Sir, I like how real you are. I’m hanging by a thread on to this Christian life. Jesus is great but I can’t imagine what He’d want to do with someone who just doesn’t love Him and, honestly, doesn’t want to obey Him. I tried to live for Him but it feels like slavery. I’m not as good and okay as everyone around me thinks I am. I’m lonely, fed up and I wish I could start my life over where I’m not hanging on to Him only because I’m scared of dying, facing God and fire. Is there any hope for me?
Dear beloved friend,
Want to know a huge secret?
Every single Christian in all the history of the world, even the “best” of us, have sometimes felt completely apart from God.
Here’s where you’re at and why it’s okay and where we can go from here.
1) You don’t want to love Him and obey Him. BUT: The Bible actually says this is our default mode of brokenness, our human condition called sin. So you’re simply being honest about who we all are.
2) You tried to live for Him and it feels like slavery. BUT: Maybe the Christian life isn’t about a begrudging obligation to a set of laws. Maybe it’s a growing realization that God absolutely loves you regardless of your performance, and that it’s our response to say “I love you too” which makes us crazy in the best way possible to be able to follow Him — just as love makes us crazy for our loved ones. Maybe it really is a relationship, and not simply receiving instructions in a church service.
3) You think you’re not as good and okay as everyone thinks you are. BUT: I don’t know anyone who thinks they’re as good as everyone thinks they are. It’s an illogical proposition that’s a devil’s lie, which falls apart quickly. A little honesty from you about who you are will fix it immediately. And it’s unfair for anyone to hold you on a pedestal of moral perfection. If they do, it’s their problem, not yours.
4) You’re lonely. BUT: Loneliness is a thick fog that we all walk through occasionally, even when we socialize and have tons of friends. It will hurt, but it comes and goes: so don’t let it anchor your reality. You’re also not really alone. You’re not the only one who feels like the only one, and also: God.
5) You wish you could start over. BUT: You have today. You have right now, this moment, this step. It’s never too late, and that’s not some postcard platitude. People with even less time than you, less abilities, and less physical aptitude have lived amazing stories. It can start this very second. We all wish we could hit a reset button sometimes, but the best reset is to move forward.
6) You’re following God because you’re scared of the afterlife. BUT: Let’s be real on this one — it’s certainly okay to acknowledge the wrath of God at some point in your faith-journey. So many people turn a blind eye to the reality of Hell that it grieves me how much we sugarcoat such a serious truth. Your fear (and my fear) of Hell is not a wrong response.
Yet the Christian life is a relationship with a Heavenly Father who has way more for us than fire insurance. When we come to know Him, our fear always gives way to His perfect love (1 John 4:18). He has for us an intimate joy that moves us so far beyond the fear that it pales in comparison to the rich realness we have with Him.
Just think: we’re not friends with our friends because we’re scared of consequences. We have friendships because of the joy of intimacy, the freedom of vulnerability, and the mutual exchange of life. So it is with God.
Dear friend: There is hope for you yet. God is sovereign and He’s still in the business of rescuing people, polishing their hearts, loving them to a better place, and simply enjoying them for who they are. God not only loves you, but He likes you — just as much as a dad loves His kids and wants to play with them. He completely understands your struggle more profoundly than you could know, for He became one of us.
I know this won’t solve everything in a day. But so long as a sliver of faith — a mustard seed — is sown into His goodness, you can make it one more step. You are, as I’ve said so many times, a work of progress in a process. We are looking towards the work finished, Jesus.
There is nothing you could do to change God’s mind about you: and it’s then His unchanging heart that will change you. Believe it. Enter it. Bask in it.
I love you and I’m praying for you.
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
— Psalm 42:5
“You must ask for God’s help. Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help, or less help than you need, is being given. Never mind. After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again.”
— C.S. Lewis