I have a confession. It’s not so much embarrassing as it is disappointing. As in, I’m disappointed in myself.
I’ve been feeling like a lukewarm Christian. Not on purpose. As in, I didn’t intend it to happen. But it did. And now I’m in the depths of examining myself, my faith, and trying to figure out how to overcome it.
Through exploring this topic, I discovered a couple of things that apply to me- and maybe to you.
I’m feeling spiritual aridity, in part.
And I never truly understood what it meant to be a lukewarm Christian.
(Another article of interest you might like is “Finding Your Way: Guide for Focusing on the Important Things“)
Is it lukewarmness or aridity?
Spiritual aridity is a condition of soul in which a person derives no consolation or satisfaction from prayer (Catholic Encyclopedia). This is the condition when you are doing all the normal things you do- pray, go to church, help people. But just feel nothing. St. Teresa of Avila said: “The lukewarm do not embrace the cross; they merely drag it along.” While I won’t go against a saint, to me that more describes aridity.
“Every Christian who strives for holiness of life experiences dryness of soul. It is to most people a heart-rending experience. It is a paradox, for the soul becomes confused when it realizes the harder it strives the further away Jesus seems to be” (Excerpt from “Dawn on the Mountain.“). If this is what you’re feeling, don’t despair. It’s a natural part of a Christian life.
Lukewarmness is different. It’s only half-believing. Not half-believing in God. But half-believing in the things we need to do. Or not going about our work with energy and enthusiasm, but rather because we believe good Christians have to do those things. It’s not sharing what we believe- or coming to doubt what we know is right because so much of the world believes differently- because it feels uncomfortable.
Definitions aside, the following ideas on how to overcome it often apply to both. (Though note if it’s aridity, God very well might be putting you through it on purpose. The following ideas still apply…just remember it’s up to God.)
Taking the First Step:
The good news? You’ve already taken the first step. If you’re reading about being a lukewarm Christian, and worried about, it shows you still have faith. You still believe.
Revelations, Chapter 3, verses 14-21 are the main ones cited when it comes to lukewarm Christians. God’s very graphic phrase of “But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth.” What does ‘lukewarm’ mean in this case? The Haydock Bible Commentary notes that “the lukewarm or tepid, they who are slothful, negligent, indolent, as to what regards Christian perfection, the practice of virtue, and an exact observance of what regards the service of God…they forfeit the favour and grace of God, fancying themselves good enough and safe, because they live as others commonly do, and are not guilty of many scandalous and shameful crimes, to which they see others addicted.”
The important thing to note here is that lukewarm does not mean what so many think it means. It isn’t a feeling of loneliness during prayer, feeling lost, or even having doubts.
It’s forgetting we are all sinners. It’s forgetting just because we believe in God, it doesn’t mean we don’t have to live a Christian lifestyle. It’s indulging in sin and blindly believing everything will be forgiven without genuine repentance. And repentance means changing.
It is NOT, as one particularly harsh article claimed, not always- everyone second- feeling a thirst for God’s word. In fact, I would say the opposite. The greatest of saints went through great periods of spiritual darkness.
You’ve taken the first step. You’ve acknowledged the situation and defined exactly what it is.
The second step is to be honest. Not only with yourself (though that is important). Take your thoughts and concerns to God.
The best advice I found on this was from an article on “Charisma News.” I highly suggest reading the entire article. But here is one paragraph that really, really spoke to me:
Obviously, God wants us to trust Him and go after Him with everything we have—to be “hot.” But I think the reason He tells us He’s also OK with us being “cold” is because at least then we’re being honest with Him. He can work with honesty. Some of my best times with God have come when I’ve simply been brutally honest and told Him how disappointed I am in Him, how much I’m struggling with the idea that He is always good, and how I just don’t have the spiritual energy or desire to be “hot.” He would then take those moments of raw honesty and get to work wooing me back to Him.
After prayer with God, take an honest look at yourself. Where are you failing? And why?
• Is it sloth? Are you saying you are just too tired to go to church? Too tired to do this or that or the other.
• Are you getting lost in our hustle and bustle world? And not giving time to God.
• Are you too busy? And what can you cut out?
Everyone’s answers to these questions will be different. But you only have to answer to two people: yourself and God.
Daily Prayer AND Reading the Word
If you read nothing else, this is the most important part. Despite what you’re feeling- no matter how lost- take time for both daily devotions and daily reading of the Bible.
• Continue to pray and do your devotionals. For example, I normally read “Liturgy of the Hours.” Lately, I feel like I’m slogging through them. So I’ve switched over daily meditations called “Conversation with God.” The more familiar, story-telling tone is reaching me when my normal prayers aren’t. Or pick up a book of new devotionals. Please try to avoid the new, “feel good” Christian books, though. Just personal advice. It seems so many down-play sin and how important it is that we recognize it.
• “We need to have an interior life, to enter daily into personal conversation with Jesus. We need to know his doctrine ever more deeply; to struggle with still more determination to overcome our own defects” (Conversations with God, Volume 3, p.545-46). Read His word daily. If you don’t want to read through a certain book, just open the Bible and read whatever is there. It doesn’t have to be in-depth Bible study…just read.
Don't be too hard on yourself...
Don’t be too harsh on yourself. Honest self-assessment is important. Don’t continue to tell yourself everything is okay as you drift further away from God.
And if your conscience is speaking up- even in a little niggling voice at the back of your mind- listen to it.
On the other hand…God loves you. I’ve read a lot on the topic of being a lukewarm Christian in preparation for this post. I’ve continually found article after article berating, insulting, telling people that there is nothing worse than a lukewarm Christian. One even claimed demons were better than lukewarm Christians- they at least had faith and trembled at the sight of God! I’m hoping I interpreted what the author was saying incorrectly…but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t.
Don't Give Up Hope
The last and most important thing is: don’t give up hope.
I’m going to ask you to say a prayer with me:
Dear God, you know me. You know my heart. You know I love you. I’m trying to do my best to follow you, but I’m having trouble. I’m losing focus. I’m not losing faith, I’m losing zeal.
Remind me, please. Remind me of how much You love me. Remind me that You are there. Remind me that I have a purpose on this Earth and need to fulfill it.
Fill me heart. Fill it with zeal for you. Fill it with Your love. Give me faith. Most of all…give me hope.
If you found this article interesting, you might like is “Finding Your Way: Guide for Focusing on the Important Things“.