I got an email today from a young youth minister. Got any words of wisdom that you would share for him as he helps this young lady?
“I had a question and answer time last wednesday where the kids could ask any question Bible related they wanted to. i received a question which said, “I pray and read my Bible and everything but i just do not feel like God is close to me right now. I do not want to lose my faith but I do not know what to do. It just seems like God is closer to the less faithful people right now than me. What should I do?”
I do not want her to stray. She is a great person, and I want to help her. Are there any books I could recommend to her that we could read together? Or maybe something I can do with her like a service project to help respark her faith? It has been on my heart to do something to help her; I just do not know what.”
Here is what some said:
Sam said: Awesome question! I think If I were in this youth leaders shoes I would be looking for help to.
In an assessment I think this girl really just verbalized what we all have experienced or experience. I do not think there is a concrete answer to give this girl that will satisfy her fear of losing her faith. The Christian faith is paradoxical. So much so that the very thing we choose to believe in demands our lives and we will not figure out whether or not it is true until we die. Scary!
A student asking this is awesome! There is no better opportunity to help a student grow and deepen their faith than this. She is teachable and ready to learn. She created her own disequilibrium which turned this whole issue into an intrinsic issue. She is the motivator.
Trust is important. Make sure there is a trust relationship. This girl seems young if not physically she is in her faith. I gather this because she bases her relationship with God off of feelings. She wants to feel God in a tangible way. It is important to help her think. She needs to be given opportunities to get deeper. I would tell this youth minister to not try and give her an answer to help her not be fearful of losing faith but instead help her to ask more questions. This is a great opportunity to dive in the gospels to try and figure out what it proclaims about the validity of God and Jesus as Messiah. This would be a great time to ask her questions like: What caused you to believe in God in the first place? What do you mean by God being close to you? Why are you afraid to lose your faith? Why do you feel like those less dedicated to God are closer to him? Does God tell us anything that helps us know him better? “There is many more. These came off the top of my head.”
Its easy to want to give answers to students when they ask because we desire to help them. However, it is important to return the ball to their court when they throw it into ours. Its their faith not anybody else’s. One day this girl will be in the real world and be in need of the tools to defend her faith in the elements of a tasty pagan world.
Feelings are based out of thoughts. We need to be a people of discernment. I would encourage this youth minster to find ways to feed her curiosity while giving her a safe place to learn and ask questions. Don’t give her the answers to her questions like free candy. Help her to answer her own questions. Journey with her and watch her discover. Stay dedicated and don’t become frustrated. God designed the abstract mind which she is choosing to use. God created doubt. We will never know the answer to everything because God designed it that way. Shower her with Love and give her opportunities to shine. Continually pray. Pray for guidance and remember to pray for the student.
Jaisi said: I think that I would first start off by thanking her for her honesty, and letting her know that the position she is in is not a bad one. Many others (including myself), have been there before; we do all the right things and “go through the motions,” but still we feel there is something missing. The thing to keep in mind is that God is always with us, just waiting for us to have that relationship with Him. Alot of times, it just feels like God is more apparent in the lives of those who are in a deep need, and even in our lives, God’s presence overpowers when we are in the deepest valleys. But we also come out of those valleys knowing that God never left us, and He never will. So i guess the ultimate advice I would give seems simple, to stay faithful, even when it feels like you are stagnant. And if her prayer life is still active, that is definately something she can be praying for; for the Holy Spirit to make Himself more abundant in her life.
Daniel said: Being a Christian doesn’t mean that you’re always gonna have that “feeling”. It’s about faith. We all get those “feelings” when we sing our favorite worship song, or someone prays for us out loud, but it’s not about that. It seems like she is expecting something from God each time she reads or prays. We just gotta have faith and trust that He is working.
Kyle said: I’m only a short way into the book, but Desiring God by John Piper might be a good one to read together. This is something that I think we all struggle with from time to time, but we need to remember that our relationship with God is not dictated by our feelings about him. God is. Period. That means that God is unchanging; he is always near to us. We will go through seasons where we can really feel his right hand holding us up, and we will go through seasons when he seems distant. But the only thing that changes is our perspective. We must realize that by the grace of Christ, we are in a perfect relationship with the Father. His grace holds us to himself. Whether he seems near or far, he has bought us by his blood and we are nearer to him that we are to ourselves. Remaining faithful in prayer and devotion is important, especially though the rough times. When this young lady finally feels the presence of God with her again, the pay off will be worth any sacrifice and hardship along the way. Hope that helps!
Steve said: I have tackled this issue twice during my internship once with my high school boys and the other with the jr. high boys. I would tell him that this is a very common issue among teens today. I have even struggled with it a time or two. One thing that I learned in one of my favorite classes at Lincoln, Prayer Practice and Spiritual Formation with J.K. is that it is okay to be angry with God and to quarrel with Him. Psalm 22 is a perfect example of this David the psalmist is struggling with feeling distant from God and then after talking it out with God understands that through it all God is still there and is still in control. It is okay to have these moments, these moments bring us closer on our journey with God. I believe that this is a lie that the enemy gives us. He tries to tell us that God is not there and that He does not care for us. However, we know that from Acts 2 the Spirit is now with us forever which means we always have God with us. The creator of the world lives inside of us at all times. Another good passage to use is Jeremiah 29:11-13 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” He is there it is simply a lie that He is not there and does not care for us all equally John 3:16 “For God so loved the WORLD that He sent His one and only Son to die on the cross, so that whoever believes in Him shall have eternal life.” God loves each and everyone of us equally and the way He displayed that on the cross is proof. I think the best of them all for this is Psalm 22 check it out in the message it has beautifully brilliant imagery throughout it and has definitely helped me teach the kids what it is like when we feel like God is million miles away. I pray that she begins to understand God’s love and how much He loves her. It is simply an amazing thing once we get a grasp of it. Hope this helps.
Will said: I would suggest Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby. The book seems perfectly tailored for people who are in a spiritual rut, and do not feel God’s presence. It teaches the reader to know more about God by strengthening their relationship to Him by looking for how he has been moving in their lives outside of prayer and reflection on scripture. Hope this helps!
I would say: Just because we don’t feel him doesn’t deny his existence. His desire is for us to grow… some of our best growth comes in the valleys when we realize we need him most. The Israelites were in Egypt for 430 yrs and they were crying out and crying out thinking that God didn’t hear their prayers; they couldn’t feel him. That didn’t mean that he wasn’t aware of their struggle.
I would explore Yancey’s works: Prayer is an awesome book. Read it together. Disappointed with God is another.
Let me conclude by saying this. I love it that she is questioning… that means that she is trying to adopt and grow her own faith. Keep creating that disequillibrium that is causing the students to ask great questions.