When your faith is up and down like a roller coaster, but trying harder doesn’t cut it

“I’ve been struggling with doubt.  Maybe not doubt, but I just don’t feel God’s presence like I did before.”

You might have said these words.  And if you haven’t said them, at least you’ve heard them.  And if you haven’t heard them, dear Christian, open the door, go outside, and talk to someone about faith.

The ups-and-downs are a part of it.

(Photo credit: Olfert)

One minute I feel intimately connected with the Divine, but I’ll get so distracted in the next that I might as well have forgotten that God exists.

Throughout my ministry I’ve walked alongside many believers struggling to cope with the roller-coaster-ride of faith.  I’ve also heard quite a few answers; most of which simply suggest that we try harder, remove anything in our lives that displeases God, and give ourselves more fully to the daily practices of reading and prayer.

These are essential components to the life of faith, for sure, but they aren’t everything.  As often as “try harder” might lead someone toward a deeper faith, a few changes in perspective are often all that’s needed.  Those experiencing the up-and-down of faith might consider these:

1. Sometimes We’re Given Just Enough.

Jesus didn’t always hang out with his disciples.  Certain moments that he spent with them were powerful, others were intimate, but they didn’t stay at his feet 24/7.  Jesus sent them out.  By themselves.

Moses left the mountain.  He would climb to the top and hold conference with the Almighty, but he always came back down.

And maybe our moments with God are similar – the meaningful ones give us just enough to go out from Jesus, or come off of the mountain, and “do life.”  Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe (John 20:29).  Maybe the dips, valleys, and silence of heaven are God’s ways of building up our faith and letting us use it.

2. Everything is Spiritual.

On the other hand, “regular life” is a lie.  If God is everywhere (and is bigger than the universe), then perhaps our entire reality is taking place inside of God.  The world isn’t God… but it’s located in God.

Therefore, everything is spiritual.  Everything matters.  Maybe some of the things that we think disconnect us from God are doing just the opposite.  Life itself is a gift from the Creator;  so much so that Paul can say any action, even eating and drinking, can participate in God.  Sometimes the roller-coaster ride only feels like one.

So the next time the g-force of a constantly twisting, climbing, dipping faith builds up that pressure on your chest… check yourself and see to it that you remember God sometimes gives you just enough to keep you going and that even your seemingly “regular life” is spiritual.

Allen Marshall O'Brien

Allen Marshall O’Brien is the pastor of a UCC church in Northern California and co-host of the Irenicast. He believes in the importance of education, peace, and ecology, throws things to his border collie Sonata, and writes for multiple platforms.

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  • Griffin Paul Jackson

    I like this. I think it’s also good to remember that even when we are in a valley or feel alone, prayer is powerful. Jesus prayed for Peter when he was at a very low point: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for you, that your faith will not fail.”

    Jesus prays for us. And, hopefully, the body of Christ, too.

  • I’ve been struggling with depression for over five years, much of it suicidal, and my experiences with God have been very limited. Even the few times I thought I felt God sometimes feel like an illusion. I consider myself a believer in Jesus, but I wish I would hear his voice.

    • I’m not going to pretend to know what you’re going through, but depression is terrible. I’m sorry.

      Have you talked to anyone about it?

      • Thank you for your concern, man. Yeah, I have been getting help. I have some good friends as well. I had an attempt three years ago… that was a very dark time. I became a Christian just a little over a year ago, and I think it’s helped a lot. I really do believe that my depression is an attack from Satan. I try to remember that God loves me. I have a blog that goes into more details if you’re interested.

      • Just click on my name and it’ll take you to my blog, liberalmuffin.

    • Bella

      Don’t give up, and don’t under estimate the power of prayer! I did suffer from depression but the Lord kept me going! Please listen to teachings and read the bible regularly don’t let the enemy take your joy and life! Once you get back on track with the Lord you will discover how much lies the enemy was telling you!

  • Kenny

    Faith and Love are choices ,we dont choose our feelings we just feel them. As we mature we dont let our feelings rule our choices that is a sign of Adolescent behavior . Your Growing up Allen thats a good thing.