​Stages of Faith: The Wall

In the last post, we talked about how the biggest challenge in the second faith stage is moving toward intimacy with God. It turns out that this challenge is so great and so commonly experienced that we have a name for it: “The Wall.”

When we respond to Jesus’ Stage 2 invitation, “Come and Follow Me,” it is often with a lot of enthusiasm and expectations about what our new life will be like. In this stage, we usually join a church, begin serving in ministry, study the Bible, and experience spiritual growth. This could last a short time or for many years.

Then a crisis occurs. It could be anything: a painful tragedy, an unfair job loss, disillusionment with the church, a battle with depression, or an unexpected struggle with temptation. It could even be a crisis of stagnation; we simply feel disconnected from God. The sermons, the ministry service, and the quiet times that used to make us feel intimate with Christ now leave us feeling nothing. We find ourselves asking the faith questions we thought we had answered long ago: “Can I trust God?” “Does He care?” “Is He good?

We have all been there. It is the spiritual desert, like the wilderness the Israelites wandered through for forty years between the ecstasy of their escape from Egypt and the joy of the Promised Land. Those who try to rush through this desert and climb The Wall on their own strength fail and spiral into further frustration. Many, upon hitting up against The Wall and not experiencing breakthrough, settle for Stage 2 and never strive for greater depth in their walks with Christ.

What can church leaders do to help disciples through this difficult time? 

The first step is to encourage them to be emotionally honest with God. They need to know that their struggle does not mean they have “failed” and or that God is displeased with them. It is easily possible to be walking in obedience to God while feeling cut off from Him, as we see in Job and the Psalms. When we are at the The Wall, we need to be assured that it is safe to approach God and cry out to Him with our questions, doubts, and pain. We can be like David, desiring intimacy yet feeling rejected:

Hear my voice when I call, Lord; 

be merciful to me and answer me.

My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’

Your face, Lord, I will seek.

Do not hide your face from me . . .

Do not reject me or forsake me,

God my Savior.

(Psalm 27: 7-9)

This process of becoming emotionally honest with God takes time. Even if they think it will get them nowhere, encourage people at the Wall to take time to go to God and pour out their struggle to Him, knowing that He is listening – whether or not it feels like He is listening.

The next step is to help them find recovery programs, counselors, and/or mentors who fit them and their needs. Be realistic about the fact that the wilderness journey can take years – but if they are equipped with the people and resources to guide and encourage them, they will not have to make the journey alone.

And Jesus’ invitations are not exclusively for the stages of faith; He has a specific invitation for when we are at The Wall. He says in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Jesus is not on the other side of The Wall, arms crossed, impatiently waiting for us to overcome it by ourselves before giving another invitation. He is at The Wall with us, inviting us to take heart and overcome with Him.

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