To lose one’s faith is all of the above because faith isn’t a thing, rather it is a relationship with God and a trust in the person of Jesus. Losing faith is in effect a form of bereavement and brings with it all the emotions of being separated from the One who loves us with an everlasting love.
Over the last couple of days I have been reminded to pray for those who have seemingly lost their faith because of the pandemic. Thy Kingdom Come, a global prayer initiative, asks us to pray for people to come to faith for the first time and importantly it encourages us to pray for those who have walked away from God, for whatever reason.
Suffering is often a key trigger for people turning their back on God and we have seen much suffering over the pandemic. Some cannot put a loving, powerful God who is always good alongside suffering in their own lives or suffering that exists in the world. Covid19 has merged personal and wider pain and loss, and for some this has shaken their faith.
Many years ago, I remember feeling physically attacked as my faith was rocked and shaken to its core. I felt lost, as if I had nothing upon which to stand and it was scary and upsetting. Weeks earlier someone had prayed with me, as part of a prayer event at my church. He shared a picture of a tree that was being buffeted and bent almost to breaking point by a violent wind. But he reassured me that the tree stood firm because of the deep complex roots under the ground. This was such a help to me in my time of personal anguish. I am so grateful that God went before me and gave me a picture to hold onto in that strange time.
Yesterday I listened to Rick and Kay Warren, founders of Saddleback Church in the US, as they spoke of clinging onto the goodness of God in times of personal tragedy. They shared wise words: life is hard, we were never promised that life would be easy and pain free, but we are promised that Jesus has overcome the world and Jesus is our ever present help in times of trouble. They counselled us to press into the presence of God, likening it to when friends rallied around them after the suicide of their son. These friends offered them love without words, they encircled them and stayed with them in their grief and this ministry of presence helped them enormously. How much more then will we be helped as we keep looking towards Jesus, who knew suffering and pain. Jesus promises us hope because he takes the broken things and restores them into something wholly wonderful.
Let us be encouraged or perhaps offer encouragement to someone else. Faith is often gritty and raw, but our hope in Jesus will never disappoint. When we feel depleted, let’s look to Jesus who completes us. Like the image of the labyrinth; even if you feel distant from God right now, turn and face him with eyes of a searching, hurting faith. Better to be looking towards Christ from afar, than to be close to the centre looking away.