Question: Running In Place, Dead In My Faith


Do you ever feel like you just aren’t getting anywhere? Like you’ve been in the same position for a very long time and you just need change? I’ve been in a standstill with God and the world in general and this is sort of embarrassing but it’s really been screwing with my vibes, man. Especially now during the summer, because that’s when my depression peaks. I don’t know how to move forward, or what He wants me to do or anything, but I know i have to keep moving. Any advice?

On a long enough timeline, when I talk with friends who are of any and every belief, race, age, and gender — I always find a restless discontent that plagues them everywhere they go.  Me too.  It doesn’t matter how happy we are with God, with our marriages, with our career or college or kids.  It’s always the same itchy awkward gap between who I want to be and who I really am.  Almost no one is truly satisfied with their lot in life, and sometimes it’s because they could definitely do better, but other times they just know that this world isn’t our real home.

In some ways, this dissatisfaction is easy, and entire blogs are dedicated to yelling at everything that’s wrong.  But it’s a symptom of the real issue. I think the huge expectations we have over life can feel like knocking backwards on the door of nostalgia, to an unreachable fountain of unquenched thirst that won’t happen on our side of the door.  Of course, we must strive for joy and fight against evil and pursue healing.  But when you feel like you’ve stalled out or that your faith is dry or you’re all worn down, it’s perfectly natural to feel restless and itchy in your soul sometimes.

So please have grace for yourself on this.  We all experience these up-and-down seasons as much as the weather changes, and I think if we were told this from the start, then preparation would already win half the battle.  When my body gets into that strange rhythm of sudden discontent, I can already tell myself, “I’m on to you, bro.  You don’t get to tell me who I am.”  I find contentment in knowing that tiny little itch will always throb at me, and that’s part of being human.

Sure, all this stirring could indicate that you need to change a few things.  It could mean to let go of something or start some things anew.  Maybe God has for you a totally new vision, a new city, a change of career.  I would talk this out with a friend, face-to-face, one-on-one, to share that disembodied urge.  It can help for someone to say, “Yeah man, me too.”  If you feel depressed, please please please talk that out in safety with a friend.  We need honesty to move forward. And it helps to share our discontent before we make decisions from it.

But there is always this inconsolable longing for Eden that will remain a wounded vacuum which can drive you crazy.  And it’s okay.  It’s there.  It shouldn’t be so foreign to us that we feel like foreigners on earth.  And in the midst of that, even a tiny mustard seed of faith is enough to move the mountain and keep climbing.  God is cool with our weak hearts, and maybe prefers them.

To bring it down to ground level: one thing you can do is Try Everything.  I don’t mean you do black tar heroin and punch babies and race cops.  I mean, just do off-the-wall things you would normally would do or have always wanted to try.  I mean life is too short to second-guess “God’s Plan” all the time, and sometimes God’s Plan is to enjoy His creation and His people.

So serve at the soup kitchen like we always wanted to.  Learn salsa and jujitsu.  Read to the elderly.  Get a dog.  Volunteer at the nursery.  Read a huge Steinbeck novel.  Take a bath with flowers.  Build a house.  Buy a plane ticket.  Cook a gross hamburger. Teach a class.  Audit a class.  Attend a mass.  Find an inner city ministry.  Talk to strangers for a day.  Take pictures of nothing.  Actually call someone on the phone and speak with their human voice.  Ask someone “How are you?” and let them vent for an hour.

I know I could say all the usual things like read your Bible and sing praise and pray hard and talk to your pastor.  Those are very crucial things, by the way, and as a pastor I would never diminish them.  But along with our Christian disciplines, usually the way forward through a rut is to make a sharp left turn outside of your safety, and I think if more people did this, there would be less crime and more artists, more beauty and less slumber, more happiness all around.  God is found in both Scripture and the stream.  You can make that happen, and He’ll be there.

— J.S.

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