We were called to fight the good fight and run our race with the confident hope we have in Christ. And yet no matter how much scripture we could quote, there simply wasn’t a foolproof way to prepare for the days you must sit with your pain or confusion while still trying to deeply hold onto your faith.
We knew what we ought to believe in these moments and we may have tried to force it into our head a million times but for some reason our heart was not fully convinced and we wrestled with the dissonance between our faith and our reality.
The heartbreaks that continuously left you wondering if you’ve ever truly been lovable or would forever be alone.
The loss that was so unbearable you thought your heart would literally implode and you’d dissolve into nothingness.
The chronic suffering that doesn’t seem to go away no matter how many times you’ve prayed on it.
The life changing mistakes and failures that might have left you questioning who you are anymore and why God would want anything to do with you at all.
Or maybe you feel you’ve been drifting through life in a haze with nothing to hold onto and you’re not sure why you feel this existential void or what you can do about it but that’s just where you are.
And we question, what is wrong with us? Where is the faith that we once had? Will it ever come back?
When we came to Christ we never envisioned this waltz in and out of step with our faith that somehow still makes up the dance. We were going to live it out everyday, all the time and our lives were going to inspire everyone we came into contact with to draw closer to God. We were zealous and self-sufficient and we we’re going to make God proud all on our own (even if this was all contradictory to what the Gospel stands for).
I had a conversation with a close friend of mine about these valleys of our faith when the usual spiritual disciplines don’t seem to be stirring or even connecting with us on certain days like they used to. And when it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why or the root of our dissolving faith it usually leads us right back the basics. These are the basics we’ve heard so many times it became white noise and slipped out the background of our lives.
We need to once again let go of the secret sins and sins of the heart that tie up our loyalty to wholeheartedly living by the Spirit, we need to get back to a place of breaking, of surrender and humility, of that one on one space where communication got lost and we let God back into our current state.
Then sometimes we need to just be. We need to put the noise of our lives on pause and sit with our spirit for a time of self-reflection. We need to be still. We need to give ourselves grace to sit with these days and let them pass over us like a wave and not try to force disingenuine Christian acts. Forcing this dissonance tends to create an even bigger gap that in many cases has led to a secret backsliding while going through the motions. But re-engaging our faith is a process and it begins with being dedicated to honesty- honesty with ourselves, honesty with those who love and support us, and honesty with God about where we truly are (and being honest with God for our own mutual clarity since He already knows). We can’t change what we don’t confront.
There are many times we need to speak out loud and hear ourselves make proclamations of faith whether by scripture or worship so that our hearts will awaken and catch up with the truth we know. We can become pros at loud muddled worship while sobbing in the cocoon of our cars. A good cry will loosen up a cold heart. I use to keep a group of scriptures on flashcards strung together on a key ring and read them off during bouts of spiritual warfare.
But if anything, here’s what we need to understand about the days our faith goes missing:
- All of your days have been laid out before God so this season has not taken Him by surprise (Psalm 139:16).
God knew there would be days your faith would go dry, that you’d fail to put your trust in him and try to piece life together on your own. He is not surprised by you. He understands this cycle of your walk where valleys leave it hard for you to map out your faith and find your way back to revival. He is also continuously there for your various phases of faith in this life promising to see you through to the other side. If anything else, you can hold onto this as an anchor.
- God is using these days to prepare you for a future you can’t see.
There’s something about pain and hazy trials that deepen and wisen you in ways that you wouldn’t be in touch otherwise. You’d do right by yourself to not shortcut this process. There will be others who come behind you and can’t see their way through the haze and you may not have all the answers but you will be able to sit with them because you learned how to sit with your own soul. What looks like a dead end to us is usually what God sees as a piece of a story we have yet to play out. Yes, this too is a part of your witness.
- You need to understand who is deeply in your corner and share your truth.
These are the people who won’t judge your faith or character for having a moment of humanity or jump to conclusions about you without taking the time to have understanding. You need a safe place where you can honestly confess the confusing and walled off pieces of your soul so that you can be free to release it from your heart and start journeying forward. Whether that’s a support group, a friend, a family member or counselor- when we speak the truth, the reality sucks at first, but then it begins to set us free. And you need to shake your pride so that you can be open to receive the love and encouragement of those who will set you back on course.
Many times the image we have of ourselves in our mind of the type of Christian we’re suppose to be versus the one in constant progress we tend to be in reality doesn’t seem to line up. You’re perfectly normal for feeling this way. The whole point is that we work with ourselves instead of against ourselves. We understand where we are and give ourselves grace to work our way back. It seems God gives us more grace to grow than we do for ourselves. And it may not happen overnight, and we may have days of regression as we proceed toward progression. That’s perfectly normal too, because each bounce-back teaches us something different about ourselves.