I wake up each morning to emotions that you’d hardly describe as bright and sunshine-y. How an emotion like emptiness can carry so much of weight is beyond me. Most mornings I’m too groggy to ponder such oxymorons anyway. I reach for my phone and open up the two ‘Bible Verse of the Day’ apps installed on it. As I do so, I feel both quiet hope and desperation that maybe today’s verses will speak to me, that maybe today’s verses will feel like answers to the multitude of questions and anxieties I have. Sometimes they do. They really, really do. I can’t describe the elation of realizing that God sent me these messages of assurance. You’d think that the rest of my day would be a breeze, because hey, God spoke to me. You’d think that, but you’d be wrong.
Time for a little background. Good family, good friends, good career. Leads a highly functional life. This personality evolved from someone who experienced crippling anxiety and loneliness while growing up, but perhaps that’s a God-centered story for another day. So anyway, why wake up to emptiness? Well, there are certain areas of my life (aka romantic relationships, *eyeroll*) that simply are stagnant, and have been for as long as I’ve lived. Heartbreaks, rejections, tear-stained pillows, the incessant “what’s wrong with me?”– you name it, I’ve got a story for it. Enough stories to write a mini-series, in fact.
Back to the Bible Verse of the Day. Some days I’ve had Proverbs 16:9 pop up – “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps” (NIV). Appropriate for a broken heart, right? It’s beautiful and it’s simple – God’s will over my own, because anything less would be sub-standard. I carry this message of hope, this promise of goodness with me for as long as I can. But often, the comfort doesn’t last too long.
There are so many triggers that cause me to backpedal and lose the comfort that God gifted me. Simple things, nothing too dramatic. A colleague sharing a wedding invite. Yet another dead-end with someone I met on a dating app. Watching a video of a cute kid on YouTube, knowing fully well that I’m not even close to starting my own family. When these triggers occur, Proverbs 16:9 is the last thing on my mind, and I lose myself in the darkness of loneliness and self-doubt. God provided me comfort, then tested my faith, and I failed because I doubted and indulged in a few minutes of wallowing.
I know that relapsing is perfectly normal human behavior. Not ideal, far from ideal. But it is normal. God’s words to us can sometimes feel so far away. I can know that He is with me, but at the same time, I cannot tangibly feel His arms around me when I desperately need to be held. It does not mean that His words are untrue. Our doubt only means that we are weak in our humanity, as we are meant to be. Weak in humanity, but strong in divinity. Our shaky faith stems from the fact that we are imperfect beings who struggle to remember God’s promises when the realities of the world threaten to overwhelm. It can be embarrassingly easy to forget His goodness, trust me.
I used to feel shame at how easily I fail these little tests of faith. Used to beat myself up and find it laughable to think that God could still provide for me, after all the times I’ve ignored or refused His solace. Over time though, I’ve learned to be kinder to myself, as He would want me to be. So now when my faith starts to waver, I read the Bible. This sustains me until my next bout of sadness. Then I switch on a Christian meditation and feel better at the end of it. When this ceases to sustain me, I play my favorite hymns as loud as I can. See the pattern here? Fall, then go back to God. Fall again if you must, but go back to God. Do this as many times as is necessary. He is what is common throughout, He is all that is unchanging. He is ever ready to provide us reinforcement and rejuvenation.
Look at the Psalms. There are passages of sorrow and passages of joy. Sorrow, joy. Fall, go back to God. Psalm 94:18 captures this beautifully – “When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your unfailing love, Lord, supported me” (NIV).
It doesn’t make us any less of a Christian to fall. We are instead defined by how we respond, and whom we turn to in the midst of hardships. We are Christians when we leverage the privileges of unending mercy and unfounded peace that God has gifted us.
At this point in my life, I do not know how to have steely faith. The kind that only accepts and never questions. For now, my faith is a work in progress. For now, I’ll go back to Him, my faithful friend, every single time that I falter. I will not stay away from Him for too long though, or drift too far away. And I’ll look forward to that precious day when I’m strong enough to stay put, unwaveringly, with Him.
Imelda was born a Christian and has always lived a church-going life. It wasn’t until recently, though, that God placed an intense desire in her heart to truly know and serve Him. While she figures out her calling, she enjoys writing about her own Christ-centric experiences and sharing them in the hope that someone out there reads them and thinks, “Oh, I can relate to this!”
I just wanted to comment on the byline or the Bio at the end of the post entitled “Fall, then Return to God”. For fear of being misunderstood, I am not trying to be controversial or argumentative. I just want you to understand (if you don’t know already, and perhaps I’m misunderstanding you) that no one is ever “born” into this world a Christian. In fact, it is quite the opposite. When we come into this world we are born spiritually dead (Romans 5:12) and in need of life; the saving life of Jesus Christ. It’s only when we put our trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ, plus nothing, that we can truly be born again; made fully alive in Christ. Again, I hope this isn’t taken as cynicism but as true concern. Thank you.