ASK FATHER: “I am struggling with my faith due to intense anxiety about death. What makes you believe in God?”

From a reader…


Simple: What makes you believe in God. As a religious person do you have doubts and how do you conquer them.. If you have other priest’s reasonings please tell me their opinions as well.

I am struggling with my faith due to intense anxiety about death and it leaves me thinking what’s the point of living if I am just going to die. I want to regain my faith so then I won’t fear death so I’m searching for something to help me. I’m sorry if you have already answered this question. Thank you

St. Augustine called fear of death “our daily winter”.   In the ancient world, the pursuit of philosophy was “therapy” for fear of death.  These days, however, fear of death has driven most people to constant distractions, ever more hyped up stimuli or entertainments or… whatever.   This is a foundational question for the living of a good life and it has to be addressed.

The first place you must seek an answer to the God question, and fear of death, is in stillness and silence.  Only when the distractions are brought down can you go into that dark place where we all must face Mystery.   Christians, all, must confront the conundrum: If Christ conquered death, once and for all time, then why do we have to die?

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24

In the Church’s prayer in Masses for the Dead, she sings: vita mutatur, non tollitur… life is changed, not ended.

When we lose the incessant distractions and settle into some stillness, there we can face this fear of death and be, in the facing, transformed with an encounter with the Mystery that is God, in whose image we are made, for whom we live and are destined to be with face to face.

This implies personal relationship.  Personal relationships take time to grow.  They are two way streets.  They include listening, not just talking.

Meanwhile, we can also look around at material creation around us and ask how it is even possible for it to exist at all.   Is what we see around us proportioned to some chance or accidental bumping of an electron or the mutation of some speck?  No, that defies reason.  There must be something behind it, something intelligent and thoughtful, with a plan.

I refer you to great books by men like Peter Kreeft, Fr. Stanley Jaki, and Fr. Robert Spitzer in regard to the reasonableness of the existence of God as seen in the observable world.  Also, here is a short passage from Fr. Thomas Dubay in The Evidential Power of Beauty. [US HERE – UK HERE].  It is a really good read. Dubay has such an engaging style.  He doesn’t patronize the reader, by dumbing anything down.  Still, it is challenging.   Dubay wrote (and, mind you, this isn’t perhaps exactly transcribed as it appears on the page):

Conditions for the huge jump from inanimate matter to the simplest cell are incredibly precise and must have been so from the very first beginnings and in the finest details. So also highly specific conditions were and remain necessary, that the human race could eventually have come about and continue to exist. From the first microsecond of the universe, matter had to unfold exactly as it did or there would have been no observers to describe, talk about, and write human history. Close approximations were and are not enough.

Advances in physics and astronomy show that give our early universe had been even minutely different from what it was, and was becoming, life could not have arisen. You and I, conversing through this written page, would not exist, could not have existed for a moment. Even the tiniest variation in temperature or chemical composition of those first moments of the universe would have made the appearance of human life impossible. As one astronomer has put it, a slight increase in nuclear forces would have resulted in stars made almost entirely of helium, stars which would have a shorter lifespan, resulting in insufficient time for life, for man to arise in the universe.

On the other hand, a slight decrease in nuclear forces would have prevented the formation of carbon atoms and other necessary ingredients of life. George Sim Johnston puts it well when he writes of these breathtaking specificities. If the cosmic expansion at the Big Bang at been a fraction less intense, it would have imploded billions of years ago. A fraction more intense and of the galaxies would not have formed. Picture a wall with thousands of dials. Each must be at exactly the right setting, within the toleration of millionths, in order for carbon-based life to eventually emerge in a suburb of the Milky Way.

You cannot help but think of a creator.

God is real and God is personal.  He knew you before any of that creation business, with its nuclear forces and the formation of the bones of the universe.  He brought you – amazing as you are – into existence as part of a plan.

Our sacred liturgical worship ought to be a pre-eminent place of encounter with transforming Mystery, where we deal with our fear of death.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Mario Bird says:

    Thanks for the post, Fr.

    I like to think of the superimposition of the moon on the sun during a complete solar eclipse. The sheer unlikelihood of these proportions being seen as nearly exact from our perspective on earth is astonishing, and modern science only augments the improbability. He truly made the greater to rule the day, and the lesser to rule the night. Laudate!

  2. TonyO says:

    The question appears to come from a person who has been baptized Catholic, and with that past, is struggling now with grave doubts. I would like to offer a suggestion along a different pathway:

    Often, doubt and spiritual crisis, though it manifests in questions posed in the intellect, actually originates in the will. Often, there is some act or habit of acts in a person’s past that cause him to lose the support of actual graces, or even lose sanctifying grace, and this places them under much greater risk of attacks on their mind and will from other forces (such as, for one thing, distractions). The antidote, then, cannot be merely excellent arguments showing that God exists and loves us: they need other medicine as well.

    I would suggest that the person make an appointment with a priest and make a general confession with regard to their whole past life, so that they can be free to receive sanctifying grace and in addition a plenitude of actual graces to strengthen their intellect and dispose them to be open to the truth. They can freely tell the priest about their doubts, their crisis of faith – that’s OK. As long as they remain struggling with the faith, and do not actively oppose the sacramental reality, (as I understand it), they can receive the benefit of the sacrament. And, I would opine, the mere fact of making the attempt to strengthen their faith by (a) asking Fr. Z this question, and (b) going to confession, is probably adequate evidence of that sufficient disposition to receive the benefit of the sacrament. (If I have made any errors here, please someone correct me.)

  3. Anneliese says:

    “I am struggling with my faith due to intense anxiety about death and it leaves me thinking what’s the point of living if I am just going to die. ”

    I’m struggling with as well but it has less to do with death or the existence of God. I’ve never doubted God’s existence. What I doubt is his love for me and my love for him. Yes, he created me. Yes, he suffered and died for me. But it seems because Christ suffered and died for me and for everyone else, I then now have to forever make reparations and atone for not only for my failures and sins but also for my parents and their parents, and that of everyone else’s sins. And it doesn’t matter how much I repent, how much I fast and how much I pray for my enemies because it’s never enough.

    So yes, I understand the question of the point of living and going through all of this if we’re ultimately just going to die and end up either in hell, which would leave me stuck with people I don’t like and with Satan, or heaven, where I would still be stuck with people I don’t like and with God, who at times is even hard to like let alone love.

    Despite my lack of love for God, I do love the Church. I go to confession frequently. I pray the rosary everyday and I have a devotion to the saints. I’ve studied theology, I’ve spoken to priests, none of it helps. The crosses I have to carry are becoming millstones but I still manage to plod along in life.

  4. Pax--tecum says:

    I don’t think you will be stuck with people that you don’t like in heaven. The saints are there, our Lady is there and of course the Holy Trinity as the object of heavenly devotion is there. Christ tells us to love your neighbour as yourself. That’s difficult here on earth. None of us is perfect. But in heaven we will have been made perfect through purgatory and through the sufferings of this earthly life. And so the love to the other inhabitants of heaven will be perfect as well.

  5. moosix1974 says:

    Yes!! A thousand times this! A general confession with a GOOD priest will make all the difference. This person needs to seek out and pray for the right priest to do this with, though. That is crucial. A general confession in the hands of a liberal priest may do more harm than good.

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