I’m 52 and after a lifetime of being saved I have recently lost faith but continue to “try” to believe. In fact, I am afraid I may be right and the whole God and Christian thing is like the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy fables or stories invented to comfort the weak. Is God real and how do I believe again?
L. From New Jersey
Trying to believe (Part 1)
What happened to you? Something did. I feel sure you did not come to this place by intellectual meanderings. You have had your faith rocked by an incident in which God failed to be the God you expected. Now you wonder if any of it was real to begin with. You are in the company of thousands before you. Faith untested is shallow and insipid and not able to sustain you to the end. Good riddance to that kind of faith anyhow. But here’s a good piece of news: God can take your doubts. Questions welcome.
Yes, God is real as you once believed but examine for yourself why you ever accepted it. Let’s start by going back to your personal experience with “being saved.” How did that happen and what did it mean to you? When Paul fell to the ground on the road to Damascus his conversion was so life-changing his name was changed from Saul to Paul. Was your own conversion so dramatic? What made you know that you were “saved”?
I suggest this starting point so you can test the validity of your decision to become a disciple of Jesus Christ in the first place. If you simply always went to church and passively accepted Christian teachings by your parents then your standing is weak indeed—too weak to be considered salvation. But if you truly accepted Jesus and made him Lord and Savior then remembering it is worth revisiting. The reality of a heartfelt surrender to God is hard to deny no matter how many years have passed.
Secondly, “trying” to believe is disingenuous and worthless. The bottom line is that if God is real he is worthy to be served—no matter what befalls us in life. If he is not than trying to believe anyhow is no better than Santa Claus and all the others. Let’s go for whatever is TRUTH, no matter where that leads. To me it leads to God but that’s something every person must come to individually.
You ask how you can believe again. Let’s talk about that next.
Believing again (Part 2)
The fact that you want to still believe tells me you are not that far off. You are just disappointed and/or disillusioned. Again, God can handle that and I firmly believe he does have a path for you back to him.
You have already started with the first step: honesty. You admit your flagging faith. I admire that more than people who fake it and continue smiling on the outside, pretending that faith is intact when it is not. But where do you go from there?
Press your honesty further and tell him ALL that you feel and think. If you’re angry then be angry. Hold nothing back. If you are disappointed, pour it all out and tell him why. You may say to yourself, “yes but if no one is there I am pretty foolish.” Well, do it anyhow. I like reading Psalm 139:7 when God seems to be away on vacation. “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” I also like this, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) If you are in a broken, wounded condition consider that God is especially near to you right now.
That leads me to this next step: begin a daily regimen of reading the Psalms, many of which are so raw and emotional. You will find your own emotions mirrored and you will find comfort in knowing that the men and women of the Bible were real human beings who also had doubts, discouraging times and severe testing of their faith. I might also suggest reading Job, you will probably find kinship there.
Finally, give yourself time. Don’t be convinced that unbelief has to settle in permanently. It does not. You don’t need to make a final decision now. As life goes along things may change and faith may spring up just like a Snowdrop does from frozen ground. You may find that this time it is hardier and more resilient. You may yet join Paul in saying: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8)
Please look me up in eternity. I want to hear your story!