Help my unbelief

Ali and I were praying for a couple of specific intentions when one day, after prayers, he thanked me for how I voiced his intentions. He said I prayed with certainty, as though the thing would happen. "Of course," I replied because there was no doubt in my mind that God loved him that much. What he doesn't know is that I feel like God doesn't love me as much.

What I know about God seems true only as it relates to others - God is good to others, loves others and comes through for others. When I pray for my friends and family, I pray with certainty that God will give them what they desire. I say, "Grant my friend's desires according to Your will, and let my friend be prepared for the blessing You will bestow on them. Grant my friend the wisdom to use this blessing for good, and may it draw him or her closer to You." As I pray, my heart prepares for the answer to be affirmative.

Say my friend wants me to pray for a relationship. As I pray, my heart prepares to give my friend the space to make a budding relationship work. If that relationship happens, I am excited for my friend and happy not to hang out if it means the relationship gets more time to flourish. If the answer to this prayer is not what we hoped, I don't doubt that God has something better in store.

Contrast that with how I pray for myself. "If it be Your will, please give me this." What I really mean is, "If You have enough blessings left over, may I please have one?" As I pray, my heart prepares for the answer to be no. I think about all the other children asking God for the same things I want, and it just doesn't seem likely that my request will be granted over theirs. Yes, I know it's not a competition, and yet, when it comes to blessings, I am ashamed to admit that I act as though God has a limit, and that limit is me. And I'm okay with that.

This unravelling began during my pilgrimage to Portugal, increasing in intensity with every passing month. Career stagnation, income fluctuations, falling for manipulative tactics, loved ones leaving the Church, failed relationships, etc. have happened in rapid succession and I have lost sight of God in all of it. I do not hear or see God as much as I used to. It's so bad that I've started to sabotage myself, something my other friend called me out on.

She noticed an irrational pattern in some of my actions and pointed it out. "What I don't understand is why you're sabotaging yourself," she said. I broke down and told her my struggle, and for about an hour, she listened and empathised because she's been where I am now. "It's okay though," I'd say, and she'd reply, ever-so-gently, "No, it's not okay." She kept asking me why I thought this about myself and my relationship with God, and the realisation that I was such a cliché hurt my pride.

You see, I know better than to view God's love through human capabilities, yet I can't help myself. A quick examen of my upbringing reveals the steady development of an inferiority complex manifesting itself in perfectionism. I didn't feel I had earned the right to most of my desires as a child, so I never asked until I felt I'd earned it, and I rarely ever felt like I'd earned anything. I approach God with the same impoverished attitude.

I have contemplated my predicament for several months now. With each passing month, I think I am approaching a crossroads. I'll either emerge with a deeper faith in God, or I'll become agnostic. And with each passing month, I feel paralysed by the weight of it all. Nothing I do helps, and praying is only possible when Ali forces me to. It seems God is not through with me yet, though, because He whispered a prayer to me, "Help my unbelief."

The story in Mark 9 gives me some hope. First, that God knows my struggle and knows how to handle it. Secondly, I'm not entirely helpless in this situation. And finally, God does not want me to be okay with feeling like an afterthought.

It's a humbling experience to be so loudly Christian and still struggle with unbelief. I have such compassion for the Israelites in the Old Testament and the disciples in the New Testament who, despite seeing many signs and wonders, still couldn't fathom the mystery of God's goodness. May God have mercy on me, and help my unbelief.

3 June 2024