There have been a couple times in my life where God has felt far, far away. It wasn't just that He seemed hard to reach, but more like He had abandoned me. Certain difficult circumstances in my life had happened - circumstances that He could have prevented - and I felt as though I had been thrown to the wolves to fend for myself.
One such time was during the pregnancy and after the birth of my third child. Early in the pregnancy we moved for the promise of a job that would have my hubby at home more often. Turns out he was away more than ever, and I was on my own with two children in diapers, pregnant, working full time, in a city where I had no friends and family. This move had also given us hope for some restoration in our struggling marriage. Instead, the battles became louder, angrier, more frequent. Not long after the baby arrived, I found my hope slipping away as I sunk into post-partum depression.
As we moved into summer at the end of a long, lonely year, I was convinced that God had forgotten me. Or perhaps I had done something to make Him turn away. Maybe it was me who created the distance. The only thing I was sure of was that I had once known God and felt His presence and His protection, but for a long time I had not sensed Him nearby.
Over time, though, I found Him again. I heard His whispers to my heart once more. And eventually I even began to see how He was using that dark year to bring about good in my life. I have some friends who are living in one of those seasons of empty heartache, wondering where God is and how to find Him again. This post is dedicated to you, because I love you and I understand. My prayer for you is that you, too, will not only experience the presence of God in your lives once again, but that you will eventually see the good that He is making from all the no good, terrible, horrible, really bad stuff.
How to Find a Faith that's Been Lost...
I can't pin down the rediscovery of my faith to three easy steps done in a special order (even though the writer/speaker in me did somehow find a way to compile my thoughts into three points, ha). Because we're all different, I know that some things that helped me won't work for you. Yet I can see now, in retrospect, that there were some things I did that drew me back to God. My hope is that some of these things will work for you, too.
1. God never leaves.
The first thing I must share, though I'm sure you know it in your head just as I did, is that God never washes His hands of us. He has promised that He will not abandon us. If we feel like orphaned children, we need to remember that this is our feeling, but our feelings do not always reflect the realities of God.
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. ~Deuteronomy 31:8
2. Go to church.
One of our instincts when we feel abandoned is to stop doing the things we've done. We convince ourselves that the reasons we did these things (such as going to church, reading our Bibles, etc.) was out of routine and obligation, thus making it easy to quit. We tell ourselves that if God has left us, we may as well leave Him. We also do it as an act of self-preservation - we know that the people there will ask us how we are, and we either become very good a lying or we are more emotionally raw than we ever really want to be.
But we need to remind ourselves of the truth - at some point in our faith walks, we went to church because it filled us up, fed us, gave us pleasure. The people there, they also meant something to us; they became family.
If you've stopped going to church, going back may be one of the most difficult steps in the journey to reclaiming your faith. Nothing is more terrifying than the thought of facing the people and the pastors who are likely to ask questions and bring up all sorts of emotions. I am tempted here to suggest trying a new church (and for some people that may be necessary), but I believe that most of us need to return to home, not just to any church. As they say, "home is where the heart is."
There will be moments of pain, moments of great discomfort, and some people who will be judgemental rather than welcoming. But your home church is filled to the brim with people who love you, who want to pray for you and bless you, who have missed you but simply didn't know how to reach out. And chances are, if you felt abandoned by God you also felt abandoned by your church - the only path to healing those hurts is to go back.
3. Go after Him.
While we know that God has not truly left, the lack of sensing His presence is one that we often don't know how to rectify. So we do nothing. But in reality, knowing that somehow we are the ones who put distance between ourselves and God, we need to do something to close the gap. We need to seek Him.
There are many ways to seek Him, but one thing that works for me is worship music. I choose a song or two that have been meaningful to me and I listen, sing along, whisper the lyrics as a prayer, and believe that God will hear me and respond.
I've tried reading the Bible, or looking up Scripture verses that are familiar or meaningful. I've googled "promises of God" and read them aloud to myself. Sadly, these things didn't bring the Word of God alive for me again. They may work for you, though, so still give it a try.
One thing that put a new spark in my heart was a particular Bible study - Believing God by Beth Moore (I am referring to the DVD study and accompanying study guide, not the book). It was not only the teaching in the study, but also the group experience of studying it together. You can do it on your own online, but if possible I really recommend doing it in a group. (If you want to borrow the DVDs for group study, email me and I'll hook you up. Well, if you're in Alberta.)
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. ~Jeremiah 29:13
My friends, these suggestions for finding your faith again are not coming from some goody-goody, happy, perfect Christian girl who's never strayed a day in her life. No, they are the words from a battle-scarred woman who has walked the lonely road of lost faith more than once, and who has fought tooth and nail to find it again. My words come from a heart of deep love for you, my dear friends, and the understanding that your hearts are broken and cannot be fixed until you once again feel the peace and comfort of your Abba. Please, don't give up. Keep on fighting for your faith. I love you.