How to Grow in Faith or Why can't I believe?

Discussion in 'Faith, Devotion & Formation' started by Ide, Jun 23, 2015.

  1. Ide

    Ide Active Member

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    Hello Everyone,

    I have been visiting my local Episcopal church for nearly year and I've gotten to know the priests and congregation fairly well. I have also visited other churches in my area to learn more about their practices, worship styles etc... including ACNA, Orthodox and Roman Catholic. I've even thought of visiting a "praise band" Evangelical church just to see what it's like (not my cup of honestly, but I'm willing to learn!).

    But, I am having trouble finding any faith. I visited during Easter and saw people so in love with God and Jesus that they were silently crying during the service. I haven't been able to feel anything similar. It's as though I am calling out for a connection to God and nothing ever happens. I tried praying for a while and never felt what anything, so I stopped. There are all these accounts by Christians that God "speaks" to their heart, or they are comforted by Jesus but I've never experienced anything of the sort.

    Why can't I have faith like other people? I really want to believe in God & Jesus Christ, but nothing ever comes. I will readily admit that I am a strong skeptic by nature, so this has been a challenge for me. Does God bless some people with faith and not others? I feel really left out because nothing seems to change. I realize faith is not a switch that I can turn off or on, but I feel like I've not been able to connect to God or the Holy Spirit at all. Because I can't have faith I feel like salvation doesn't apply to me- I can't believe in Jesus Christ so how can I possibly become a Christian?
     
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  2. Alkayus

    Alkayus New Member

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    I am sure there are those here who can help you far better than I, but I would like to try in my own little way if I may:
    One thing I have learned is a great place to find many things to help us along the way is in the Psalms. In the Psalms, you can find a Psalm for every situation you may find yourself in, whether its doubt, anger, joyfulness, etc. It is reassuring that even someone like King David, chosen by God, had the same issues as all of us. The Psalms have been the prayerbook and even prayer-instruction-guide since the beginning of the Church. If I may suggest, please take some time to sit with these two Psalms, read them, reflect on them, read them aloud from your heart as if you wrote them yourself:

    “The Lord bless you and keep you;
    The Lord make His face shine upon you,
    And be gracious to you;
    The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
    And give you peace.”
     
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  3. anglican74

    anglican74 Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I can't help but feel that the skepticism might be getting in the way.

    One of the most important teachings from Jesus as pertains those of us with a skeptical bent is, that we ought to be childlike when it comes to religion. Not childish, he was careful to say, but childlike. Faith simply cannot work if you subject it to the same pattern as all the other things in life, and somehow he knew this back then, two thousand years ago. He taught that we must come as children to God, and children are the model for what a relationship with God looks like.

    There are two ways to go from such a message: an angry rebuttal followed by a storming out, as practiced today by skeptics and liberal Christians who pride themselves on being adult, with a grown-up faith which yet strangely leads them to apostasy and atheism anyway. Or, a true profound child-like revolution in one's heart when approaching God, whom we meet in his holy temple and his holy church. This revolution would alter the way we receive the Sacrament, and the way we hear preaching and read scripture which goes from being a bookish artifact firmly planted in a delimited historical context, to a limitless treasury full of golden gems, leading (in time) to limitless joy of a character that is inaccessible to a skeptic.
     
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  4. Ide

    Ide Active Member

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    Alkayus,

    Thank you for the resource and suggestion. I've not used the Psalms much in my prayers. In fact, I only read them when they were part of the collect for the day. The Bible is so filled with content, it's hard to know where to start exploring sometimes. I also return to the BOCP for guidance and structure as well.
     
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  5. Ide

    Ide Active Member

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    I agree with you regarding the skepticism. It is is a major factor in my struggle. However, what I have to emphasize that it's not something that I choose to have, it's just a part of how I approach anything in the world. I am always questioning and doubting whatever I encounter- I don't take anything at face value. It's not an intentional decision but a fundamental way of seeing the world. Much like if someone is an introvert or an extrovert, I suppose.

    I also think that for people with faith in God it's difficult to understand why some people can't or don't have faith. It is not a personal choice per se, but a feature of how I see the world which is deeply ingrained in my heart and mind. It would be as if I asked why a Christian can't believe in Zeus or Odin- they may be intellectually familiar with the religious mythology but can't muster any faith in those figures. It's completely foreign to their way of thinking and world view.

    Perhaps you perceive people as giving angry rebuttals because that desired faith never comes for them. I know it hasn't for me and it's disappointing. It's difficult to keep hoping something shifts or moves in your heart, but there is just silence. Everyone else receives a treasure of faith and confidence in God, yet we are left out of that group. I find that the central Christian message of the existence of God and His love for you on a individual level is too difficult to believe in- my heart just doesn't feel any confidence in this at all. I have prayed for God to help me with this, but nothing has changed.

    Thank you for your comments and insight. I do appreciate your feedback.
     
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  6. Alkayus

    Alkayus New Member

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    If I may make another suggestion which I believe will help, and has helped me in the past (I am very much like yourself to tell the truth): Go to Youtube and search for Ravi Zacharias. He is an amazing apologist, extremely knowledgeable and logical. Here are three to start with:

    Why The Bible?
    The Truth of Christianity
    Need God? What if I Don't?
     
  7. ChristusResurrexit

    ChristusResurrexit Member

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    You seem to be making faith a feeling, which it is certainly not! Feelings can come with it, but faith is knowing that God is there, and that he is loving you always! Whenever I have doubt's, I remember one thing in history that PROVES God! The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ! Read N.T Wrights book, "The Resurrection of the Son of God."

    The Resurrection of Jesus is basically proven by history. 75% of biblical scholars believe the empty tomb to be historical fact! The very story itself, of women finding the tomb is even more intruging. In that day, women's testimony's alone were not seen as valid. If you were going to make up a
    story like this, you would not have women find the tomb. Now, some people argue they stole the body. But, we know there were guards at the tomb, they were too cowardly. Plus, why would they want to make up a resurrection story? Jews believed the resurrection would happen at the end of time, there was never any theology that said the messiah would die and rise. You see, in those days, if your messiah died... you went home or just got a new one. Nobody would say theirs rose. That would seem crazy to everyone! You could say they had hallucinations, but this does not explain the empty tomb. And the Romans could have easily went to Jesus's tomb, took out his dead body, and dragged it through the streets or something to prove that the disciples were either lying or just crazy. But they didn't... because there was no body! He is risen!!! Another thing is, if we read 1 Corinthians 15 in Greek, it is clear it was an early creed. Most scholars date it within 6 MONTHS to about 5 years after the ressurection! Another factor is, most of the apostles died for their faith. Nobody is going to die for something they made up.

    There are so many other things proving it, the resurrection is basically considered historical fact even by the greatest skeptics! Just keep praying man, and let God guide you. God answers our prayers in a lot of different ways. Also, if you want philosophical arguments for God, just read Thomas Aquinas.
     
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  8. Alkayus

    Alkayus New Member

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    Amen, Brother
     
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  9. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps Evelyn Waugh has been one of the most helpful for me in his book Helena. This is speaking of the journey of the Maji

    “This is my day,” she thought, “and these are my kind.”

    Perhaps she apprehended that her fame, like theirs, would live in one historic act of devotion; that she too had emerged from a kind of ουτοπια or nameless realm and would vanish like them in the sinking nursery fire-light among the picture-books and the day’s toys.

    “Like me,” she said to them, “you were late in coming. The shepherds were here long before; even the cattle. They had joined the chorus of angels before you were on your way. For you the primordial discipline of the heavens was relaxed and a new defiant light blazed among the disconcerted stars.

    “How laboriously you came, taking sights and calculations, where the shepherds had run barefoot! How odd you looked on the road, attended by what outlandish liveries, laden with such preposterous gifts!

    “You came at length to the final stage of your pilgrimage and the great star stood still above you. What did you do? You stopped to call on King Herod. Deadly exchange of compliments in which there began that unended war of mobs and magistrates against the innocent!

    “Yet you came, and were not turned away. You too found room at the manger. Your gifts were not needed, but they were accepted and put carefully by, for they were brought with love. In that new order of charity that had just come to life there was room for you too. You were not lower in the eyes of the holy family than the ox or the ass.

    “You are my especial patrons,” said Helena, “and patrons of all late-comers, of all who have had a tedious journey to make to the truth, of all who are confused with knowledge and speculation, of all who through politeness make themselves partners in guilt, of all who stand in danger by reason of their talents.

    “Dear cousins, pray for me,” said Helena, “and for my poor overloaded son. May he, too, before the end find kneeling-space in the straw. Pray for the great, lest they perish utterly. And pray for Lactantius and Marcias and the young poets of Trèves and for the souls of my wild, blind ancestors; for their sly foe Odysseus and for the great Longinus.

    “For His sake who did not reject your curious gifts, pray always for the learned, the oblique, the delicate. Let them not be quite forgotten at the Throne of God when the simple come into their kingdom.”
     
  10. SirPalomides

    SirPalomides Active Member

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    "Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief." You really want to believe... where does that come from? There is something deep within you, that you cannot quite grasp, which draws you to Christ. There are many skeptical people who decide to "play it safe" and err on the side of unbelief. You aren't one of them. You may not get the gift of tears, or a voice in the heart, or a clear and fervent faith, but you have nonetheless the inclination, in your heart, to come to Christ in a way that is meaningful and not superficial. You recognize how difficult it is to believe; that's good! A lot of people make an intellectual assent to doctrines but they never take root in the heart, and they never recognize this as a problem. I don't think skepticism will go away; it may recede, it may change, but it may always be a challenge for you, as everyone has some challenge. It may in fact be a gift, preserving you from a superficial religiosity. It is with God's help, and not your own will, that you can come to faith. The good news is He is already helping you. You don't feel you are connecting with the Holy Spirit, but in fact the Holy Spirit is already working within you to bring you closer to Him.
     
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  11. zimkhitha

    zimkhitha Active Member

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    May I respectfully suggest that you try a structured and quiet prayer routine? This worked a lot for me. After coming back to the Anglican Church from Pentecostalism, I was struggling a bit because I was used to the noise and theatrics that tend to mark a pentecostal's prayer life (no ill intention here). When my sister in law gave me her Rosary on her death bed, I decided to give it a try and my faith and spiritual life really transformed from then on. Prayer time transformed to meditation time. When I started out, I had days when I was dragging my feet but continued to honor my prayer time everyday UNTIL I started realizing that I was actually looking forward to my Rosary time. I don't pray much Rosary anymore now except incorporating some of its prayers into my own..but I still follow a structure.

    I hope you'll find the help you are looking for
     
  12. Ide

    Ide Active Member

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    Hello Everyone,

    Thank you for the thoughtful responses.This thread was quiet for sometime; I came back to check on it and was surprised by the new posts. I think that you have given me much to think and pray over. What many Christians don’t seem to realize is that appeals to historical evidence or philosophical arguments do little to nothing to help an unbeliever change his or her heart. There are just as many arguments for non-belief on the other side, and that seems to force belief squarely into the logic and reason camp- thinking that I can just switch it on or as though it were a math problem! Ultimately these are questions of feelings, trust, and faith. You can’t push and pull faith into your heart. Trust me if that was the case then I think I wouldn’t be having this conflict! I'm not trying to bash anyone, but merely offering a perspective from the other side- unbelief is difficult to explain to the faithful.

    I just want to address a few points in the responses here:


    I agree that it is God’s will. I have prayed to God to show me his path for me because, if it’s there, I can’t see it. At this point all I can do is turn it over to God and pray that he shows me how to move forward. I’m tired of being at a crossroads. I’ve stayed away from church for some time as I didn’t know how to proceed, but Sunday morning I felt such a strong urge to go that I could not ignore it. I was sitting up in the early morning feeling lost, a little down and waiting for the sun rise. I thought “is there anything to help my heart? Everything feels so dark”. Right as the thought came into my mind I heard a very clear answer of “the Eucharist” and immediately felt energized and determined to go to church. I have not been keeping up with Bible readings, so I had was amazed when the Gospel reading was:


    I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh." The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" So Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever." (John 6:51-58)

    I felt this joy erupt in me when I heard it read at service and was so happy I went to church. I was so grateful to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus. But, I feel that as soon as I have this experience, it departs and I don’t feel anything for long periods of time. It’s like being filled with light and then it just rushes back out again leaving me feeling empty. I don’t really know what any of this means as I’m so new to all of this! I suppose my confusion comes from meeting Christians who talk about how much faith they have and how God blesses them and they speak to God etc... it sounds kind of blasphemous to me, honestly. It always seemed presumptuous to brag about your faith and fortunes, and it made me feel like I could never be a Christian because I did not have that level of faith or trust.
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2015
  13. Ide

    Ide Active Member

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    I do have a rosary- an Anglican one- and maybe I should return to it. I think having tools and aids are helpful. I would always run into a train of thoughts “Why are you doing this? There’s no God. This is silly. Stop it! What?! You’re embarrassing yourself!” when I used mine. I suppose my motivation and conviction isn’t very strong!


    Someone also linked to Cradle of Prayer on this forum, and I’ve found that help too. I find the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox chanting to bypass my logical, thinking brain and it helps me see God’s beauty and bliss amidst the world.
     
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  14. zimkhitha

    zimkhitha Active Member

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    I'd like more info on the Cradle Of Prayer, if you happen to have the link. With prayer aids, I tend to only focus on what I'm doing and sort of shut out to anything else. Maybe there is some truth to positive confessions transforming us whether we believe what we say or not, as long as we say it often enough (just a thought).
     
  15. Ide

    Ide Active Member

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    Sure, here is the link to the main site for CoP:

    http://cradleofprayer.org/

    Weekly prayers:

    http://cradleofprayer.org/this-weeks-prayers/

    It's an amazing resource! I'm still learning how to use it and still feel pretty intimidated by using the BoCP daily for prayers. I feel like I still don't quite have the grasp of it yet. It's nice to sit back and listen to CoP because I love the solace and the guidance it provides.

    Yes, I understand what you are saying about prayer. Sometimes I wonder if I'm just talking to myself. I hear people say that God speaks to them... I have no idea what that means. I just know that there have been times when I've prayed or taken the Eucharist that I seem to forget myself and everything stops for just a moment. That rest is wonderful and restorative.

    As I've learned more about the Christian faith, I've come to see that there is so much "pop Jesus" or "pop church" that is just part of the culture and not really representative of the church's history or traditions. Working through that has been a challenge.
     
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  16. zimkhitha

    zimkhitha Active Member

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    Thank you very much! I will look at the website.
     

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