Confusion as a Way to God

There are as many paths to God as there are individuals. This series on Huffpo's Religion Page looks at six of the most well-traveled paths for contemporary seekers.

This final path to God crosses all the other ones at various points. People on the path of confusion run hot and cold with their childhood faith -- finding it relatively easy to believe in God at times, almost impossible at others. They haven't "fallen away" but they've not stayed connected. They cry out to God in prayer and then wonder why there doesn't seem to be an answer. They intuit God's presence during important moments, and perhaps even during religious services, but find themselves bothered by the problems of belonging to their church, synagogue or mosque. They may pray from time to time, particularly in dire need, and they may go to services on key holidays.

But for this group, finding God is a mystery, a worry or a problem.


The main benefit of this path is that it often helps people to fine-tune their approach to their childhood faith. Unlike those who consider themselves clearly religious or clearly non-religious, these people have not yet made up their minds, and so are constantly refining their ideas about a religious commitment.

But confusion can lapse into laziness. The feeling that makes a person avoid worship services because a particular critique easily mutates into a decision not to do so because it's too much work, or because it takes too much energy to belong to a group that demands charity and forgiveness.

Much of my adult life, before entering the Jesuits, the Catholic religious order to which I belong, was spent on this path. As a boy, I was raised in a loving family with a lukewarm Catholic background. My family went to church regularly but we didn't engage in those practices that mark very religious Catholics -- saying grace at meals, speaking regularly about God, praying before going to bed, and attending Catholic schools. But in college I grew increasingly confused about God.

After a friend's death and another friend's mysterious response to his death (see "The Path of Exploration") moved me to give God another chance, I returned to church, but in a desultory way. I wasn't sure exactly what, or who, I believed in. So for several years God the Problem Solver was replaced by a more amorphous spiritual concept: God the Life Force, God the Other, God the Far Away One. While these are valid images of God, I had no idea that God could be anything but those abstract ideas. And I figured that things would stay that way until I died.

Read the rest here.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
7 years 10 months ago
Fr. Martin,

I want to send you an mp3 file and do not know the best way to get it you.  A woman I know has composed a truly beautiful modern hymn and has sung it at Mass.  It moves the attendees tremendously as more than once they have applauded her.  She has a professional voice to go along with her composing and song writing skills.  She has sang on Broadway in minor parts but her real gift is as a composer of modern hymns.

Let me know how I can forward this to you.  I am looking for advice on how to promote this.  One is that I will put up a youtube video using her song as the voice track. 
7 years 10 months ago
Thank you so much for this piece, Fr. Martin.   Now I'm sure I am not unique after all.
7 years 10 months ago
I never had a problem with belief.  It was so obvious that there was a creator.  What I had a problem with was understanding why this creator was so obscure and apparently uninvolved.  For many that is the stumbling block and is best described by theodicy problem.  Why so much bad when a good guy God could make it all go away.  And no finger prints to trace His intervention into anything.

The funny thing was that the solution came to me as I was teaching Marketing at Fordham.  In my attempt to explain what benefits were and how Marketers tried to solve them with product characteristics, I came across for me why bad things had to happen and why God must let them happen.  Not quite the usual path to this part of the understanding of God but a fruitful one.
Craig McKee
7 years 10 months ago
This article's title reminded me of a Merton prayer:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.  I do not see the road ahead of me.  I cannot know for certain where it will end.  Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am folllowing your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.  And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.  I hope that I will never do anthing apart from that desire.  And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.  I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
7 years 10 months ago
I don't know if the following makes sense to anyone, but me, so I submit with wrinkled brow! CONFUSION - If "con" implies "against" and "fusion" speaks of "togetherness" then its easy to see why passing through times of confusion on the path to God happens. It happens at times because at times we tend to be"against" "togetherness" namely resisting the pain inherent to unconditional love, succintly expressed as "togetherness." It's much easier to be self-absorbed than God-absorbed!

In its highest form through Faith, this definition becomes apparent in the love-life of the Blessed Trinity, wherein resides perfect togetherness, devoid of all confusion. To those of us who try to love as God loves namely, in total unity to God, to neighbor, to self, passing through times of confusion on the path to God becomes the Gospel's "narrow road" leading to Light. How hard it is to persevere in that "purgatory" where inordinate selfishness is scraped away, in pursuit of the ultimate good - God! But try we must because we livein Faith, a dark light, but fortunately a light nonetherless 

But after all is said and done, Thomas Merton probably said it best "My Lord God, I do not know where I'm going. I do not see the road ahead of me. ...Therefore will I trust You always ...". Yes, ALWAYS! 


The latest from america

The study found Latina immigrant women in Arizona who were pregnant during the contentious S.B. 1070 passage had babies with lower birthweight compared with those in prior years. Average birth weights did not decrease among U.S.-born white, black or Latina women during the same time.
J.D. Long-GarcíaJanuary 18, 2019
This week's guest is Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, founder of New Wave Feminists, a pro-life feminist organization dedicated to changing the divisive language surrounding the abortion debate.
Olga SeguraJanuary 18, 2019
Psychedelics can blur the line between science and spirituality—but Christian mysticism cannot be studied.
Terrance KleinJanuary 17, 2019