I get a lot of emails from people who are spiritually dry. Some of them heard me tell my story on Christian television or radio, some were surfing the Net looking for answers and found my blog or website or my book From Faking it to Finding Grace. The subject line of their emails often holds one word: “Help!” Or for those who are almost out of hope: “Can you help!?”
Spiritual dryness is rampant among believers and too often, still a taboo subject, especially among people in Christian ministry or leadership. People don’t like to hear that the person they are “paying to have faith” is struggling to hang on to it! That’s why I hear from lots of strangers — they feel safe because we are in different churches, different cities, different countries. I don’t know who they know. So I won’t tell. I’m safe. They can confess to me without fear that I will blow their cover.
The question most often asked in these desperate emails is, “Can I lose my faith?” They ask this because many of them feel like it’s gone. In other words, people want to know, can a believer become an unbeliever? Or put another way, can a convert become un-converted? The sense of God’s presence they once knew has flown (more likely, seeped away or dried up) and they feel abandoned and alone.
The bad news is, these feelings are real! So real they influence the way we think and act.
The good news is, these feelings are wrong. Just as wrong as when a 70 pound anorexic woman feels fat.
I will never leave you or forsake you, God tells us over and over in His Word (Joshua 1:5, Hebrews 13:5).
So why do some of us feel so forsaken? There are many causes, some we bring upon ourselves, some are foisted upon us, but the result is the same — feeling cut loose from a faith that once anchored us. Somehow, some way, we stopped trusting, we started doubting. We stopped following God in obedience and we began to say no — not with our lips, but with our life. We began to avoid God because we didn’t want to hear what He was saying. Maybe we were scared of what he might tell us. Maybe we were angry or hurt or disappointed and not in the mood to listen. Eventually, we couldn’t hear Him even when we tried because we had lost touch.
Whether or not we can pinpoint who to “blame” for what feels like a loss of faith isn’t really the main issue. Regardless of how we arrived in the wilderness, the fact is, when we’re there we don’t like it. We want our faith back. Or perhaps, we want a new and better faith. A stronger faith — one that is more resistant to “loss”!
Faith isn’t “lost” in a day any more than a city is built in a day. It is a slow process. In fact, faith isn’t something you can lose since it is His gift (Ephesians 2:8). It can feel lost, but it is never truly lost. We don’t actually lose our faith but we do lose our sense of God’s nearness slowly over time and often wrongly assume this feeling of abandonment to be a loss of faith.
If you are feeling like your once vibrant faith has slipped away, let me assure you you have not lost your faith. Your faith is still there but, like an atrophied muscle, it looks different and isn’t as strong as it once was. You can get it working again and watch it grow, one yes at a time. Even if you are so “far gone” you doubt God is real (this is exactly where I was in my wilderness) pray this way:
Okay God, if you are real like I once believed you were, I will start saying yes to you again. But you’re going to have to come after me and show me what to say yes to because I don’t know where to find you!
After praying, begin to watch and listen, not passively like an eavesdropper on strangers’ conversations, but actively and eagerly like a hunter in search of an elusive prey. If you think you hear him call, take a risk and say yes. And let it be the first yes in series of yeses that lead you back into a relationship with a living God.