My Faith Is Up and Down and All Over The Place

Multiple anonymous questions —

[As always, please feel free to skip around]

– Hey Pastor. I guess I’m just wondering if I’m the only Christian who blows hot and cold. I’m terrible about reading my Bible or even praying. I tend to go in phases where I’ll do really well and be on it every day and then I hit a spot where I go weeks without cracking open my Bible once, and then I just sorta feel guilty so I keep staying away. Sometimes I second guess myself and wonder if I’m even saved, because if I was, wouldn’t I love Christ enough to give Him that time? I know that I am born again, and I also know that Christ has enough grace even for this, even though it’s the same thing over and over, and I know that I am the one shaming myself. I guess I’m just wondering if you’ve ever struggled with this yourself, and if you have advice on how to combat it?

– I’m glad I came cross your blog, I’ve been lacking my relationship with God. You can say even wondering about His existence … But lately I’ve been struggling and tried to talk to God but I don’t get answers and feel like He either left me or everything that happened was in my imagination…

– I need help, I’m lost I’m a struggling Christian who sometimes finds it hard to believe in god and other times it’s easy, but I still attend church every Sunday. I love being a Christian however over the last few weeks I’ve been getting into things like drugs, alcohol, and lots of sexual activity. what should I do? I’m questioning weather I should give a testimony at my church about who I really am, and the things I do, the truth, but even in the house of god I know I will still be judged.

My dear friends: You’re not the only ones who feel this way.

Most Christians are shocked that they can’t maintain a certain level of excitement and discipline in their spiritual walk — but I’m wondering where we got all these crazy parameters from.

It’s probably the unfair church culture that has hyped each Sunday into a let’s-top-last-week rock show.  Or it’s the way the preacher keeps guilt-bombing with, “When was the last time you really read your Bible and sang from your heart?”  Or it’s the Westernized ideology of performance and competition.  Or it’s just our own self-criticism.  Or you’re exhausted.

But please allow me to give you a little grace and freedom here.

Not everyday of your marriage can be like your wedding.  No one is expected to duplicate the first feelings of chemistry into their fifth decade of a relationship.

Faith is a tough, messy, muddy, organic sort of thing.

I know that’s probably the hipster thing to say.  But so long as we live between a perfect loving God on this hostile fallen world, we’ll have trouble believing the unseen eternal.  Some of us will struggle with that more than others, and no one can blame you for that.

Your spiritual walk is not an isolated, vacuum-wrapped package that is untouched by the realities of your shifting soul.  You’ll get worn down sometimes, you’ll feel alone in faith, you’ll have ups and downs like everyone else, and there will be dry spells, cold seasons, and many doubts and questions.  Because you’re human.  We will fall into a rut, and it’s all about how we respond to these things.

Think of where you obtained your spiritual awakening.  Most people come to faith in a church setting, a retreat, a revival, a conference, with many other Christians.  The first few months of your journey, you’re on fire because you’re in this new world of amazing people with a well-constructed church culture.  But no real faith is ever lived out in ideal circumstances.  When the real world catches up to us and the flames get dampened, we tend to blame ourselves.  We think we’ve done something wrong.  We think feeling distant from God means that God is gone.

Really all that’s changed is you’re now trying to make sense of how God is alive in all the areas of your life and how He breathes life in them.  Sometimes, churches do not provide help for this.  They’re trying to collect people instead of getting into their real daily walk.  I don’t mean to diss the church here because I love the church.  But you know what I mean.  We are usually ill-prepared for the eventualities of life and how God speaks to us then.

I do struggle with this a lot.  Having been an atheist, I tend to doubt very easily.  There are entire seasons I’m not sure He’s real and I’m ready to call it quits on the whole thing.

But you know: I keep serving anyway.  I keep acting like God exists.  I keep loving people.  I keep obeying His commands, as distant as they feel.  I force myself into the church community.  I put my tiny little shred of faith into His Son.  I pray, even if it’s a few words at night.  I read Scripture, my heavy head on a pillow as the app shines its tiny little screen into the darkness.  And most days, that meager little mustard seed faith is just enough.

It sounds like legalism, but effort is not legalism.  It’s only legalistic to presume that God’s law can save, which leads to self-righteousness.  I don’t believe merely following God’s law will save me.  I believe following His law will lead me back to the heart who made me.  As C.S. Lewis said, I’m trying to trace the sunbeam back to the sun.  The days I succeed, I praise God.  The days I fail, which are many, I continue on by the bare skin of my teeth.

I’m learning this is okay.  I’m learning we are works in progress looking towards the work finished, Jesus.

I keep remembering those mountaintop moments when I knew God was real, and I carry that into the valley.  I don’t try to demand God make them happen again.  Peter never asked for Jesus to transfigure again on a mountain.  Paul never got knocked off a horse twice.  Moses didn’t part the Red Sea every Thursday.  And the Israelites who crossed the Red Sea came in both screaming in fear and shouting in victory.  I’m a screamer, but it’s God’s grace who carried me from death to life — and I am choosing to walk through.

I’m not endorsing a shriveled up faith.  Certainly I commend a robust, vibrant, out-loud faith that declares God in everything.  Of course, if there is an old pattern of life you need to leave: then seek help and cut it off, today.  I’m not ever promoting the language of “struggle” as a permission slip to disobey God.  But as I’ve said before, My faith burns slower, more methodical, seated in the back, plagued with questions, desperate in prayer, trusting those rare moments when Christ is fully visible.

My friend, keep going anyway.  Get plugged in, talk it out with other mature Christians, bug your pastor, get into places where you know there’s a chance you can encounter Jesus.

God absolutely loves you, right now, even in your most downward spiral of doubt and frustration.  Tell Him how you feel.  He will love you through that.  He won’t bite your head off.  And when you feel the guilt: simply take your eyes off yourself and look to the cross.  It was there he took on even the guilt you would feel of feeling far away.

Love you my friend, and praying.

— J.S.

I read once that when a person falls in love the brain creates a chemical that bonds the person to their love interest. Sadly, after two years, that chemical subsides and another chemical is created that continues the bond (if nurtured and protected) but the bond is less passionate, less energetic and more thoughtful and familial.

I suppose that’s how I feel about Jesus now. I feel like He’s family. Or, more appropriately, I feel like I’m in His family. It’s almost like we once had a passionate thing and now we’re just kind of growing old together.

Often, when people try to get me worked up about Jesus, zealous and emotional, I don’t necessarily feel like it fits me. I’d have to fake it if I acted that way. To me, faith is about maintaining and protecting a solid relationship in which there is now about fifteen years of history, too many memories to name, lots of great, slow work to do and plenty of other people to introduce Jesus to so they can start their relationship as well.

— Donald Miller

8 thoughts on “My Faith Is Up and Down and All Over The Place

  1. “Not everyday of your marriage can be like your wedding.” Awesome, and so true. We can’t fabricate those emotions but we can get up and do work anyways. It’s the covenant that sustains our love in those ordinary times, it’s never our love that sustains the covenant.

    Most days, I don’t find myself hot or cold, just a bland spew inducing luke warm. There’s grace for that too.


  2. I am ready to testify at a moment’s notice– I have seen miracles by my incessant prayers. But still, sometimes I’m lazy . . .forgetting to thank . . .scared to pray for that all important thing worrying me . . .for fear it is not time. Great post for all of us.


  3. I’ve been hearing a lot of stories like this lately.
    I tell people being a Christian isn’t about being perfect or a feeling. It’s about knowing based on remembering what He have done for you.
    The best two times to pray and read the bible is when you feel like and and when you don’t.


    1. Yes, Vernon! I’m reminded of this quote by the inimitable C.S. Lewis:
      “I have a notion that what seem our worst prayers may really be, in God’s eyes, our best. Those, I mean, which are least supported by devotional feeling and contend with the greatest disinclination. For these, perhaps, being nearly all will, come from a deeper level than feeling. In feeling there is so much that is really not ours — so much that comes from weather and health or from the last book read. One thing seems certain. It is no good angling for the rich moments. God sometimes seems to speak to us most intimately when he catches us, as it were, off our guard.”

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I was REALLY scared when I started to have second thoughts about God and if he was even real, I’m 19 years old and this feeling just hit me about two days ago. I was scared I was betraying God and making him angry for thinking this but I just absolutely could not help it. But after reading this I just feel like I am allot closer to god than I was before. Thank you to the man who made this, and know your words will always be in my heart, not only that but your words can help me build a better relationship with god like I never thought possible. Thank you so much and may God bless all of you as well as this entire world.


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