“Just Have Faith” Didn’t Work For Me

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gina-butz-harmonious5By Gina Butz@gina_butz

In the winter of 2011, I was spiritually and emotionally stuck.

I wasn’t sure how I got there. All I knew was that I could not move back to something resembling normal, no matter how much I poured out my heart to my counselor, my friends, and mostly importantly to God.

I suspected it had something to do with letting some recent failures define my value. I was not seeing myself the way God did. So I did what I thought would help. I went back to the truths that had delivered me in the past when I first began to see how much success was my idol and the opinion of others was a drug.

I poured over scripture God had given me the first go around­—scripture that had set me free and brought new life. I re-read all the quotes I’d collected about being God’s beloved, about God’s acceptance of me, how I need to choose to love myself the way God does.

I felt nothing.

It was like I sat on one side of a glass wall, able to see the truth of God on the other side, but unable to grasp it. I felt cut off. I knew the truth, but my soul was left numb. I read those words and the memory of how life-giving they had once been felt like a distant dream. I cried out to God, pounding on the glass, screaming for God to break.

Again, I felt nothing.

I lived in that place for months, staring at that glass, dutifully reading truth, waiting for the wall to shatter. It didn’t. I waited for truth to penetrate my heart, but I felt as unmoved as if I were reading something in a foreign language. I could not understand why a God who loved me would let me sit there separated from what I needed.

Out of fear, I shared my experience with only a few. I thought others would tell me I just needed to have faith. I was sure they would say that feelings follow faith, and that wall would come down if I just chose to believe the truth.

I had already exhausted myself with those arguments. All I had to show for it, was contempt for the fact that I was still stuck behind that wall. The “just have faith” route didn’t seem to be working. Either I didn’t have enough faith, or God had something else in mind.

I could not shake a strange confidence that I didn’t land in that place by my own reckoning. God put me there. God kept me there, on my side of the glass, struggling, frustrated, alone, wondering. It was not a lack of faith on my part. It was not for lack of trying to hold on to truth.

Eventually a new picture from scripture gave me hope, and a new view of God. In John 6:60-70, some of those following Jesus decided his teaching was just too hard, and began to grumble. Many chose to leave him. Jesus turned to His disciples and asked, “You do not want to leave too, do you?”

It strikes me as a vulnerable question. Jesus exposes His hunger for relationship with us in it. Jesus knew that he called them to a tough road. He knew the further he went, the more he would lose. It’s a risky place to be, extending an invitation you know others may not accept.

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,” they responded. Yes, it’s hard to accept this path, the disciples were saying, but where else would they go?

My wall didn’t come crashing down. Instead, I began to see in it a vulnerable invitation from God: Will you stay with me, even when it’s hard? Will you stay when you feel nothing? Are you willing to walk a lonelier path, even if it’s just you and me?

More and more, I see that walking with God is not about what God gives me. It is a heart open invitation from someone who wants me to choose God over and over out of love, regardless of the outcome. It was an invitation to faith, yes, but to faith that God is enough, apart from what God does for me.

So yes, I will sit in this place of confusion if it’s where God is. I will walk with God through the times when all I hear is silence. I will stay with God when it doesn’t make sense. I will be faithful when God doesn’t give me what I want. I will not leave, even when I’m furious with God and I doubt God’s goodness.

When “just have faith” doesn’t work, just stay close to God.

___________________

gina-butz
Gina has had the privilege of being in full time ministry for over 20 years, most of which were spent overseas. Most recently she can be found in Orlando, Florida, serving in Global Leadership with Cru, and loving life with her husband, two teenagers, and an imported dog. It’s a good day for her when she can use her words to encourage or get her hands dirty with DIY projects. You can follow her at her blog
www.ginabutz.com or on twitter @gina_butz

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Comments

  1. Wonderful post! I have been in a position for the past few years where this keeps going through my head…”Even if, … I still will.” Even if life doesn’t go the way I would like, I still will love and follow Jesus.

  2. Stephanie Thompson says:

    “Jesus exposes His hunger for relationship with us in it. ” I never looked at this passage from that perspective. I always thought of their actions as choosing to not completely surrender themselves in order to follow Christ. I love seeing that Jesus wants them to stick it out not just for their benefit but because he truly desires to walk with us.

    • I’ve noticed a lot more desire and vulnerability in scripture in the last few years. It encourages me to pursue it in my own life. 🙂

  3. I was just marvelling the other day how my truly worst seasons (in the natural) in my life have somehow been the best seasons (in the spiritual) in my life — not necessarily as I was going through it, but as I neared the end I was able to look back and see a God who never left me. And I think they always began with a prolonged (sometimes extreeeeemly long) season of silence. Until I finished screaming and just sat. In His presence. Soaking in His grace. I’m in one of those at the moment and as much as I look forward to leaving this particular season, there is actually something quite special about knowing when you are at the very bottom He is still holding you underneath … and in His beautiful time He will lift you up.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Yes, he teaches us so much through the desert times doesn’t he? It’s so easy for me to believe that God has abandoned me in those times, instead of trusting that he is simply quieting me. Glad it resonated with you!

  4. So good and rich. It’s so glad to hear other people’s stories of these dry seasons…

    Xox

  5. Have faith in God

    Even when you can’t fe3l Him, hear Him or get what you want.

    He loves you big!

  6. So glad you are staying the course and sitting in the confusion. You are expressing the way many of us feel at some point during our life. Life and faith can be hard, but the beauty is that we don’t need to understand it all or even feel it. Like you said it is about us choosing to love him every day, even when he doesn’t give us what we want.

    • Thanks Theresa! Yes, it is a hard but beautiful road. I’m thankful He is faithful to keep calling me back to knowing that He alone is enough.

  7. Gina, this is so hard and beautiful. I’ve been there and honestly, haven’t stayed when it’s hard and I feel nothing. It’s a struggle that we don’t often talk about. Thank you for giving a voice to it. This is something that God has really been speaking to me lately about – loving Him for Himself and not for what He does for us, for the feeling or the joy. I think we can only learn this when we hit that wall.

    • Nicole-thank you! I think in the church we struggle to give ourselves and others permission to sit in hard places, but God can do so much there! I know I still want to squirm out as quickly as possible when he brings me back to places like this. This is a lot of what I’m writing about in my book, or at least trying to. 🙂

  8. Gina! I can very much relate. In the past few years I went through a similar situation, but my glass wall was a pile of rocks 🙂 (you can read about it here: http://tiffanymalloy.com/2015/10/20/thebeginningofmydoubt/). I eventually met with a spiritual director after a year or two, and I learned that this is a common stage of spiritual formation. (http://tiffanymalloy.com/2015/10/21/theturningpoint/). It was really helpful to me in that it helped me normalize this feeling of disconnect from God, and even see it as a gift.

    Thanks for sharing this story. I think it’s so helpful for other women to read and see that they aren’t alone :).

    • Tiffany-glad you can relate. The other image I had during this time was feeling like I was in a hole that God dropped me in. I kept looking for a way to climb out, but instead it felt like he invited me to let the bottom drop out and walk on a deeper, more lonely path. It’s beautiful that God gives us these pictures isn’t it?

  9. Yes! Relationship is so tied to our willingness to just show up. It’s true with our husbands and kids, it’s true with our friends, and it’s even more true of God who is beyond reasonable in His forgiveness of our mixed motives and our frailty.

    • I like the way you put that Michele-I can put high expectations on my relationships and also feel like I have to give so much for them to want to be with me. Good reminder to just be with the people God has given me.

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