Often when we find ourselves in the position of having more time than money, this happens on the heels of a major life change such as an illness, death of a loved one, loss of a job, or decision to pursue a new path. Usually there’s a certain amount of stress involved in the process.
Think of a church council president, particularly one who has tried to lead the congregation through a tumultuous time. Ever noticed that after his or her term is over that person’s worship attendance often drops off? It’s almost like the former council officer goes into retreat. Perhaps there’s been precious little affirmation for the work done, or maybe some vicious barbs have even been slung. It’s not just rostered and ordained church leaders that take the heat and feel the weight of leadership. In fact, it’s no accident that James councils us to pray for one another (Jas 5:16) and Jesus admonishes us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Mt 5:44). Prayer is always the place to start–whatever life brings.
Maybe you are weighed down with grief. I think of families whose babies are either stillborn or are who face grave illnesses or congenital conditions. There may be weeks of tests, surgeries, procedures, glimmers of hope, many prayers offered, and then in spite of everything the infant dies. The love, the hope, the struggle leaves the parents, relatives, and friends awash in a dark sea of grief and questions. How can this be? Why does God allow such suffering? Where is God in this? The questions may not make theological sense, but they are asked from grief-laden hearts nonetheless. Where is one to turn at such a time?
It could be that other issues complicate life: there is a vicious divorce, a troubled teen, the loss of a job and necessary income, the steady decline of a parent to dementia. Many issues drive us into the barren wilderness of hurt, loss, and pain, and in the process the pillars of our faith seem to crumble like so much sand between our fingers.
What do we do if an examination of our faith life comes up dry as yesterday’s toast? What can we do if we this happening to our loved ones or members of our worshipping communities? While, I can’t offer definitive suggestions that I promise will work for you, I can share with you three things that work for me whenever I begin to feel disconnected in my faith life.
- If your own faith life seems dry and barren or limp as last night’s lettuce, pump up the prayer life. I don’t have to tell you the number of references in scripture that point to prayer as the place to start and way to center oneself. If you’re angry, pray. If you’re hurting, pray. If you’re feeling hopeless, pray. Likewise, pray when you’re happy, pray when life is just peachy, and offer prayers of thanksgiving for all the blessings and goodness in your life.
- Take some time with sacred texts. Immersing yourself in scripture not only serves to remind that we are all part of a great faith narrative, but it also exposes us to the Word beyond the page. Read passages aloud. Practice the ancient art of Lectio Divina. Listen for God speaking to you through word and prayer.
- Finally, gather in community. It’s no accident that Jesus commanded us to gather together for worship and fellowship. We find strength for the journey in the company of fellow disciples and pilgrims. If you are comfortable, find a class or small group to join.
Just as we cannot live by bread alone, neither can we nurture and strengthen our faith lives alone. Take stock, take heart, and take comfort in prayer, in studying sacred texts, and in community.