Don’t Settle for Being Saved
Director of Discipleship
Remember when you first made the decision to accept God’s gift of salvation? Perhaps you experienced a season of joy and excitement—feeling like Jesus was really real. You couldn’t get enough of the Lord, and couldn’t stop talking about him! Then, somewhere along the line, the honeymoon faded and this “personal relationship with Jesus” became rather dull—a duty to be done. Sure, you still love Jesus in the abstract sense, but his actual presence feels as foreign and far away as ancient Israel. Do you ever look at your life as a Christian and secretly wonder, “Is this as good as it gets?”
It’s an Up-and-Down Journey
One of the best-kept secrets of Christianity is that while God often provides the delightful initial euphoric stage for new believers, this stage is temporary—God never intends for us to stay there. It’s a merely the kick-off of a life-long journey.
Many Christians don’t understand the up and down nature of the spiritual journey when they make the decision to belong to Jesus. After the initial joy fades, sometimes we think that our job is to go to church, try to do more good than bad, and maybe identify with certain social/cultural/political demographic groups—then go to Heaven when we die.
In The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, a mentor demon advises a younger demon that one of the most effective ways to pull a human “patient” away from God is to get the human to spend lots of energy trying to recapture those initial feelings, and finally convince the human to dismiss the feelings as a product of an over-excited imagination. The ideal (from Satan’s perspective), is to have the human Christian settle into a state of lukewarm complacency—completely ineffective and harmless to Satan’s cause.
Seasoned spiritual veterans can attest that warm feelings come and go. It’s what we do when the spiritual warmth departs—when we are left feeling abandoned and dry—that make the crucial difference in the life of a follower of Jesus Christ.
After her death, it was discovered that Mother Teresa spent most of her adult life with no sense of God’s presence. To me, that makes her life all the more impressive in that she chose to faithfully serve God even without the reward of the emotional feelings of his love. Writes Screwtape: “Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”
What to do when your faith feels old and dried up:
1. Make space for God—God won’t compete for your attention in a busy schedule. It’s up to us to actually make space to actually spend time alone with God.
2. Search your heart and confess any sin. Unconfessed sin really does block our connection to God.
3. Understand that spiritual ups and down are to be expected and even welcomed—they are a sign of movement and growth.
4. Don’t give up—the downs will not last forever, no matter how hopeless it seems.
5. Meditate on the fact that God’s love for us is a fact not based on emotions.
6. Trust that God will use the “valley” time to build perseverance (James 1:2-3).