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sunny
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« on: January 05, 2007, 08:37:26 PM »

I thought it was apropo to start this thread under faith issues because that's precisely what it is. I need help, advice, and hopefully some personal experiences of anyone who may have gone through this and come out on the other side.
I was a devout evangelical for 30 years. Looking for the "real, authentic, New Testament," expression of the church I became involved with a group who's head was a well known Christian author. I visited one of his New Testament experiments in a different state and it was so awful and disillusioning that I came back home doubting everything I'd ever believed in. Within 2 weeks my faith was gone. It was as if I'd become blind. I no longer had any sense of God's presence and the firm foundation of belief in God that I'd always had for 30 years was gone. I literally felt like I was walking around blind because God had always been everything to me and I could no longer seem to reach Him or sense Him. After a few months of despair I decided to act as if God and Christianity was real and tried to reestablish prayer and Bible reading. I kept giving up and starting over multiple times. About 6 months later I stumbled upon an Episcopal Church and became involved in that, loving the reverence of the services, though the priest was a woman. A few months later I met my first Orthodox person who told me about the faith and I immediately soaked up everything I could read and attended all the services I could. I eventually became Orthodox through baptism and chrismation. Throughout this time I never did feel that sense of God at all in my life. I had tremendous daily struggles and when I came into the Orthodox church they did not cease and have not ceased. Today I realized that at the core of this, I still do not have that sense of a deep inner core of faith. I am still just trying to go through the motions. I pray and it seems to go nowhere, I look at the icons and pray, I read the Bible, and nothing. It's still gone. Please understand that after 30 years of passionately loving God and studying the Bible I was not a novice, and my life has been very hard with alot of illness and struggles. I have had alot of prayers from my priest and some from a monastery I visited. Nothing has helped. The Lord was my life-now it's as if He's left me. I have often wondered if He gave up on me. Please- I need prayer that the gift of faith would be returned to me. I believe the Orthodox Faith is the true faith, but I think God alone must grant me to again be able to connect in my heart to Him. If anyone has experienced anything like this and your faith has been restored, I would certainly be encouraged to hear it. Thank you for any prayers you might say for me.
Sunny
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Simayan
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« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2007, 09:17:56 PM »

My advice is this: Look beyond the motions and ceremony. Look beyond the beautiful exterior and delve into something even more amazing. When looking at icons, do not look merely at the gold leaf, but look into the soul of the saint, and know that they experienced hardships like you. Look through the icons of Jesus and the saints, and let them look through you. I know that whenever I'm in doubt, that always uplifts my spirit and drives me forward.

I will be praying for you, Sunny.
« Last Edit: January 05, 2007, 09:18:11 PM by Simayan » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2007, 10:34:08 PM »

Very good advice, Will (Simayan)!  When I hear the hymns of our faith chanted sometimes I cannot contain the sheer joy and marvel of it all.
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« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2007, 01:17:01 PM »

My advice:  I've always been helped by having a nice talk with Job (Old Testament).  He usually helps me put things in perspective, especially on how to persevere and keep faith. 
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« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2007, 09:37:09 PM »

Orthodoxy believes that God is infinite and man will never be "finished" knowing or loving Him.  Orthodoxy also believes that one's transformation (deification, theosis) is not "finished" in this world.  That said, I think that God has given you a great gift, and knows how great your love was/is for Him.

What do I mean?  It is easy to become complacent even if you think you're not.  It is easy to believe that your faith life is advancing when actually you are not exploring any of the uncharted territory in your soul.  It is easy to pray and feel the presence of God while not advancing any closer to that presence.

God knows this and has granted you the gift of taking away all that has made you comfortable, all that has made you assured, all that was keeping you from going closer to Him.  This way you are not to look for Him where He was before; do not wish for the old ways you felt when you had the faith life you now miss.

This is a tremendous gift.  Think about it.  To do this, God has alot of faith in you!   Smiley    He knows there must be so much to your soul but you just need to look and find it, open it and explore.  Do not think you are being "punished" or any other such thing.  He is responding with great love just like the great love you showed in your earlier faith life. 

So don't stop now!  Keep going.  It is tough but I think you are headed for something greater than you had before.  Ask Him to guide you to the best ways to see His presence in a new way; listen to the advice such as you have gotten here and just let the new sink in and grow like a seed.  And be patient. 

With prayers and support for you,
Hladna

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aurelia
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« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2007, 01:32:38 PM »

I think that is very good advice.
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sunny
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« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2007, 12:36:21 AM »

Thank you to all for your encouragement. And Hladna, thankyou so much for your kind words; you made me cry (in a good way! Smiley I know someone has been praying for me as some wonderful things have been happening in my heart in just the last few days. I am humbled by the goodness of God and His people.
Sunny
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