It can be frustrating and scary how often I find myself in seasons of dryness, dullness, and doubt. It’s frustrating because I feel in my heart of hearts I want to believe and treasure the Gospel. Why, I impatiently wonder, won’t my feelings follow my will? Scary, because it feels like my Christian life is often more characterized by wanting to love the Gospel, than an actual experience of loving the Gospel. What does that say about me?
There’s a voice inside that tells me: ‘You feel dry and dull because you don’t actually love the Gospel. You doubt because you don’t actually believe the Gospel. You’re just afraid to admit it. You can’t admit it because you have too much at stake, don’t you? But if you love and believe Jesus, then why do you have to try so hard to find joy in Him?’
What do I tell that voice when it comes? After all, isn’t it right? I’ve been a Christian for so many years, shouldn’t I be better by now? Shouldn’t I trust him more? Why does my faith still feel so fragile? Why do I still have to write posts like this?
If the thought of enduring your marriage or lack of marriage for the rest of your life is daunting, it is because God doesn’t hand out grace in a lifetime supply. He provides it one day at a time. If you feel like God has not given you the capacity to love your spouse for a lifetime, that’s because he hasn’t. But he has given you exactly what you need to be loving today. Furthermore, God has not given celibates the grace to bear a lifetime of solitude. But he will give you what you need to make it through this day.
…God will give us what we need, but he will not give it to us until we need it. He didn’t give the Israelites enough food to last through forty years in the wilderness; he gave them manna one day at a time. None of us has a lifelong stockpile of grace, but we can look forward to God’s faithfulness over a lifetime, offered to us one day at a time.
The quote mostly refers to difficulties with singleness and marriage, but I’ve found it helpful and practical in seasons of doubt and dryness.
Those terrible questions–‘Do you really love? Do you really believe?’ rest on the assumption that genuine faith should always come naturally and effortlessly. If something is truly beautiful, compelling, and true, the logic goes, you wouldn’t have to strain to be amazed. You would just be amazed. And if you aren’t, then it’s probably not that beautiful, compelling, and true or you at least don’t really believe that it is. There’s no room for a faith that cries out ‘I believe; help my unbelief’.
But what if there is value in the pleading? What if there is something worthwhile and beautiful in coming day by day, hour by hour, and asking God for daily bread to love and trust him?
Perhaps weak faith which leads us to desperate prayer places us in God’s story, not outside of it. Perhaps Christian maturity will look different than I first thought. I always imagined that being mature meant hopping out of bed with a heart full of affection for God, ready to dive into his word and praise him through prayer–to have a lifetime supply of faith, if you will, to use the language of the article. And yes, there are seasons of that. But there are also seasons, when you wake up with a heart full of uncertainty and heaviness. Days when you have to drag yourself out of bed and sigh, ‘Lord, please help me. Please give me just enough to make it through this day still following after you’. We hope for seasons of blessing; but in seasons of dryness, perhaps we need not doubt our closeness to him. He has a way of working powerfully through them.
Why does God give us just enough to make it through the day? Why does he want us to ask for our daily bread? Because our great sin is our self-dependence; our self-exaltation; our desire to be free and independent from Him. If faith always came easily, we might be tempted to forget him and stop praying. And so, God, in his wisdom, sometimes makes it difficult to believe and trust. He makes plead so we might remember, as John Newton so poignantly writes:
‘These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free
And break thy schemes of earthly joy
That thou mayest seek thy all in me’
I’ve been trying something new in my journal recently called ‘Daily Bread’ where I write down evidences of God’s grace that remind me that, even when I’m discouraged, he is still sustaining me day by day, always giving me just enough. Here are some of the scattered highlights from the past few weeks:
- God’s grace in impressing on my heart verses from my devotions and enabling me to hold on to them: Proverbs 1:7 ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom‘ and Philippians 1:21 ‘To live is Christ and to die is gain‘ .
- Going to class, on a day when I felt spiritually low, and providentially hearing many encouraging verses (John 6: ‘To whom shall I go, you have the words of eternal life?‘ Proverbs 2:4-5, Matthew 9)
- The chance to share my testimony with a friend and remember the weight of God’s faithfulness in my life. The chance to hear another friend preach the simple Gospel and the grace to listen well. A good conversation with friends about difficult subjects.
- And much more…
We’ll see if it becomes a permanent fixture in my journaling (or if my journaling becomes a more permanent fixture in my life). But so far, it’s been helpful to see that in a season where my faith often feels nonexistent, God is still actively holding and keeping me day by day.
As I close, I highly highly recommend listening to this sermon on prayer. It’s probably one of my favorite if not my favorite sermon from Pastor Peter. And while I don’t reference it much in this post, it’s had a powerful effect one me these past few months and on this post. Plus it’s full of epic quotes like ‘I hope nothing good happens to you until you pray’ and ‘You don’t need to pray to get a job!’ that deserve whole blog posts on their own. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to revisit it in the future!
If you’re a reader of the blog, please pray for me! You might have noticed that I’m trying to write more (once every 3 weeks), but it’s humbling because I already feel like I’m running out of things to say and the conviction with which to say them. As I continue to wrestle with issues of faith and doubt, I don’t want to glorify the struggle itself. There’s no use to wrestling in a public forum if all I have is questions. But I’m learning as I write and writing as I learn that God’s grace is sufficient in weakness and that he can work through doubt, even though I’m not always sure how. Pray that this blog would be helpful.
And let me know how I can pray for you!
Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:9-13)