There have been 3 or 4 times over the years when I have been ready to give up my faith.
I have walked away from God, not prayed, not read the bible, not gone to church.
I have made a conscious choice to live a godless life.
There have been different reasons why; life circumstances, emotional responses and intellectual questions.
This has gone on for weeks and on one occasion, months, at a time.
I share this with you because I think it’s important that as Christians we are real with one another.
It isn’t all mountain-top moments and seamless travel from glory into glory. Being a Christian can be hard, and sometimes we are left peering over the edge.
The last time this happened to me was about 3 months ago. I won’t bore you with the details, but it would be fair to say I was making pretty concrete exit plans. I even got as far as sharing how I was feeling with a couple of close friends.
It didn’t stick.
Francis Thompson called God The Hound of Heaven in his remarkable poem of the same title, and I’ve found that to be a very apt description.
Whenever I’ve decided to walk away from God, there’s always been something (or someone) pulling me back.
He’s done it through the Bible, through my friends and through my thoughts and feelings.
His grace is irresistable.
On the most recent occasion I began walking away, I experienced a God-given dream for the first time in my life. God literally jolted me out of my sleep in the middle of the night. This dream was vivid, visceral and real in a way I’ve never experienced before. I have no doubt it was God calling me back.
The skeptics among you will probably just say I convinced myself to return to faith because I was scared of the alternative, because I didn’t have the courage to follow through on my conviction, or perhaps my subconscious couldn’t cope with the change, but that wasn’t the case.
Life isn’t the same without God. Life isn’t as good without God. It isn’t complete.
Jesus said he came to bring life in all its fullness (John 10:10) and I can testify to that.
So often the Christian faith is portrayed as an escape route from hell, and heaven to look forward to in the future, but when we read the words of Jesus, it’s so clear that he believed the Kingdom of God was for living in the here and now.
This is why when I walked away from Him, it felt like a core part of my life was missing. My life was no longer being lived as it was intended to be. This is also why when I returned I felt joy, relief and fulfilment.
I’m sure many of you can identify with these experiences and can tell a similar story.
If, on the other hand, you have chosen to be far from God at the moment, the life-affirming, liberating truth is that he is waiting for you to return with his arms wide open. There is no judgement, no condemnation, no cold shoulder.
He loves you and He says to you…..
“…Rise, clasp My hand, and come!”