Peace family, if you’re struggling with your faith today, I just wanted to encourage you that God loves you and he has not abandoned you, no matter what it feels like.
I have several friends wrestling with different kinds of doubt right now, and it’s such a hard place for them to be. As someone who has wrestled with my own doubts, sometimes over the course of several years, my heart goes out to my friends who are trying to come to terms with faith and God.
One of my friends is afraid that she will never come out of this dark place that seems to stretch on and on. She feels abandoned by a silent God as circumstances outside of (or even under) her control go awry in her life. Another friend, who is extremely intellectual, told me that he doesn’t think God is sadistic, but that the evidence seems to be pointing in that direction; why would a loving God design us if we were only meant to suffer? Another told me that he isn’t sure if he has ever actually been a real believer of Christ, that his current doubt negates it if he ever actually was, that the Bible frustrates him because it’s confusing and there are so many different interpretations, and that everyone just keeps giving him the same advice, to “pray, be patient, and have faith,” but nothing seems to work.
Peace family, if you can relate to any of my friends, then don’t give up! I have been there, too. Trust me when I say that God loves you, and He has not abandoned you, even if it feels like it. The darkest times in my life, when I felt that God had turned his back on me, I later saw ways that God was with me, and working in my life. Yes, prayer, patience, and having faith are important, but so is reading the Bible (the Bible specifically says that faith comes by hearing the gospel), staying in community, and letting those who love you but also love God, pray for you.
At times when I haven’t wanted to read the Bible at all, Psalms has helped me to work through my feelings. So many of the Psalms express the grievances of a despairing heart, yet conclude with a deliberate choice to praise God. There is a defiant faith that I have leaned on many times that says, “I don’t care what you say, Satan. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, I will choose to trust and obey God and die, if that is what it comes to.” There were years when reading the Bible was no more pleasant than taking vitamins, but those years eventually broke, and the Bible is realer to me than before. Meanwhile, the time I invested reading it, even when my heart wasn’t in it, continue to benefit me to this day.
Something else that helps me personally is to get out into nature. Even when nothing else touches my heart, getting into nature, where I can admire the intricacy of design, the hugeness of it all, and talk out loud to God, privately sharing my anger, sharing my heartaches, but also thanking him for all of the good things he has put in my life, gets through to me. In the “Great Outdoors,” I am reminded of the smallness of my own life in the scope of history and the universe, and of the huge God who made all of everything, and made me, too!
Further, in my times of deepest despair, when I have felt that I could not hear God and my prayers were heavy and worthless, and God’s promises and truth did not match my life experience, if I just had enough faith to reach out to someone who loved me, and allowed them to pray for me, at least someone was praying! My friends are not fools. It encouraged me to lean on their support and faith, when my own faith had bottomed out.
Finally, are you getting enough rest, enough exercise, and enough healthy food? As I once heard a pastor say, “Sometimes, the most spiritual thing that you can do is to take a nap.”
Peace family, don’t give up. I don’t know your personal circumstances, but the Bible says that when you seek God, and seek him with all of your heart, then you will find him (Jeremiah 29:13). God isn’t mocking you, he hasn’t turned his back on you, and just because you feel distant from him doesn’t always mean that there is some great sin in your life (which people often would tell me when I was struggling.) In this broken world, sometimes life just stinks, but that doesn’t mean it will stay like this forever. Even though this is probably not something you’ll enjoy hearing, I can tell you that the worse the suffering I’ve experienced, including abuse, betrayal, abandonment, sudden and traumatic death, death of loved ones with cancer, false accusations, depression, rejection, and suffering in the lives of my friends, the more my journey with God has only eventually shown him to be faithful. He has been faithful to me, and stayed with me when no one else was there. Keep your eyes open and expect miracles, and God might even speak to you in a way you don’t expect, whether through a friend, through a natural occurrence, or through a fresh revelation as you read a specific passage in the Bible. And may your breakthrough come soon, as you learn to find peace in him, no matter the circumstance.