“My soul is so withered up I barely recognize it any more!” Comments like this come to me on a regular basis. I hear from people of both genders and all ages who feel frustrated, sad or even desperate because their faith has eroded. Most of them don’t know why or how it happened nor do they know how to rediscover the vibrant faith they once knew.
I understand! I was in a spiritual wilderness for at least 10 years. It was my Big Secret because I was married to a minister (and did not want to negatively impact his calling) and I was in ministry myself as a writer for religious publications. I kept asking God to fix me since I had no idea how to fix myself.
Let me insult your intelligence by telling you something you probably already know: there is no quick fix.
But there is a fix — or at least some points to consider to guide your steps as you seek answers and direction. (For a more complete study of this topic, check out these books.)
- If your faith had worked for you, you wouldn’t have lost it. More to the point, if the practice of your faith was mature, growing and sustainable, you would still have it. The problem is that many of us, myself included, have heart issues, old wounds, new fears, hardships (and much worse) that our faith cannot adapt to. Our faith that has worked thus far runs into trouble and begins to erode as we subtly drift away from God.
- God hasn’t left you even though you might feel abandoned. Because most of us in spiritual dryness drift away slowly, we are blind to what caused it and where it began. As a result, we feel like a victim rather than the pilot of our own faith. Ergo: God must have moved! It surely wasn’t me! We forget (or disbelieve) the myriad times God says: I will never leave you nor forsake you. He didn’t move. You did. If you moved away, you can move back.
- Admit the truth out loud. Break the conspiracy of silence. Just say it: “I’ve lost my faith” or “My faith no longer works” or “I don’t believe in a personal God any more.” Use your own words to say the naked truth about the current state of your soul. God can take it! You will not shock Him or hurt His feelings. He may be waiting for you to come out of denial before His redemptive work can get some traction. “When our embarrassment level is exceeded by our desperation level we are a candidate for God’s grace” (Peter Lord) Your pastor and others in your church can probably take it too. Choose a few safe people to tell so that your “secret” loses it’s hold on you.
- Ask Him to come after you. If you aren’t praying any more, this counts as your first prayer. It’s like saying sic ’em to a dog (no disrespect intended). In fact, He is already pursuing you but you are temporarily blinded by your unbelief. What this prayer really means is that you will now be on the lookout for the invisible God. God will begin to remove the scales from your spiritual eyes and the wax from your spiritual ears.
- Risk saying yes. Spiritual dryness is the result of mistrust and disobedience. In other words, as we drift away from God we lose faith that He is trustworthy and we stop doing what He asks. We say no, not with our lips, but with our lives. But we never stop having a vague sense of spiritual nudging. Say yes to one of those nudges.
- Get back into (or stay in) “God’s habitat”. When hunters want to bag a moose, they don’t dress up in camo gear and hike into downtown Chicago. They head for the forests and swamps — the places moose hang out! If you are looking for God, spend as much time as possible in His territory. You know what that means but for the sake of absolute clarity here are some suggestions: the Bible, Christian books (fiction and nonfiction), church, bible study groups (real and virtual), prayer groups, music (worship band, choir, solo listening), godly friends (old and new).
- Never lose hope. Remember there is no quick fix but there is a fix. You did not drift away in a day, you won’t come back in a day. Take it one day at a time and follow God one yes at a time.