is unable to find comfort in the conventional pieties of our youth. The pain that another experiences is not to be treated so lightly, nor is faith to be judged wanting because it is tested.

We have probably all experienced the unreality that follows the death of someone close. We walk around, our universe shattered, yet all the while others are going about their business as though nothing had happened. It seems not merely unreal, it is surreal. Our senses are heightened. We feel everything keenly, yet we are numb. Why do others not feel as we do? There is only the bleakness of what we have experienced and the mismatch between it and what we see in others. At such times, a small kindness can mean a great deal; a sympathetic silence can be balm to a wound so deep we do not know how to reach it.

This morning our email prayerline has brought us news of several deaths and some harrowing personal situations. Please pray for all who have reached out to us, and by extension you, in their need. And if you happen to be one of those suffering, know that your suffering is not pointless. In ways none of us truly understands, it is taken up into the suffering of Christ, in whom nothing is ever lost or meaningless. Your faith may seem to you non-existent; just for today, rely on the faith of others, your brethren in Christ — on the faith of the Communion of Saints.

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12 thoughts on “Testing Faith

  1. Struggling to cope with bad family news, I read this and it has strengthened me. Thank you. It came at exactly the right moment.

  2. Amen Praying for all who suffer and are in pain. It is real and hurts. May God send his angels to comfort us and heal our wounds.

  3. My mother died quite a few years ago, and we were all wandering around a garden centre. In the distance we saw one of my mother’s closest friends, who had known her from the time that they were both new mothers pushing their sons along in prams. The friend turned on her heels and rushed off instead of approaching us with either silent sympathy, a touch, or a few words. I remember visibly the hurt we felt, and although she might have come to the funeral, I really can’t remember as we were all numb from the shock as the death was so sudden, unexpected and she was only 70. Since then, if I know that someone has been bereaved, I always make a point of a touch or a few words as sems apptopriate. One note – often our chuch newsletter mentions the names of recently dead, but it would be so helpful if it mentioned x – the mother of y or a the aunt of b because then more of us would react directly or pray.

  4. Thank you. It helps so much to be understood. You summed up feelings of loss so accurately but also how small acts of kindness can help carry you through.
    And thank you for your final paragraph because making sense of pain and grief seems impossible but being reminded that none of it is pointless and that we are not alone is a thought to ponder and hold on to as we plod on through our daily lives on earth.

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