Have you ever felt like your relationship with God isn’t quite what it should be?
If you’ve been in church for a while, or have ever taken time to think about your relationship with God at all — you probably have felt this way at some point.
It seems common for us to say and feel like our current Christian lives are somehow lacking. There can be many reasons for this — often valid ones. But sometimes we focus too much on these feelings of inadequacy and let them dominate our Christian lives more than they should.
I’ve struggled with this too.
Often it seems like my relationship with God was stronger and more passionate when I was younger. As a teen I was zealous and enthusiastic. I lost part of that somewhere on the way to my later 20s. My spiritual life has gone through various highs and lows over the years; yet I’ve always had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I’m not quite where I need to be. That I must somehow return to a certain level of enthusiasm I had before.
Now, we should always desire continued spiritual growth. But it’s unhealthy to perpetually doubt ourselves, idealize the past as an unattainable golden standard, and never be content with our progress and maturity. Instead, let’s learn to be content with where we are spiritually while striving to move forward even more.
Next time you feel like you’re lacking spiritually, maybe you legitimately do have some changes to make. Or maybe you just need to remember these points.
Your relationship with God changes over time.
Like any relationship (friendship, romance, etc.) your relationship with God changes over time, because you change as a person over time. You won’t always relate to God in the same way that you did before. This is not bad; it is just the nature of a relationship.
I recently told a friend about my concerns, that it had been a long time since the spiritual enthusiasm of my teen years. He said, “Teens can be on fire about anything.” And it’s true. For better or worse, there are many things that don’t excite me as much as they once did. This doesn’t mean I don’t care about those things; it simply has happened because I’m older and my emotions have mellowed out more compared to the excitement and vibrancy of youth. This happens naturally with age, and it does not necessarily mean that my relationship with God is broken or sub par in some way.
Our spiritual life shouldn’t be primarily based on feelings, anyway. Feelings are fleeting and subjective; they change over time. We shouldn’t doubt ourselves simply because our spiritual lives don’t feel like they once did. There are much better indicators of our spiritual maturity than feelings. For instance, are you spending time with God consistently? Are you obeying God and serving others? Have you grown in wisdom, discernment, humility, and love? In many cases, I can answer yes. While these works do not determine our salvation, they — not mere feelings — are good indicators of our growth over time.
God does not want you to wallow in guilt and doubt.
Oswald Chambers wrote, “The continual inner-searching we do in an effort to see if we are what we ought to be generates a self-centered, sickly type of Christianity, not the vigorous and simple life of a child of God.” God does not want us to be plagued by self-doubt or unreasonable expectations. He has instead called us to confident victory with assurance of His love.
When evaluating — or sometimes criticizing — our own spiritual lives, we must not idealize the past (Ecclesiastes 7:10). We must not idealize other Christians who appear to have it all together (because they don’t). We must not idealize imaginary, unrealistic standards of what the “perfect Christian” should be. God and the life He has called us to should be our only standards.
Furthermore, while we should always be striving to advance spiritually …
We should know and accept that we will never fully arrive in this life (Philippians 3:12).
There will always be room for more improvement and growth; our relationship with God will never be perfect. This fact should not be a source of undue guilt, but should instead motivate us to continue striving forward.
Let’s remember that salvation is based on faith alone, not on our own efforts. Our efforts cannot reach God. Let’s remember that God understands our flawed, finite natures. He does not expect unrealistic things from us. He is exceedingly patient with our growth, even if it’s sometimes slower than we’d like. Let’s not look down on ourselves without cause, because that is not how God sees us.
Please don’t misunderstand my point. Certainly, there are times when we need to improve our relationships with God, and then our feelings of guilt or wrongness can be helpful. If we are habitually sinning or lacking diligence somehow, then there truly are changes that need to be made. I’m not saying we never need to improve spiritually.
Rather, I’m saying that we should not wallow in guilt or self-doubt just because we don’t feel “spiritual” enough or because our relationship with God may have changed over time from how it once was.
If you’re following God’s Word and living out what He has called you to, then it’s not His will for you to feel inferior or lacking.
We should instead confidently embrace the victory and wholeness God desires for us.