Encouragement for when your faith is on shaky ground
Life is hard. We all know that. But sometimes life batters and shatters us so severely that our faith is shaken. And we don’t talk about this enough in Christian culture. My faith has been shaken a few times during my 32-year walk with God. I’ve never once stopped believing in Him or loving Him since I asked him to be my personal savior as a 10-year-old, but I’ve had doubts and questions. Sometimes I haven’t understood what He was doing, and it bothered me. I have longed for justice that just doesn’t seem to happen. If I’m being honest, I’ve also said prayers that I wasn’t sure were making it to heaven, let alone to the Father’s Throne.
I can’t tell you all sorts of theological reasons for shaken faith or even list lots of Bible verses explaining how to handle shaken faith. But, I can share some of my experiences. God has used my shaken faith to draw me closer to Him.
What happens when your faith is shaken?
Unsurprisingly, we don’t usually have crises of faith when everything is going well. When life is going without major bumps and bruises, we find it easy to believe in a loving God who is with us. But during the difficult seasons, that can change.
I compare my faith to motherhood in this way. During the 11-1/2 years I’ve been a mom, I have questioned a few times whether I was qualified for motherhood. Surely all moms don’t struggle with the problems I do. I debated whether I was truly cut out to be a mom. Yet, at the end of the day, I am still a mom (and am so thankful to be!).
Faith is the same way. When all is well, I don’t have questions or doubts. I am confident and sure of who I am and Who God is. But on the difficult days and in the hard moments, things get shakier. I sometimes wonder whether God is full of love and blessings. I don’t see Him move. Yet, at the end of the day, I am still a Christian.
We may have doubts and questions, but just because our faith is shaken doesn’t mean we aren’t a Christian or we don’t love God. It simply means we are human. And we want a real connection with God. If we didn’t want a real connection with God, then our faith wouldn’t be shaken by missing that connection.
Going through the faith motions
During times when my faith is shaken, I learned I need to keep going through the motions. And sometimes I am quite literally just going through the motions. A few years ago, I went through a period where for the first time in my life, I was struggling for months to sing the music at church and couldn’t even listen to Christian radio. I was having a hard time. How could I sing praises to a God who was not showing up when I desperately needed Him to? My heart was too broken to begin to praise. That’s a hard place in which to be.
Then one Sunday, I made myself since along with the worship songs at church. My kids were in service, and I wanted to be a good example. For the first time in my life I truly understood the sacrifice of praise Paul talks about in Hebrews. (And take note that this verse reminds us that Jesus will give us the strength to praise continually. We can’t do it on our own!)
“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.”Hebrews 13:15 (NIV)
Praising God when you don’t feel like it and when everything is falling apart is difficult. While I didn’t immediately feel better and stabilize my faith that Sunday, over time singing, praising and worshipping got easier again. Sometimes we have to go through the motions (even when we don’t feel like it) until we get back to where we want to be.
Shifting our focus while on shifting ground
Just as worshipping and praising started to get easier for me, the hard time worsened. Honestly, I didn’t think it could get worse, yet it did. I was brought to my knees and broken. One week, in particular, was rough. I went to church that week numb and hurt.
I sat in service practically scoffing at God. How could He be good in the midst of all He was allowing to happen? Where was His justice? How could He be good? Where was His grace? I don’t know what the sermon was about, because the cross at the front of our church caught my attention. The cross was what mattered.
Whether God was good or just or full of grace didn’t matter. What mattered is I knew the truth that He sent His Son to the cross to die for me. When I had no other answers to anything else, I had the answer of Jesus and His love. And in that moment, it was enough. It was enough until the hard times eased down and I could see God’s goodness and grace. Jesus is always enough. Always.
I still struggle with justice. I still struggle in many ways. But I know God loves me. And just that is enough, because it is the foundation of my faith.
Talking to God when your faith is shaken
Just like in any relationship, when we are struggling we still need to communicate and work through it. Praying can be hard sometimes when we wonder whether our prayers are even getting through. Wanting to talk to God when you are upset with Him is hard. But we have to try.
The good news is we don’t have to have all the right words. We can be honest with God. He won’t get offended and leave us. He won’t forget us and He’ll be right there. And He has given us the Holy Spirit to help us pray even when we can’t quite get all the words out ourselves.
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”Romans 8:26-27 (NIV)
As I began to heal and my faith began to stabilize, I realized I still struggled to see God at work. I prayed for His help to see Him and His goodness in my life. I knew in my head that He was there and working, but my heart was struggling to believe it. He answered my prayers and opened my eyes to see His hand in my life. I prayed that prayer a long time, because I needed the reminder to look for God and His help to see Him.
Finding hope in the hurt
As I started seeing God at work again, I also saw how so many of my previous struggles prepared me to survive the struggle I was in. I saw how He’d been working on me for years so I’d be ready for this time. Recognizing that strengthened my faith and reminded me of God’s faithfulness, grace and power. God worked on me for years before I even knew about the situation. He is still working for my good for the future!
I slowly felt more hopeful, but I still battled increased anxiety and depression. Along with my prayer to see God’s goodness and work in my life, I started a gratitude journal. I downloaded an app and wrote three different things each day for which I could thank God. Even hard days and times have blessings. Some days the most I was thankful for was the breath in my lungs, food on the table and a roof over my head.
However, it wasn’t long before I found so much more than the bare necessities for which to thank God. Eventually I was able to discontinue the gratitude journal because I was back in the habit of seeing God and His goodness. I was back to thanking and praising Him. My faith had moved from shaky ground to solid ground. God’s faithfulness restored my faith to solid ground.
Making a choice
Dealing with shaken faith is difficult. We get a choice when our faith gets shaken. We can head down the path to find our way back to God and His strength. Or we can choose to give up on Him. No matter the situation, don’t give up on Him. Don’t question His blessings, His goodness or His faithfulness. Remember the cross. Remember how He gave His only Son for you to have eternal life with Him.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”John 3:16 (NIV)
While your faith may be shaken, your God is not. He is ever faithful and true. Talk to Him. Take a step toward Him and He will come running to meet you. It may take time, but He is working on and for you. He loves you, and He will help you move from shaky faith to solid ground.