I am having serious troubles with faith. It's a big problem, now, and likely my own fault that it is. Long story short, a number of years ago, I fell into and became associated with a group of people who I now realize to be undesirable, and very immature people, living a lifestyle, that, really, just is not in any way healthy, physically, mentally, spiritually, or emotionally, nor does it even work in the world. As a result of repeated social exposure to them, I picked up a number of bad habits, attitudes, vices, etc., and ended up falling away from the faith. I found my way back to it in May of last year, during which the process of breaking away from those people began. Needless to say, they didn't take this very well, and I eventually came under some pretty heavy attack by one of them, a very charismatic, and pushy person who I found out, is much worse than a mere atheist, he actually worshipped that which was cast out of Heaven, and he was, and probably still is, bent on breaking my Christianity. Well, an argument with that person turned very ugly, and round one was a draw, round two I made a mistake and had to retreat, round three was another draw, and I haven't said a word to the person since, and have even blocked off all means of communication with that person. However, I still am having difficulty getting this out of my head, and it is screwing with my head, and tainting the heart. I've been reading the Bible, praying to God, Jesus Christ, Mary, St. Michael, etc. trying to get this fixed and out of my head, and heart, trying to listen to what I've been instructed before upon talking to a pastor about it, to just stand with God, and push all things not of God out of my head. Been trying that, and hasn't been as successful as I'd hoped, if at all, and certainly hasn't been for lack of trying. And now I'm just becoming more and more confused about what I believe, and my prayers and readings of Scripture feel distant, with a liar speaking loudly in my ear over the words I read in the Bible, trying to mislead my interpretation of them. Been praying for God to take some form of decisive and swift action on this to make it stop and remove this mess from my head and heart so I can focus on His son Jesus more successfully, but it feels distant, and either God is taking His time with it, or such a course of action isn't His style, or something. Either way, what do I do with this? Where do I go from here? Something's gotta give.
Lutherans and Catholics have lots of common beliefs. Lutherans just have a lot less overhead.
Hunh. An old friend of mine once said something really smart in regards to pursuing Christianity, and seeking Christ:
"If you want to be Christian, do it yourself.", as in do the legwork and the research yourself. That actually makes a lot of sense, because if you think about it, when you ask someone from the Christian community about finding Christ, they will either tell you the same thing, read the Gospels, or will start describing their own take on things, or their own journey thus far. That's not to say that some parts of their own journey might not be helpful to someone else.
Thanks for all your input, I appreciate it.
I found myself in a similar situation last year. For years I was part of the "New Age" movement- manifest your destiny, everything has a reason, spiritualism and relativism, humanistic ideas- basically a theology based on the SELF (which, we should recognize, is Satanic) just wrapped up in pretty colors and fairytales. Long story short I returned to the Bible, and to God. I was raised Catholic but have always rejected the dogmatism and ritual of the Catholic church. I married into a Baptist family and found the Baptist side of things more appealing to how I felt my relationship to God, through Christ, should be.
In the early months there were a few things that helped me immensley. One was reading Mere Christianity by C.S Lewis. An excellent book, easy to read, and easy to understand. I still read portions of it from time to time, and it is one of the first books I recommend to people who are on-the-fence about their faith or are interested in Christianity. Prayer and studying/reading the Bible were my other two huge supports. My general rule is take the time you spend studying the Word, double it, and that's how long you should try and pray. Of course I had to learn to pray because the Catholic prayers I learned as a boy didn't serve me in my quest for a real and personal relationship with God through Christ. There are a lot of really great resources on prayer- if you are disposed to reading, find a copy of On Prayer by E.M Bounds. A tremendous resource on prayer that is motivational and insightful.
The thing you must keep in your heart and mind is that God WANTS a relationship with us, and even in the times we turn from Him, He never turns from us. The open arms of Christ crucified are always open to those who seek Him. The other important thing is that God moves and answers in His time, which is perfect. I have prayed for months on end for certain things or answers. Months. And I don't mean a quick "Dear God, please help me find a new job, Amen." I mean continual hours of unbroken prayer. God WILL answer you if you are upholding your end of the bargain- to love His Son, to love Him, with all your heart and strength and being. Open your heart to God and your ears will follow suit.
A final thought- I was baptized as an infant as is the custom for most Catholics. When I came back to Christianity I wanted to get baptized again to reaffirm my committment to God and to His ways. The three days and nights prior to my baptism were plagued with what I would consider Satanic attack- I had awful dreams, found it very difficult to pray and read the Bible, I seemed to be continually put into situations where temptations (even ones I thought I had been done with) were offered up. "You need not call the Devil..." When you choose, in your heart, to adhere to God's Word and plan, when you commit to being a Christian, the Devil is never far away, and it may very well be that he has had a hold on you for a long time and sees that now you're actually doing something about it. And that is not what he wants. But if you only trust in the Lord as your Rock, your Shepherd, your Lamp, you will be given all the strength to overcome.
I hope this helps you.
I know what it's like to have to leave friends to follow Christ and be whole. I had to sever ties with my closest friend, who was on a downward spiral... but the payoff for me was huge! I also know what it's like to struggle with battles of the mind, going right down to the core of my identity. But thank God, by his power I have been winning most of those battles in the last 9 or 10 years.
You are definitely going to need some brothers to help you along. God puts the lonely in families. Psalm 68. We are also instructed never to give up fellowshipping with other believers, Hebrews 10. It's important to read God' word, because that's part of where his power comes from, but it also comes from the word of other people's testimonies. Revelation 12:10-11. God always intended for us to learn about him in community, even though we will find that community dysfunctional (we are also dysfunctional, so it's a learning curve for all of us)
I got free of a lot of my junk when I joined a church where they not only had good teaching, but they discipled people... like really made disciplined Christ followers out of people. There were guys who were willing to get right into the mess with me, hear about all my sins and confusion, pray for me and give me a man hug. That's where I got free. I've never been the same since. Consider looking for a church that has Alpha Classes. They usually have pretty decent fundamentals.
Bro, add me as a friend if you like. I'll pray for you. Jesus already paid the price for you to have POWER, LOVE AND A SOUND MIND. 2 Tim 1:7. When Jesus took that crown of thorns on his head, the thorns pierced his scalp, symbolizing the piercing thoughts that we must wrestle with. When he died, he took our sins and our brokenness with him, and then he rose again, leaving all that junk in the grave. If we're in him, we rise again to new life as well (2 Cor 5). Peace, my brother.
As a fellow Catholic I want to point out that our faith has many powerful tools to help you; not the least of which is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As others have said, get back into the habit of going to Mass.
I'd also recommend finding a short, easily memorized prayer that you can say in a few seconds of your day. It should be meaningful to you in some way and can be said whenever you are stressed, afraid, or whatever. I say mine several times a day.
Go to Confession... and make it a habit. Receive the Eucharist as often as possible. Keep praying.
Also, check to see if a nearby parish has a good Bible study group or something... something that will get you socializing with other people of Faith.
Above all, though, remember that you can't will yourself to Faith or Salvation. Let God do the work. We all come to intellectual challenges to our beliefs. We all wrestle with our own minds and our own sinful spirits. It can be painful for a period, but we have to persevere and let God carry us through them.
Kenneth, get to a parish. You need to go to Confession, go to Mass, and get into your faith. Get connected with your parish priest. Confession is gonna be your best friend.
"Do it yourself" is not only the absolute worse advice for a Christian, it's impossible. There is no such thing as "lone wolf Christianity." Christians exist as part of a community, and without that community you're gonna flounder.
I'm not Roman Catholic, but that's what you know and that's where you need to get your feet wet again. If you want to investigate doctrines, history, and denominations you can do that later. Right now it'll just confuse you and feed those who are tempting you away from Christ.
Yeah, true. Thanks.
It seems to me that you're confused about what you believe because you already have decided what to believe before understanding it. By all means, remove yourself from a crowd full of destructive life habits, but that doesn't necessarily mean you have to accept a specific belief system that appears to be opposite of your previous, harmful philosophies, just because the desired result of that philosophy seems to be to your liking.
In short, don't make the oversimplification of:
without Jesus= bad and harmful
with Jesus = good and healthy.
Maybe you should be focusing less on Jesus, and focusing more on why you are trying so hard to convince yourself that focusing on Jesus and shutting out any other perspective is the right thing to do. Moderation, rather than shifting to the opposite extreme, might be the way to go.
Hi Kenneth. From what you've said, I would recommend getting this book (http://www.amazon.com/Reclaiming-Surrendered-Ground-Protecting-Spir...) and setting up meetings with the pastor of a good church in the area so you can pray with him and he can be praying for you.