For one thing, it’s not something we tend to ask about: (though funnily enough I do ask about your dog /family /house /job/ plumbing). It feels personal – like enquiring about someone’s toilet habits. If I ask about your relationship with Jesus; you might ask about mine. And I’m not sure we want to go there. Plus, you might think I’m weird, just for bringing it up. So we have an unspoken agreement to keep it light – and sometimes, that’s nice. But sometimes, both of us go home feeling sadder and emptier than before.
So that’s the first thing to do when you’re struggling with your faith. Talk to someone else. I know: it doesn’t feel natural. But we’re not suggesting you put a notice in the announcements. Just be honest with one or two people. If you can’t pray, ask them to pray for you – and to tell you what they pray.
Remember that Jesus is praying for you. He’s permanently crying out to God on our behalf (Hebrews 7:25). Even though you might feel like you’ve let go of Him; it doesn’t work like that. He has hold of you. And your beliefs don’t save you: He does.
Don’t trust your feelings. If you’re like me, they go up and down with your blood sugar and the weather. When I’m depressed for example, it feels like nothing and no-one can reach me. For a time, it seems like nothing helps. But gradually, life returns. Prayers are answered. And while I wait, I remember: what’s true are God’s promises. Not my sadness, numbness or despair. His word against mine.
Don’t back off from church life. I know it’s tempting to withdraw: but it helps to have a focus outside of yourself. You might need to rethink the ways you serve: but before you do, chat to your pastor. And if, say, a busy morning service feels too much, think about going to a quieter one in the evening. Or if a large group prayer meeting is daunting, ask a few friends to meet and pray with you somewhere quiet.
Go back to the bits of the Bible you love. This is not the time to plough through 2 Chronicles, (unless it’s your favourite, in which case – go mad!) Listen to your favourite hymns or worship songs. Read the biographies of other believers. And consider taking a few days out – maybe for a retreat or conference, where you can get extra input.
Remember that God is not your church or your family or your friends. No-matter how great these folks are, they’re human and can let us down. He doesn’t: so don’t judge Him by them.
Remember that you are not alone. Many great heroes of the bible had these struggles and the Lord deals with them with compassion and grace: see for example Job, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the disciples.
Realise that God is often at work, right when He feels furthest away. It’s counter-intuitive but it’s there in the Bible:
the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:3-4)
Wobbles are used by God to mature us. Sometimes the maturity comes because we figure out we’re meant to be weak trusters, not independent super-Christians; sometimes it comes as we appreciate some aspect of Christ we’d never have known without the trial, sometimes it forces us to wrestle through an issue we’ve been avoiding for years, sometimes it just makes obvious the simple truth that it’s God’s hold of us – not ours of Him – that really counts.
None of this is comfortable, but – from ancient Israel to today – God is not absent in the wilderness times. This is where He works.