Prayers of Anger and Doubt

Before my faith transition got intense, I tried to ignore doubt. As doubt grew, I tried to rationalize them by throwing up my hands and telling myself that I couldn’t be expected to know and understand all of the mysteries of God. When answering questions in temple recommend interviews, I tried to distance myself from doubt. I spent so much time trying to cultivate good feelings about my belief that it seemed like I had managed to crowd out doubt. Surely faith in God required that I try to defeat doubt? My certainty felt strong and comforting and true, but the whole structure contained a fragility that I could not see because I would not engage doubt. I mistook stubborn denial for stalwart testimony.

When the whole fragile structure of my belief began to crumble at a rate I had never imagined possible, I was suddenly in a place where doubt was about all that survived. Without the buffer of certainty, I heard what she had to say. Doubt told me that I did not have to throw out reason and personal experience to embrace faith. Doubt brought me into an active dialogue of faith construction, allowing me to examine new ideas and beliefs before I accepted them. Doubt’s questions drew me into conversations with God that I had not had before as I wrestled with old and new concepts of God. Doubt helped me I discovered God anew.

Prior to my faith transition, I felt that I could not be fully honest with God in prayer. I had to frame every difficult situation into a faith-promoting experience. I was not allowed to express the full range of emotions to God, as God could not handle it. I knew that I could not trust a fragile God.

These days I’m learning to trust God by communicating more honestly, even if it feels awkward. My prayers tell God that God asked too much and returned so little. I’m learning to trust God again and finding relief in this new and vulnerable relationship.

Dear God,
I was really upset when the checklist you demanded grew longer and longer and I started to realize that I would not be able to do all of the things that you were requiring. It just felt cruel. I was a bit smug when I started trying harder and harder to keep the list and follow all of the rules, but then grew desperate when I started to see it was impossible. That desperation and the gulf between expectation and belief chipped away at my self worth. I knew that I could never be worthy in this way. The desperation turned into anger and I was so angry at you, God. Why would you do this to me? Why would you do this to other people? When could I be good enough in your eyes? When would I be allowed to *feel* good enough? That was really messed up and I’m still upset about it.

Nancy Ross

Nancy Ross is an art history professor by day and a sociologist of religion by night. She lives in St. George, Utah with her husband and two daughters and co-hosts the Faith Transitions podcast.

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3 Responses

  1. Clay Cook says:

    Thanks for sharing! I understand and empathize with your experience. My only comment is, God does not make check lists! “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” J Kornfield

  2. Anna says:

    I am probably further along in my faith crisis than you are. I realized that all those expectations that I was not capable of were never from God. They were from men, mostly and a few were from women. I decided that trying to pound a square peg, a liberal feminist free spirit nature girl, into the square hole of Mormonism was just never going to work. I had to cut off huge sections of me, and pretend to be someone I could never be. I had to forgive by pretending I was never hurt and just accept that I didn’t deserve to heal. Mormonism was making me hate Mormon God and I realized that me and God had to find our own path, outside of Mormonism.

    Now, I am less certain about who God is, but I sure like him/her/it a lot better.

  3. Chiaroscuro says:

    love what you are saying about being honest and bringing your whole range of emotions to God. I like this new, less fragile God!

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