The Highs and Lows of Faith: Getting Past the Spiritual Crash

Photo by Dave Apple

happymuffinsnapeface asked a question:

I’ve just experienced a spiritual “high” and now I’m feeling distant again, what can I do to get closer to him?

Hey dear friend, may I just say: This is just about the number one concern I receive from Christians all over the world, so you are absolutely not alone in this. I’m there, all the time, barely hanging on — much more than I’d like to admit.

As always, the Big Christian Secret is that everyone gets distant from God; we doubt He exists; we feel far from Him through no fault of our own. We can even do all the right things to return to Him, but they might not work for a long while. The best thing is to keep doing what you’re doing and to keep believing, even if it’s with a tiny shred of faith. Keep serving, singing, praying, reading your Bible, and hanging out with Christians, even (and especially) when you don’t feel like it.

I know that “going through the motions” is vilified in the church and considered total hypocrisy. I get that. But when a preacher is telling me, “Are you really truly sincerely worshiping from the bottom of your gut?” — I just feel worse. Guilt-trips don’t jump me back into on-fire faith. Sometimes “going through the motions” is exactly what I need to get me through this desert valley. If our default setting is sin, then even the weakest movement towards God is worthy of celebrating.  And maybe feeling God is a false parameter for our faith, because faith is often about how we stay despite wanting to leave.

Do I love my wife? Yes. Do I wonder if she loves me sometimes? Yes. Does it get tough? Yes. Do I stay her husband? Of course. Marriages are not on maximum volume all the time. The highs come with the lows; it’s a roller-coaster of doubts and frustration and boundless happiness. I don’t always “feel” romantic or gushy. But the bottom line is always there, that we are married by a promise of love, and my actions for her are not ultimately determined by how I feel. In fact, my actions for her are often the doorway to feel love and loved again.

Feeling far from God is not grade for your worth or God’s worthiness.
It happens; we are human and frail. But God remains open to our stumbling, always. Even if can only lift an inch of your heart to Him in prayer today, then do that. It’s His very acceptance of your condition that can restore you again.

A last thing. What has brought you the greatest joy in God? Was it serving the homeless or bringing coffee to newcomers or babysitting for the Sunday school or singing in the front row? Do those things. Put on praise or call someone from church or encourage someone by text or find a weekend charity to volunteer.  Stay close to the fountain of His goodness, because you may feel dry today, but it’s such proximity to the source that will break in through the cracks and irrigate what seems impenetrable.

Expect these down-seasons. Expect the lows. They will happen, but they are not you. Choose to move into His activity. Jesus promised that even faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains, and that’s the one promise that gets me through the drought of distance and doubt. He loves you through that, dear friend.

— J.S.

“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.

“… To trust Him means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.”

— C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (p. 99, 147)

2 thoughts on “The Highs and Lows of Faith: Getting Past the Spiritual Crash

  1. Your suggestion to be of service to others is spot-on. I think that by focusing on helping others, it forces a person to get out of her own head. That will open more space for the divine, and displace the anxiety and dis-ease that were making her feel distant from God.



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