I didn’t know how to respond. I was in shock hearing my mentor say, “I don’t believe that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior anymore. I don’t believe in atonement for sins. I think Jesus was a great guy who got killed by a bunch of bad guys.” This from a man who poured his life into mine, showed me the face of God, and took me under his wing.
It had been about a year since we had last spoke, and I knew he had gone through trials no man should ever have to go through. It was good to hear his voice and catch up, but our conversations were never really fluffy or congenial. They have always cut to a depth that most people would be afraid of.
In that conversation we got down to the nitty-gritty within minutes. My heart broke as I heard him recount his abandonment of his evangelical faith, his denial of his identity in the body of Christ. His zeal for the lost was gone. He didn’t believe people were lost anymore. He had once tended a flock with care and compassion, bringing many lost sheep back into the fold with their Father, and now he had left the flock for an unknown pasture.
How does someone who is giving 110 percent to the cause of Christ run the opposite direction? How does one let go of the love and grace that was known so intimately? How does God let this happen?
I didn’t sleep much that night after the phone call. I tossed and turned with many prayers, thoughts, concerns and memories. If he could up and walk away, could I fall and do the same? The thought haunted me. I can say right now I don’t think I could deny Christ’s grip on my life. But then I think about Peter. He walked and talked and truly loved Jesus for three years, and yet did not stand even when warned of his failure. He was able to deny three times in the presence of the Son of Man.
Much lesser circumstances have seen many people deny the truth. I can think of a number of friends who at one point had an unbridled zeal but somewhere down the road the passion faded. One because of the tragic loss of his best friend. Another because of a church’s attacks. One friend walked away just because she didn’t feel like being a Christian anymore. When I start to think of the long list of people no longer committed, my heart aches. I want to cry for my once close brothers and sisters, and for my own weak self.
To remain in grief, however, would in itself be a denial of God’s ownership of me. He bought me with a price, and there are no refunds on this sale. Not only have I been purchased completely, I have also been transformed into something much greater. The Master’s hands have carefully worked me into a beautiful, useful vessel. A vessel full of hope. He is my strength. He is my source. If I think for a second I can step outside that, I am grossly mistaken. Nonetheless, sometimes the fire fades. So what do you do when that happens?
First, know that God is always pursuing us. He will never leave us nor forsake us. He sent Christ; we didn’t make our way into heaven to find Him. We may not “feel” Him around, especially during trials and tribulations. “Feeling” God is a beautiful thing, but not necessarily a given. Think about the Israelites during the Babylonian captivity or waiting for the Messiah. Most of them probably thought God had utterly forgotten them and left them out to dry with a bunch of empty promises, if they even believed He existed. Little did they know what we know now. We may not feel it, but always know He’s there.
Second, be real. It’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to go through trials. We tend to learn the most from the hard times, not the good ones. The church today often paints a picture that only happy warm good things occur in the world. Fuzzy bunnies and pretty flowers and smiles and you get the point. We don’t want to deal with cancer, divorce, eating disorders and everything else that makes us sad. But that’s all still there. Ignoring it won’t make it go away. Running from the pain won’t help.
Third, if the fire is gone but you want it back, be encouraged that you have that desire. The desire to get back to where you were is a gift in and of itself. It’s the planted seed waiting to be sprung forth. I went through a rough year where it seemed the world around me was crumbling away. I faced broken relationships, depression, bitterness and resentment, lost friends, and my faith suffered. I was on the edge of walking away, but I always knew I wanted to be back where I was. I knew I wanted to have a zeal for God. He took that little spark and kept working away until I came out of hibernation. I’m richer now for having gone through the desert. And I can see now how my faith is deeper than my circumstances, it’s woven through the core of my innermost being. He did it with the little resident desire to be back with Him.
If you have never struggled with a loss of passion, you will. There will be a day where you will have to wander around in the desert, feeling lonely and alone. The bad news: that day will come. The good news: it will pass. When it does, you’ll be richer, stronger and more satisfied. You’ll have a greater understanding of what it means to live for Christ, a greater appreciation of all He’s done, and a rekindled flame to be about His business.