How Will God Look at Me at Judgment?

Dear Fr Phil,

Thank you for your excellent site and work.

I'm not sure if I have a question for you, but something is prompting me to sit down and write.

I sometimes think my soul is broken, and I don't know how to fix it. I come from a very abusive, violent background. My father was a raging alcoholic, my mother mentally ill. I was sexually abused from age 7 onwards. I was beaten, neglected, you name it. I suffered two nervous breakdowns in my teen years. I joined a cult, discovered I was gay, left home at 15, suffered through the death of parents, friends, went through many suicide attempts, etc.

I won't go on endlessly -- I'm sure you get the point.

Despite my background, I have tried my best. I put myself through school to get a degree. I paid for my own counselling (years of it, in fact). I joined the Franciscans, believing I had a vocation, but was asked to leave because I admitted to being gay (while my peers denied it and got to stay).

I'm almost 40 now, and for all my life I have been struggling and fighting and trying to survive, and I sense within myself this great tiredness, this spiritual/soul exhaustion. I try to be a "good Catholic" but feel such conflict with issues like masturbation and homosexuality. I was taught to masturbate by the man who molested me when I was 7, and have been doing it ever since -- and I'm supposed to stop? It's a mortal sin? Homosexuality, too -- I did not ask for it, wouldn't want it (if I had a choice), but what to do? I live celibately, trying to do what's "right" and what do I get for it but loneliness?

Isn't there supposed to be joy in Christian living? Aren't I supposed to be "alive" in Christ? If so, why do I feel so dead, so empty, so tired all the time? Where is this new man that Paul talks about? Does God pour out his gifts and graces on everyone else except me?

I don't think you can answer this properly on a point by point basis, but that's not what I'm asking. If I had to frame a question, I would say, how will God look at me when I stand before Him at judgment? I'm trying my best, but I've had a lot of crap to deal with -- is He going to take that into consideration? Why do some of us get nothing but scraps from the table while others stuff themselves? I want to love God, but how can I do that when I feel nothing but guilt and shame? What does the church have to say about those of us coming from such backgrounds?

I often think of suicide, not from any angry thoughts, not to punish anyone, not to get even with anyone, not to thumb my nose at God, but simply because I'm tired. How much is one person expected to suffer in this life before giving up? How much counselling can a person stand? The things that I suffer mostly stem from what others have done, such as the violence in my childhood which has made me distrustful of others, or the sexual abuse, which has probably messed up my sexuality (leaving me to deal with the effects of that for the rest of my life), and so many other things. What do you tell people when they're down and just can't see the forest for the trees anymore? More counselling? It'll get better Real Soon Now?

I'm not going to commit suicide - please don't worry about that. I have turned to God increasingly these past many years, trying to deepen my relationship, trying to find peace, to give up anything that might displease Him. And yet all my efforts seem to do nothing but make me feel more guilty and ashamed of my past, of my sexuality, always, as they do, pointing up my failings and faults and bad habits. Is it possible that some forms of spirituality don't work for certain types of people?

I have this feeling all the time of broken-ness, of wanting to be something for God and yet being nothing, of wanting to rise above the bad circumstances of my life and yet being sucked back down into them time and again. Quitting and giving up are not the answer -- but what is? I try to accept my life, to be understanding and compassionate with myself, to be careful about negative messages, and all the rest, but still I feel exhausted and empty.

I used to think it was the dark night of the soul, that God was "purging" me of attachments and whatnot, but the plain fact of the matter is that I don't feel that God is active at all in my life, much less purging or perfecting me or any other such thing. If I feel anything about God, it is a sense of loneliness and maybe even a bit of anger, that having tried so hard for so long, I have wound up with nothing.

I believe in God -- yet, where is He? There are so many people like myself, brutalised, abused, broken -- what does He do to help them? Does the Church care about such people? How do I believe in myself when there is nothing to believe in? How do I construct a life when there is nothing but negatives experiences to build on? How do I go on believing that God loves me when all the evidence in my life suggests otherwise?

I guess I've asked a lot more questions than I planned to ... You can't answer all of these questions, of course, but can you point me in the right direction? Is there a form of spirituality that might be helpful to me? A book?

Thank you-


PS - If you print this on your site, please don't include my name!


Dear N,

I am sorry to be so slow getting back to you. You have been in my prayers since receiving your email. I really do not have any advice that you have not heard before. I just encourage you to be faithful to your prayers, no matter how sad or guilty you feel. God will send you deliverance in his time. When God called St. Paul, it was not so much to preach, but to suffer for Him. (see Acts 9:16, Col 1:24, etc.) As a person who has been spared great sufferings, I am not much of one to talk about this mystery.

About judgment: You have to examine your own conscience regarding the moment when you make a free choice. God will not judge us for those things we have no control over, but we also need to be honest with the Lord when we go to prayer. And we always go before him as beggars, as sinners who need mercy - which he does renew each morning like the dew.

In regard to books, I have found C.S. Lewis and Chesterton most helpful. Also tapes of their work, Scott Hahn, Peter Kreeft, etc. Good novels, like Lord of the Rings, Father Elijah, but even just sound reading in areas that interest you like history, biographies, etc. As much as you can fill your life with things which are good, the less chance the devil has to get in. Bishop Sheen said what we need to do is not so much confront evil headlong, but to crowd it out of our lives. In that regard, work, exercise, social activities, friends, parish involvement, visiting the elderly, sick, poor are all important and helpful. If the TV or Internet is a source temptation, shut them off - maybe even toss them out.

I guess I did have more advice than I thought. Take what helps you. Most important, you are in my prayers. Peter Kreeft said if we knew how much human history and lives are affected by prayer, we would never get off our knees. So I guess I should stop typing.

God bless,

Fr. Phil Bloom

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