What to Do When You Don’t Understand

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I receive a lot of questions from readers who find themselves struggling to understand/live out the Church’s teaching on certain matters.  I really enjoy this part of my “job” because I find that it strengthens my own faith to get to know and talk to other people seeking to grow in theirs.

Occasionally a reader will send me a question on a topic that I’ve previously addressed in other posts.  Of course, each person and situation is slightly different, and so I completely understand the need to seek an answer catered to YOUR special circumstances and particular situation.  Unfortunately, this can be unnecessarily redundant for the other readers, and so I don’t always get to address each question as specifically as I’d like to.

Still, there are some principles and general practical words of encouragement that I think I can offer to anyone struggling to come to terms with any aspect of the Church’s teaching. So whether you’re struggling to understand what the Church teaches about birth control, marriage, or the Real Presence of the Eucharist, hopefully this post can offer some help:

Ask, Ask, and then Ask Some More

Jesus tells us in Scripture, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).  Our God is not a liar—we can trust that He means what He says.  If we don’t understand why the Church teaches what She teaches, our first task is to ask.  Read the Catechism and the appropriate Church Documents.  Ask a faithful and well-educated Catholic.  Above all, bring it before God in prayer every. single. day.   You’ll never understand if you don’t first ask. And God promises us that if we do ask, we will (eventually) understand.

Keep Struggling

I said that I love getting questions from readers who are struggling with certain aspects of the faith.  It’s not that I love to see people confused or feeling lost.  Rather, it is encouraging to me to see people who are willing to struggle instead of just tossing Church teaching aside.  Like Jacob who wrestled with the angel until dawn, saying, “I will not let you go until you bless me,” (Gen 32:27), do not give up the struggle until you are blessed with the grace of understanding.

Above All, We Are Called To Obedience and to Trust

Sometimes I think that God lets us struggle for a time before He grants us understanding because He wants us to learn to trust Him above our own understanding.  Don’t get me wrong here—God will never ask us to do something that is contrary to reason (after all, He is God: the author of all reason), but He does often lead us places we don’t understand, precisely to teach us that we need Him above all else.  We need Him to teach us to understand.  We need Him to lead us to happiness.  We need Him because, apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).

So if you don’t yet understand a certain aspect of the Church’s teaching, try practicing it anyway.  You may have a million reasons why you shouldn’t, or why it may not apply to you.  But when it comes right down to it: God is asking you to obey Him.  He is asking you to trust Him.  Can any of our reasons outweigh His?

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