Letter to a Backslider
I’ve noticed that you are not presently walking with the Lord and participating in the life of the church like you once were. It pains me because I remember how excited you were about your faith, and how important it was to you. I know you feel the absence of that fire you once had.
This is not uncommon. Many people experience ebbs and flows in the intensity of their faith. It’s okay to go through seasons of struggle. Almost every Christian I know can recall times where they were closer in their walk with God than they feel they are in the present moment. The Christian life is not a clean, perpetual up-and-to-the-right graph. It is messier than that.
However, I’m writing to you because you are in a vulnerable place. I’ve witnessed many who have backslidden and drifted from where they were, never to return. Often there are more reasons underneath this cooling off of their faith. One of those is they’ve fallen into some habitual sin. Sometimes it is a new relationship that entered the picture. A boyfriend or girlfriend came into their life, someone who did not hold the same commitment to prioritize Jesus as the center of their life. Then the relationship turns physical, and a pattern of sexual sin marks the life of the Christian. Maybe it’s not sexual sin. It could be that you’ve developed a new group of friends that love to party. The habit of hanging with those friends and having a few drinks can turn into a habitual lifestyle of drunkenness and debauchery.
Have you stumbled into habitual sin? If so, don’t be surprised that you are not where you once were in your walk with God. The Bible teaches us that we cannot have closeness with God and live in our sin (1 John 1:5-7). Your sin will make a separation between you and God (Isaiah 59:2). If this is you, I urge you to repent of your sin. Turn away from what you have been doing and turn again to Christ. He will forgive your sins. He is faithful and just to forgive all our sins when we confess them and turn away from them (1 John 2:1).
I don’t want to assume you’ve stumbled into sin. I’ve just seen this happen so often. Maybe you’ve been hurt by someone or have dealt with difficult circumstances. Bouts with anxiety and depression can leave many believers overwhelmed and disillusioned in their faith. Don’t be shocked that people have said or done hurtful things. Christians are just like others in their capacity to be insensitive and selfish. Don’t let this be the reason you distance yourself from God.
I hope by reading this letter you are already sensing it is directed at you, and you feel the urge to turn back to God. But maybe you are crippled with fear and doubt that God would welcome you. You think God is mad at you. I definitely don’t want you to think that God is indifferent toward your sin and your neglect of a relationship with Him, but you need to grasp that God’s love for you doesn’t fluctuate. Jesus’ love for you doesn’t waver. Turn to Him. Go to Christ with your weak faith, sinful conscience, and troubled soul, and He will receive you.
Get back to church. Don’t hesitate to rejoin the community of faith even if you’ve been gone for a while. Are you afraid people will judge you? It is possible some might. But the large majority will celebrate to see you. This is so important because we all need others in our walk with God. It is one of the ways you keep from sliding away. The church is imperfect. There is no disputing that. But the church is a means of grace that God uses in our lives to help us grow in the faith and stay the course throughout our lives.
Lastly, I want to urge you not to delay. If you have read this far, it is likely because you know in your spirit these words are for you. This is a call from God to your heart to return to Him. This is a call to do whatever you need to do to prioritize your walk with Christ above everything else. Here is why you need to do this without hesitation: life is short. You may not have tomorrow to do it. You have today. If you hear His voice today, do not harden your hearts against it (Hebrews 3:15). Seek Him while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near (Isaiah 55:6). You need Him in your life. Life is too short to delay returning, so return today.
Erik is the Lead Pastor of The Journey Church in Lebanon. He also founded Knowing Jesus Ministries, a non-profit organization which exists to proclaim timeless truth for everyday life. He is married to Katrina, and has three children: Kaleb (who went to be with the Lord), Kaleigh Grace, and Kyra Piper.
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