I said I’d tell you whole story (or as much as I know) of how my joy and confidence in God died. So here it is:
I can’t tell you for certain when it began, perhaps it started before I was aware, but it was the Spring of 2009 when I first noticed a feeling of discouragement.
I was meeting with an older girl for one to one bible studies, and they were lovely, but I felt like all I was doing was learning bible facts. I remember mentioning to her that
“I know all this stuff about God, but I feel as though my heart [or subconscious] doesn’t believe it.”
I knew that my head believed that God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, but when I messed up again and again, I found that my heart was convinced that God was angry with me and would soon give up on me.
Do you know how it is? You learn that God says drunkenness is bad, and you have all these good intentions, but the next thing you know you’re waking up with your face stuck to a table. And then the guilt rises up and you try to avoid God for a while; you punish yourself in your own mind until you feel like you can crawl back to Him and confess. But every time it happens you feel less able, less worthy, to seek forgiveness.
(Drunkenness wasn’t my weakness though. For me it was sexual immorality. Strangely enough, an outsider would look at me and see a prude. I even managed to remain a virgin until I was married. But my conscience, thanks to an entire childhood of reading the bible, gave me very close boundaries when it came to anything sexual. Basically the only thing I wanted to allow myself do with a guy before I was married was kiss. Seriously.¹ But I consistently found myself straying outside of the boundaries with my non-Christian boyfriend (I know, I know), and if he hadn’t had self-control we would have gone all the way. So my guilt and shame was multiplying like crazy.)
Well, instead of realising that I was never able and never worthy to seek forgiveness from God; instead of seeing His incredible grace in opening my eyes to my sin and forgiving me once and for all and welcoming me into His family, I fell away from Him.
Very slowly at first, but increasing in speed until I was in the depths of despair by the summer of 2011.
By 2011 a whole lot had changed for the better…to all appearances. But on the inside, things were drastically different. I had broken up with my boyfriend, found a Christian guy and married him. But by then a whole new guilt had set in, one I alluded to in my previous post: guilt for my uselessness. For two years I had been hearing the same message from my church: if you believe in Jesus, you should be sharing the gospel; if you love Jesus, you should be sharing His love with others; if you don’t share with others, they will go to hell, and it’ll be your fault. Ok, so maybe it was more subtle and kind than that, but still, the message that was burying itself in my heart was: If you don’t share the gospel you are useless to God; He is ashamed of you; you obviously don’t really love Him.
Eventually this message warped itself even more and drove me to utter despair. And it seemed so logical:
If you really loved God, you wouldn’t keep sinning and you’d share the gospel;
If you’re not doing these things, then maybe God has cast you away from Him;
He promised never to cast anyone out, so maybe you never belonged to Him in the first place;
If you were never saved, then your whole life and relationship with God has been a lie and…
God never loved you.
By the summer of 2011 I was still praying, and praying desperately; I was reading Christian non-fiction books that taught about God’s unending love; I was going to church and trying to read the Bible. But my heart was finally believing something: that God did not love me, and there was nothing I could do to change that.
To be continued…
¹ If I went back in time, I would actually still keep my boundaries where they were. I think people should save all of the fun sexual stuff for marriage. But I’d also tell my younger self all sorts of very wise things that said younger self wouldn’t believe or take any notice of.