Ask a Priest

Does God hate me

Aug 31, 2017

Hello Fr. Brendan, I’m not sure how to start, in order to understand, I’ll have to tell you about my childhood. I grew up in a poor Catholic Christian family. My dad wasn’t too religious though, and didn’t even want us to go to church. As a matter of fact, I had to take baptism doctrine lessons in secret and I was baptised when he had gone out of town. He was abusive especially to our religion. And even though he did all that, I always had that energy not to let that get in my way of serving God. I became a mass servant, and was even thinking of becoming a priest. And during this period, weirdly everything was fine. I had good grades, always at the top of my class, I went for confession almost every 2 months. Until I reached the university and it all changed. I come from a very poor background so I had to work to pay for my tuition, then I got a scholarship to study abroad. That’s when things started going downhill. I stopped going to church, I started questioning the existence of God, why there was a crucifix of Jesus Christ in church, why we had to pray, if God loved us so much then why was there war, hunger, why my family was so poor (and this also coincided with when I became a volunteer helping the Syrian refugee kids, and saw how some of them had lost everything) etc, my grades became a mess, financial I’m barely surviving . In short, I’m lost, and unhappy. I have though once or twice of just ending it all. So my questions are, is God punishing me? I mean does he hate me for questioning or doubting his existence and love for mankind in the first place? And how do I pray for his mercy on me.
Thank you so much in advance for your response.

Asked at 04:07 am on August 31st 2017

Hi Becklie, just last year I wrote a little book called Where is God in Suffering?, and there’s no way God hates you for questioning his existence or his love for mankind in the light of the various sufferings, natural, physical, moral and spiritual, that come our way. I found that while we could understand all sorts of natural disasters, like earthquakes and tsunamis, are part of the way a rocky planet like our Earth is made, while the physical sufferings caused by various illnesses and disabilities are inevitable results of creatures with bodies like ours. If we wanted to get rid of a lot of physical disasters, we’d probably have to get rid of gravity – but that would mean not having a material universe at all. And to avoid every kind of physical breakdown, we’d have to do without any living things more complicated than bacteria.

The hardest disorders to understand are the moral ones, those due to the evil actions or omissions of human beings or of the evil spirits we call devils. Again, if we wanted to put an absolute end to these, God would have to have stopped creation at the animal level, and not created humans or angels, since we and they are endowed with free will. In my little book, since I can’t say I’ve had any major suffering in my life, I drew on people like Blessed Chiara Badano, who transformed her experience of dying from an extremely painful form of bone cancer into an ever deepening love of Jesus – one of her phrases I love is, ‘if you want it, Jesus, I want it too.’ Then there’s the experience of Etty Hillesum, a Jewish woman imprisoned by the Nazis in Holland, then sent to her death in Auschwitz.

In one of her last letters to friends outside Westerbork concentration camp:

‘All I wanted to say is this: The misery here is quite terrible; and yet, late at night when the day has slunk away into the depths behind me, I often walk with a spring in my step along the barbed wire. And then, time and again, it soars straight from my heart – I can’t help it, that’s just the way it is, like some elementary force – the feeling that life is glorious and magnificent, and that one day we shall be building a whole new world. Against every new outrage and every fresh horror, we shall put up one more piece of love and goodness, drawing strength from within ourselves. We may suffer, but we must not succumb. And if we should survive unhurt in body and soul, but above all in soul, without bitterness and without hatred, then we shall have a right to a say after the war’ (July 3, 1943).

And a month or so later, a few months before she was murdered, she could say:

‘My life has become an uninterrupted dialogue with You, O God, one great dialogue. Sometimes when I stand in some corner of the camp, my feet planted on Your earth, my eyes raised toward Your heaven, tears sometimes run down my face, tears of deep emotion and gratitude. At night, too, when I lie in my bed and rest in You, oh God, tears of gratitude run down my face, and that is my prayer’ (August 18, 1943).

I’m not saying at all that I’d have the spiritual strength and openness to God shown by Etty Hillesum and Chiara Badano, but I think what Jesus went through while it isn’t an answer to the mystery of suffering and evil in our lives, it is what Pope Francis calls ‘a path.’ More important than any crucifix in a church are people like them who are living crucifixes, who are – again with more courage than I might have – following Jesus’ invitation to take up their crosses every day and follow him. So he certainly doesn’t hate you for asking those big questions we all have to ask. And there’s no prayer we repeat more often than ‘Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lamb of God… have mercy on us.’ Pope Francis said a few days after being elected Pope, that ‘God never gets tired of giving us mercy, but we can get tired of asking for it.’ I’ve no doubt that God loves you immensely, and is dying – as he does at Mass every day – to pour out his mercy and support to you in all your great difficulties. I’ll certainly be adding you to my prayers every day that your studies will go better and that your financial situation will improve. Very best, Fr Brendan

Replied at 01:15 am on September 14th 2017