“Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God” (Psalm 42:5).
John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress, and one of the leading preachers in the First Great Awakening, said that for several years it seemed as if the devil was sitting on his shoulder whispering blasphemous words and statements into his ear. He was quite grieved over it and thought there must be something wrong with him. Edwards wondered if he was losing his faith.
During the past months, leading Christian figures have wandered from the faith. Hillsong worship leader and song writer, Marty Sampson, submitted an Instagram post on why he had turned from the Christian faith. Megachurch pastor and author, Joshua Harris, who wrote the purity book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, said he was renouncing his Christian faith. And more recently, pastor and mental health advocate, Jared Wilson, committed suicide after his struggles with depression.
I felt sad after reading the news stories of these 3 servants of God. Yet, I also sensed that maybe their deaths should cause me to give attention to my own walk with the Lord. What can we do to prevent ourselves from losing our faith, abandoning our faith, or just chucking the whole God thing?
Lament Your Difficult Life Experiences
Some people lose their faith because they have dealt with life experiences that seem cruel and unbearable. Perhaps these individuals have said in the past, “When life gives you a lemon, make lemonade” or “God is bigger than any problem you’ll ever face.” Yet, life’s difficulties can overwhelm us and throw us off center where God is concerned.
For this reason, I advocate “lamenting” your painful life experiences. By this term, I mean submitting painful experiences to a time of questioning and evaluation in terms of what you believe about God, His goodness and His ways so that you trust Him rather than doubt Him.
I went through a “dark night of the soul” experience recently in which I questioned God, felt angry at Him, and prayed a lot, and I mean a lot. But mostly I practiced the spiritual discipline of lament—taking my honest questions to God, sharing my true feelings with Him, but trusting Him anyway. My period of lament got me through this painful ministry experience.
If lament is a new term for you, read J. Todd Billings book, Rejoicing in Lament or A Sacred Sorrow by Michael Card.
Reach Out to God, Anyway
I’ve always appreciated Jesus’ words in Luke 17:6: “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”
If you feel you are losing your faith in God or that you have already lost it, reach out to God anyway, even if you have only a mustard seed of faith left in you. Keep on praying. Continue to read and study your Bible. Surround yourself with Christian friends who will listen to you and encourage you during your times of doubt and questioning. God responds to big faith and to small faith.
Realize It’s OK to Question God
From the cross, Jesus questioned God: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). The sins of the world were being placed on Jesus. He sensed separation from God in that moment (because that is what sin does—it separates us from God). Jesus asked that big-time question, “God, why?
Have you ever asked that question? God will not whop you up the side of your head for asking, or thinking, that question. In fact, God invites you to bring your questions to Him. Life can get complicated. We don’t have all the answers, nor do we always understand God’s ways. Sometimes we feel compelled to ask, Why?
God might show you answer to your “why” question, but He might not. Either way He will work with you and bring you to a place of acceptance and peace.
Examine Your Life for Pockets of Sin
Speaking of sin and how it separates us from God, I have been helped greatly by William Backus’ book, The Hidden Rift with God.” This book is an old classic written by a Christian counselor at the time. Backus will help you discover that the root cause of many of your theological issues with God are often the result of pockets of sin in your life.
When you feel confused, disappointed, resentful and even angry with God, be honest with yourself. Spiritual drift in our lives typically begins when we become comfortable with our sin. Don’t read me wrongly here. I am not saying that all spiritual problems result from sin. But most do.
The man who wrote Psalms 42 and 43 in the Bible (likely David) repeated a line in these two psalms 3 times: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God.”
That’s God’s advice to us when we feel we are drifting from Him and near the point of losing our faith. Put your hope in God and you will discover hope.