What to do When We are Lost in Life After Leaving the Church?
We never know what will make the difference. Don’t Assume what worked for you or didn’t make a change in you will be the same for your neighbor.
They say you should walk a mile in someone’s shoes, but is that possible? One of the biggest lessons I have learned in life is that everyone is going through something, a battle, a trial, a lesson, a challenge, a fight. Everyone is going through something you know nothing about. Be kind. It is not our place to judge.
We also don’t know what it will be that will bring them to Jesus. What means nothing to us may be the exact thing they need to hear.
Everyone’s faith path is different.
Let’s back up.
Why did I leave the church?
Where I live is not super heavily populated by the church I attended with my Dad growing up. If it had been, I’m sure this would be a very different story. There is a small but mighty presence of LDS here where I live. We are not in, say, Utah. Here, the predominant religion is Catholic. It is a little different than a good amount of the country also. We have a considerable, very different, very old influence from the Spanish settlers in the 1400s mixed with native beliefs. It’s an old, traditional, Mexican-influenced Religion. But for me, we were different. And I was different even at my Dad’s church. My whole family wasn’t steeped in it. My mom is not Mormon. My family was not. I say this because I know the influence was nothing compared to so many people whose entire lives revolved around the church.
I hated going.
Let’s just say it for what it is. There was nothing about it that I ever enjoyed. I thought it was super dull. Most individuals asked to talk weekly had never done a single public speaking anything. Their talks were erratic and lacked depth (because the faith lacked depth?), and I can’t remember a talk that applied to my life at the time. Fast and testimony Sundays were the worst because it felt this massive wave of guilt. “I’d like to bear my testimony. I know this church is true. I know Joseph Smith was a real Prophet. I know the Book of Mormon is true.” I never got up and said it. I couldn’t. God wasn’t telling me that. Despite all my prayers, He was silent on that subject. And Sunday school. I wanted so bad to have the knowledge, to have the understanding to get up and teach the teacher why this was not right, but I didn’t have the knowledge. Remember, this was pre-internet. Sometimes I would sit there and daydream the whole thing out. I wonder how often, now with the internet, that actually happens? I had no resources—just feelings.
And that is a big part of this, feelings.
The Church, lacking depth of truth, bases the way it handles emotions with members by encouraging you to reassure certain feelings and reject other feelings. A big thing is when you ‘feel the holy spirit’, you receive a ‘burning in your bosom.’ Whether to know if prayer, revelation, anything is ‘true’ is based on this feeling. Anything that is telling you the church is not true must be rejected. That is from the devil. So if we operate on feelings, how do you know what is right? How do you know what is from God?
This is why I left.
This confusion of my feelings, mixed with pressure and guilt, was all-consuming. I felt like there was something wrong with me that I hated going. I wished it was something I didn’t question, like my friends whose whole families were in it and just did it. I wished I felt God tell me this was right. I wished my feelings were aligned with how the church told me they should be, but they weren’t. And I could not change that fact within me.
What is sad is this was all that I knew of God. He, in my head, was this thing that hung over me. What I thought He was, laid in direct opposition to how I wanted to live my life. He was not peaceful. He was not my redeemer. He was not love. He was, in my head, the one who had been silent while I endured guilt. While sitting in Sunday School one day, I had resigned myself to the fact that I was just going to live my life how I wanted, wrong or not. (For some reason admitting it was sin, that word really got me for so long. We will do a whole episode or two on trigger words) Then, when I was close to what I thought would be the end of my life, I’d sit there and repent for it all and go to church, make amends, and all would be well. But I could not go every Sunday. I could not do this for the rest of my life. I knew it would crush my dad, and that part is still hard to this day. I love my dad. He is wonderful. I still haven’t even told him about this podcast as of right now. But, I had to leave.
I know the social part of my story is very different from many other people who leave the church. In some ways, I’m sure it made it easier to leave. Some of you loved your community. You loved going. You wanted this all to be true. Many of you found something- the CES letter, something on the internet, something that disproved it all. Many of you were crushed. Many of you left because of doctrine, or lies, or people.
All of you left, ultimately because of the lack of peace in your heart- The absence of Jesus.
And Growing genuine faith- That part is the same for all of us who leave any serious religion- hard!
When you walk away from everything you have ever known about God, the journey will be a bit treacherous trying to find Him. None of us knew Him. We only knew what we had been taught and the unsettledness it gave us. And when even that unsettled piece of God is gone, we end up lost.
We all end up feeling super lost.
This brings us back to today’s question….
How do we support someone who is in this lost state? How do we help ourselves when we are there?
3 Ways to Help When We are Lost in Life.
Respect the Process-
I admit, sometimes I am a bit embarrassed by how I was during the lost chapters of my life. I was proud. I had been taught that my feelings about God and life were what mattered even if they were wrong. I constructed my own worldview based on my feelings about all issues. You may be here. You may know someone here. The biggest thing to know about all this is God never gives up on us. He is patiently waiting for us and He always goes back for His lost sheep.
He will pursue the lost and make himself, the real God known.
You just have to be open.
And that is why I say you must respect the process. His process. Everyone’s faith journey is going to be different. No person is better than another, more right or story more empowering. No one receives more grace than someone else. We must trust that He is working within our lives and within all of us. Just because certain circumstances mean nothing to us does not mean those same things are not transforming someone else’s heart. Trust Him.
Encourage our hearts to be open to God. He will put the right people, the right circumstances, the right words, and things in our paths at the right time if we are able to put down anger, guilt, and most importantly pride. Know this may take time, but it is all in His good time.
Trust and respect His working in our hearts. He will not give up on the lost.
2. Go to the Word for Answers, not Feelings-
Feelings are not facts!
God never intended for feelings to guide us. He wants that job!
I honestly thought when I opened my bible I was going to find an entire book, page after page of more of the guilt I had left. I thought the bible was a big book of things that were going to put me in my place and stories of those who listened and what happens when you fail. I wanted no part of that. I had no idea the peace that reading the Word would give me because it would bring me to God. He would speak to me through it and give me an understanding of who He truly is and who I am through Christ. It’s depth is far greater than I ever imagined.
Our emotions are more of a gauge, and not a guide. I knew something wasn’t right (a gauge), but my feelings lead me to handle life with anger and confusion, not a great guide. Our feelings are fickle, but God, the true God is unchanging. God wants to speak with us. He wants us to know Him. Let us lean not on our own understanding ~proverbs 3:5, and trust Him and turn to seek wisdom in His word. Even if you are totally unsure, He has a way of bringing the exact right passage to you when you are ready to hear it.
3. Be still
On our quest to find the answer to our lost state of existence or in helping someone else it may be our first inclination to shove a ton of knowledge in front of this lost heart. But God doesn’t reveal himself in others’ anger. He does not show Himself in heaps of knowledge-based or hate lead books. Anti- this or that or in so-called self-help “you can do everything now all on your own” bandwagons. He will not show Himself when we are seeking our own prideful endeavors.
You find God when you are still. When you surrender to fact that you will never have all this figured out. You will not be finding yourself or saving yourself. That is God’s job when you lay the pride down long enough to be still.