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Asking the clergy about faith struggles

It is reasonable to have doubts about one's faith journey. Those doubts never seem to come at a convenient time. This is especially true of mothers and fathers who wish to support and lead other family members along faith's path. Our clergy offer advice to those who are struggling.

Brother Mark Gregory, Little Portion Friary, Mount Sinai:

Our relationship with God is based on God reaching out to us. There are times in our own lives when we find obstacles in the way and we aren't hearing God or feeling connected.

God is always with us, within us and among us. He's basically waiting for us. So, a parent or spouse who has the responsibility for modeling a way of faith for family members might want to think of this image of relationships.

There are times when we wake up in the morning and are not in love. That is a momentary feeling. You get up and act as if you are in love. Not all of life is the honeymoon period. You live the reality of that love, and it returns. Love is an action, not just an emotion.

It is the same with our relationship with God. We've heard of two perfect and almost perfect human beings: Jesus and our beloved St. Francis, who had a dangerous life before his conversion.

There is a story of a brother who spent 30 years in the desert but began to wonder if his faith was strong enough. A fellow brother reminded him that 30 years of faith to stay in the desert is a miracle and that he should pray for more of the same.

We sometimes expect things to be grander than they are. Be willing to borrow faith from others when yours gives out. And, be willing to go to a quiet place. It is important to return to that quiet place in your heart and listen.

Brian Baruch Shamash, hazzan, South Huntington Jewish Center, Melville:

At times when your faith is lacking, you can jump right in and find ways to do good for the community and share these experiences with your family. Ask your family to start to recognize those special moments of faith and seeming coincidences and to share them at the dinner table, recognizing the everyday miracles that surround us.

Jews accepted the Torah with the statement naaseh v'nishma -- we will do and we will hear. If you are experiencing doubt, see such questions as an incredible opportunity to strengthen your faith. That questioning is something we cherish within the Jewish faith. At this time, one should study the Torah, especially the mitzvot, the commandments. These are the things we should do and the things we shouldn't do.

Following the mitzvot strengthens your relationship with God. Even if you're questioning your connection to the divine voice, you can find incredible value in the direction the mitzvot provide. Think of it this way. We are taught to look both ways before stepping off the curb into the street, and that has saved our lives countless times. It is the same with the mitzvot, which also give us rules to live by. Studying helps us to avoid some of life's crises.

By having this forward energy that leads you to seek knowledge, you will strengthen your own faith and be able to help strengthen and elevate your family's faith. Rather than fear those moments of uncertainty, embrace them.

David Pra, associate pastor, Calvary Full Gospel Fellowship, Floral Park:

At that point when your faith is waning, it will be very hard to strengthen the family's faith. There are two issues here, really. You have to deal with your own faith, because if your faith is waning, it is hard to help others. You have to look at yourself and see what you can do to increase your faith. The other part is that we have to remember that we're in a learning process. We're all walking and living our lives for God, and he sees that and isn't going to abandon us. Even when our faith is low, he's still with us.

It is important that, before you get to the point that your faith is waning, you establish a support system of family, friends, the church. You need people you can rely on to help you. Your family can be that support system. It is important that you are involved in the church, which can support you when you are down. My support system is other Christian believers. It can be a frightening thing to think of going to one's clergy to say one's faith is waning. In our church, we have prayer partners who pray and support each other.

Once you've renewed your faith, the family has to understand what you've been through. You should let them know what happened and that God was there, and that he never left you. Help them understand that we all go through periods when we feel apart from God. Most important, make sure they know that God never left you.

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