DEAR KELLY: I'm having a religious crisis. I started going to church with my friend last year and really liked it at first. We went to youth group, and I liked it and felt like the people there were really supportive and encouraging to me. I even started calling myself a "Christian."
Then my grandma got really sick suddenly and ended up dying like one month later.
Then my dad lost his job and now we're barely making it each month and, hopefully, not going to lose our house.
So now I'm struggling because I'm not sure I believe anymore in God. How am I supposed to believe in something that I can't see and who doesn't seem to answer any of my prayers? How do I even know if there is a God?
I feel like I'm back to square one again. I keep praying like they say and nothing good happens. So now I've stopped praying and I don't know if I want to go back to youth group again when it starts up and talk about how bad things feel.
What should I do? I'm tired of doing all the things they say I should and then nothing changes in my life and nothing gets better and I keep feeling sad.
I feel stuck and don't know what to do.
DEAR SL: I'm so sorry to hear your grandmother died and then your dad lost his job.
That's a lot to handle, and I'm sure it must be a tough time right now. Now is not the time to walk away from where you felt supported and encouraged. If you liked your youth group and it made you feel good, your best bet would be to head back and talk about how you are feeling.
All people face trials, tribulations, disappointments, heartaches and tragedies – Christians included. Life is full of ups and downs. Between your grandma's death and the loss of your dad's job, it sounds like you are experiencing a lot of grieving. Grief can make us feels stuck and sad and emotionally overwhelmed.
Grief can also make us question why these hard times happen. Why did my grandma die? Why did my dad lose his job? Why are we struggling so much as a family? Sometimes the answers don't come as quickly or clearly as we want.
No matter what your spiritual beliefs are, faith is involved. Even people who don't belong to an organized religion still have faith. Faith is about believing what you can't see but what you feel is right.
Think about it – we talk about having faith in ourselves. You can't see it but you know what it feels like to believe in yourself and feel confident in your abilities. You know that no matter what comes your way, you can handle it.
Faith is about trusting that whatever happens to you happens for a reason, even if you don't like it. If your prayers aren't answered, it doesn't mean you should abandon your faith and isolate yourself from what was your support system. Sometimes the plans we want for ourselves are not the plans that happen, and we are forced to travel a different road. Faith is what carries us until we can accept the road we are on.
Go talk with your youth group leader from last year. Ask for some time to share your concerns about your religion. Questioning faith, beliefs and prayer is a part of maturity. It's normal and it's OK. Share that you feel confused, stuck and unhappy. Talk about what you have been praying for and how nothing seems to be getting better in your life. Let your youth leader help you figure out what direction you should explore.
Go back, even if you feel upset or angry with God. Give it a few times before deciding not to return. Give them a chance to help you before you decide it's not the right place for you anymore.
If you continue to feel upset and sad, go talk with your school counselor.
Perhaps there is a peer- support group at school. Talking with others won't change the things that have happened to you, but it can be helpful and help lift the heavy feeling you are carrying around inside yourself.