Let’s get something clear right now. A believer never loses his/her faith. But you can fall into a season of spiritual dryness so severe that your estrangement from God feels like your faith is gone.
On the other hand, there is some truth in the wilderness heart-cry: Help! I’ve lost my faith! The truth is that you have lost the faith you once had and possibly for good reason. Logically, if your faith worked well, you wouldn’t have lost it!
The journey out of wilderness (spiritual dryness) involves finding a workable faith. That’s where we are headed, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s first consider why you feel like you’ve lost your faith.
Very few believers decide to turn their back on God and walk away. Some do and it’s not hard to imagine the reasons. Most of us simply drift away.
Spiritual drift can be triggered by tragedy or it can sneak up slowly, the result of many little irritations and wounds. That’s how it was for me. Within a year of my conversion to Christianity as an 18-year-old college student, I was baptized. I threw myself into the life of the church, soaking it up like a dry sponge. Before long, I felt called to fulltime Christian ministry. The way I interpreted that call was to assume I would marry a preacher. I went looking for one.
Fortunately, a young preacher was also looking for me! Before long I married Gerry, a recent convert and already in ministry. Full of hope and promise, we began our married life in a northern village ministering to First Nations People. And everywhere I went, I talked about my transformed life through the power of a living Savior, Jesus Christ. I saw many people believe and accept Christ’s offer of grace and eternal life just like I had. This continued unabated for more than a decade. Nothing prepared me for the spiritual drift into wilderness I was headed for.
My journey into the wilderness of dry faith took many years. I’m not sure when it began. I experienced surprises, disappointments, and what I perceived as unanswered prayers that eroded my trust in the God I knew at that time. I began to doubt that He was really in charge and if He was, I wasn’t sure I still wanted to go along for the ride. I started to protect myself from Him because, frankly, He was scaring me. The more I withdrew, the further we grew apart. A pattern emerged:
- In the early days of faith bad habits are broken, new friends are made, prayers are answered and God seems near.
- Life’s natural disappointments and God’s failure to answer our prayers the way we expect catch us by surprise, wound us, and wear us down emotionally and spiritually.
- Our view of God changes and we begin to be afraid of Him.
- We try to protect ourselves from further pain by subtly reasserting control over more and more of our life.
- The wounded, fearful, self-protecting believer feels increasingly disconnected from God.
- We call out to Him in frustration but get no response. We no longer sense His presence, hear His voice, or see His activity.
- Losing hope and feeling forsaken, we grow cynical, put on a mask, and live the double life of a religious hypocrite imprisoned by the conspiracy of silence. (excerpt From Faking it to Finding Grace)
Simply put, life got hard, I got scared, I put up a wall to protect myself, and one day I woke up to the reality that I was imprisoned. There was a barrier between me and the warm, friendly, loving, personal God I had once known. I thought I had lost my faith.
I spent many years there. But that’s not the end of the story. If this is your story, or the story of someone you love, join the conversation. Together we’ll make our way to a brighter future.