Catholicism: Day 12 – Which is more comforting: God or protein shakes?

When I came back from the gym yesterday afternoon, I was in an irritable mood.  There wasn’t any particular reason for it; it was probably just fatigue.

My mood was then worsened by the fact that the passage and question I was supposed to reflect on were quite difficult.

I was supposed to read Psalm 33, which is titled, “The Greatness and Goodness of God,” and then think about the questions “What am I waiting for? How is my heart filled with gladness?”

Those are the last things you want to think about when you’re tired and irritated.

But I dutifully locked myself in my closet and sat down to think about the exercise.

I started to think about what is keeping me from accepting God.

It’s difficult because the concept of God is not something you can really experience in your head, or at least I haven’t. At best, I can come to the conclusion that we cannot know for certain.

Many other people share this line of reasoning and use it as a reason to stay away from religion entirely.

If you believe “faith” is a matter of intellectually tricking yourself into belief, then you will never have faith. It’s almost impossible.

I continued with this line of thinking and then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, the thought of death came to mind.

I thought about my own death, and how sad my friends and family would be if I died.

I thought about the deaths of my friends and family, and how sad I would be if they died.

I was overcome by grief at the thought of these deaths that haven’t happened.

Then I felt even more grief at the idea that, if there were no God or afterlife, you would never be with your loved ones again. It’s final. You will only be comforted by your memories.

I then thought about how I’d feel if there were a God and an afterlife.

It felt wonderful.

Instead of a permanent goodbye it’s merely a “see you later.” The sadness you’d feel is the sadness you feel when a close friend moves away. You’re sad, but you know you will likely see them again the future.

My bad mood went away and all I felt was love and gratitude. My “heart filled with gladness.”

Atheists would probably agree that the idea is comforting, but that it really only serves to prove religion is a “trick” of some sort that preys on people’s emotions during their weakest moments.

That’s possible.

Perhaps Saint Ignatius just created exercises that cause some sort of temporary psychological breakdown that he mistakenly attributed to God.

Maybe that protein shake I drank reacted with brain chemicals and somehow caused me to feel overpowering sadness.

Who knows?

I do know I’m finding that the “rational” and “scientific” explanations are becoming more and more unsatisfying. They are certainly interesting and explain the mechanics of some of the things I experienced, but I am becoming increasingly open to the possibility of God.

And if it turns out to be false, I don’t really see any negative consequences. I went into my prayer feeling irritable, and I came out feeling love and gratitude. It just feels like God.

Or maybe I should just buy more protein shakes.

  • Interesting. Sounds a bit like Jung’s “active imagination” technique…perhaps this “ancient wisdom” is where he got it from!

    Faith has been a tricky thing for me for most of my life. I had a lot of trouble with it until I separated it from belief. I very well may be on the wrong track, but I have recently come to see faith as something akin to courage – You need courage if you have fear, you need faith if you have doubt. So drawing on faith when I feel doubt (of any kind, not just religious) is like drawing on courage when I feel fear.

    By the way, I like your “tongue in cheek” humor.

  • Josh

    I enjoyed this entry Dale. One of my goals as a Catholic is to try to always explain and live my Faith so that even if someone is not yet able to honestly believe it is true yet: I want them to WISH it were true.