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Author Topic: Please help me discern the voice of God...  (Read 2036 times) Average Rating: 0
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upsilon
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« on: October 06, 2009, 06:52:02 PM »

I'm a searcher. I grew up Baptist, I go to an Evangelical college, and I'm studying religious studies. Sounds like I'm set up to be a Baptist preacher, doesn't it? I went through a crisis of faith a few years ago, nearly gave up on Christianity, tried to find some sense of a foundation in the "emergent" church movement, but that wasn't doing much for me. Then I discovered the Catholic Church and for a year and a half really immersed myself in Catholicism. I nearly became Catholic. Then I realized I needed to look at Orthodoxy.

I cannot tell you how much I want to become Orthodox or Catholic. I can't stay in Evangelicalism. But I'm spinning my wheels and I can't make a choice. What's more is that I am very angry and fed up with God. I feel like he's been absent for much of the past few years minus a few months. But other than that, I feel like I've been hitting a wall, time and time again. And then when I think he's talking to me, I don't like what he is telling me, or I don't really know if what I'm hearing is really from God or if its my own scrupulos conscience. Here's a few things that are really weighing on me and I feel terrible because I feel guilty, I feel disobedient, I feel rebellious, I feel angry, and I feel confused.

I love theology. I changed my major just so I could focus attention on it. To be honest, it was my study of Roman Catholic theology that allowed me to give Christianity a second chance. I have found a lot of excitement, joy, and fulfillment in focusing my attention on understanding who God is. I've never been really strong on the "relationship with God" sort of stuff (even though I grew up in Evangelicalism). Its always been very, very hard for me to relate to him in personal manner that so many people say they are able to do. The school year has just begun and all of a sudden I feel like God is telling me to get rid of all my books and stop studying theology. I'm angry. #1 because I think if I stop studying theology, I may loose my faith altogether. #2 its my major and my last year of college #3 I've already committed in my heart that I want to use the gifts that he has given me to give back to the church (and I would love to teach theology one day). So I feel like God is trying to take away the one thing that I have that is keeping me a Christian and still interested in Jesus.

The other thing is, I wake up one day and the first thought that comes to mind is "Sell everything and give it away." I was so angry at God that morning that I didn't go to church because ironically the Gospel reading was about the young rich man in Matthew. So I did what I could and over the past month I've been divesting myself of stuff I don't need (extra books, clothes). But I feel so guilty because when that thought came to my mind, I said "No! I can't" I'm not in a position right now to do that. I'm still in school. I want to finish college. I love my college community. I need to honour my parents who have bent over backwards to get me where I am today. I feel selling everything would be foolish, and not foolish for the sake of Christ, but simply foolish because...then what?

The other thing is that I've often struggled with my sexuality identity. I'm not a homosexual, nor do I ever want to be. But there was a point at which I thought that the only way I could reconile my faith with my sexual identity was to be celibate. I was again, angry. Why? Because I know that I can't make it through life on my own. I need people and relationships in order to flourish because it is in relationship that I can love and be loved. I don't want to be a hermit. I get depressed when I'm alone. I truly desire to be married. I nearly was married (or at least gave very very very serious thought to it), but she and I broke up. But that relationship was the best thing that ever happened to me because I grew in godly love and no longer though about myself and I was so encouraged in my faith by that relationship. Unforunately, there were some irreconcible differences that slowly led to us deciding to part ways. But I truly desire to be intimate with the opposite sex in a marital context.

And on top of all this, I can't figure out what church is right? Orthodox or Catholic? I have no community that I can be a part of that I can truly express these frustrations because I'm not Evangelical, I'm not Orthodox, and I'm not Catholic. All I fear is that if I ever open up in one of theses communities I'm just going to be preached to and people are going to attempt to convert me. I'm kinda a lone ranger Christian and I hate it! I'm not baptized, I can't take the Eucharist, I can't go to confession, I can't participate in the sacraments or mysteries or whatever. So I have no foundation on which to rebuild my relationship with God and to reconile myself with him.

I'm this close to giving up on God, because I have prayed time and time again for him to show me the Truth and to guide me where I am supposed to go, but it doesn't seem like he's answering me.

I'm angry because it seems like God is trying to take everything away from me and that he wants me to be miserable. I'm sorry, but this is really how I'm feeling. I don't want to be a celibate monk who lives in a monastery. I'm sorry, I can't see myself doing that and I don't want to be a monk. A priest? Perhaps. I'm game for that. But it seems that right now God is just throwing all these difficulties at me and expecting me to own up and sell everything or give up on theology because I'm getting to intellectual or something, or that I'm supposed to be celibate.

And I can't do any of those things. I don't have any strength left to do it. I barely have enough strength to talk to God any more.

Sorry for the rant...this has just been sitting on my mind for a while and I've been lurking around theses forms as a reader and hopefully I can get some advice.
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« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2009, 07:22:20 PM »

God allows the soul that desires perfection to walk through the Dark Night before experiencing the divine union so that such a soul is made more perfect and better disposed to be united to God. Know that no matter what you are going through, God only allows it so that you can grow closer to his infinite Goodness.

Lord have mercy on your servant.
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« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2009, 07:31:29 PM »

First off, welcome to the forum!  Smiley

 By the sound of your post, I'd guess you're carrying a lot of worry weight around.  It also sounds as if you're either going through or have gone through quite a bit in a short amount of time.  Remember, friend, that God knows what you need as well as what you can and can't handle.  Is it possible that you can take a break from all of this "thinking/worrying"?  We all feel overwhelmed from time to time; when that happens, all I can manage is just a short, simple prayer such as, "Lord, have mercy on me."  Also, would you consider talking with an Orthodox priest?  That too might help you sort through your concerns.  I'll say a prayer for you, friend.  Smiley
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« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2009, 08:54:53 PM »

Just wanted to welcome you to the forum and to express my sympathies.  May the Word be a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path.  Kyrie Eleison!
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« Reply #4 on: October 06, 2009, 08:58:50 PM »

Welcome to the forum!

Personally, I have gone through a stage when I loved what is usually called and what I have perceived as "theology."

Largely, I am out of that stage now, because it is... barren, fruitless. It always is highly emotional and it very often - VERY often - involves circular reasoning. Closed circle. Great if you presuppose that you are "with" it. Completely unconvincing if you presuppose you are not.

Yet, as it has always been since my early childhood, the voice of God that I hear is in the Orthodox Divine Liturgy. For example, here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DU7h3AUheDY
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« Reply #5 on: October 06, 2009, 09:07:11 PM »

Welcome to the forum!
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« Reply #6 on: October 06, 2009, 09:28:20 PM »

upsilon,

Welcome to the forum.

First, I think you need to relax! Sometimes we have so much going on in our heads that God's voice is particularly hard to discern. You seem to be panicking and there is no need. God is patient and will wait until you find peace in any decision that you make. Converting is always going to be a stressful exercise, so I think it might be a time to put away the theology books for a time and just focus on the Jesus Prayer that Gabriel mentioned. As Heorhig has also mentioned, sometimes theology is an intellectual exercise rather than something lived; and that is not its true purpose. It does't mean that you have to give up your passion regarding theology, just refocus it when you are able.

Do nothing more until you clear your mind of your concerns - or at least some of them. Before taking the next step; whatever that might be; "be still and know that I am God". (Psalm 46) Your spirit needs to rest and be recharged, then you will be better able to prioritise issues and cope with the struggles of decision making. When you are able, talk to a priest.

I hope this helps in some small way.

God be with you.
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« Reply #7 on: October 06, 2009, 09:45:02 PM »

Welcome to the forum, Upsilon! May God grant you His peace and may you find rest from your worries.
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« Reply #8 on: October 06, 2009, 09:48:44 PM »

upsilon,

Welcome to the forum.

First, I think you need to relax! Sometimes we have so much going on in our heads that God's voice is particularly hard to discern. You seem to be panicking and there is no need. God is patient and will wait until you find peace in any decision that you make. Converting is always going to be a stressful exercise, so I think it might be a time to put away the theology books for a time and just focus on the Jesus Prayer that Gabriel mentioned. As Heorhig has also mentioned, sometimes theology is an intellectual exercise rather than something lived; and that is not its true purpose. It does't mean that you have to give up your passion regarding theology, just refocus it when you are able.

Do nothing more until you clear your mind of your concerns - or at least some of them. Before taking the next step; whatever that might be; "be still and know that I am God". (Psalm 46) Your spirit needs to rest and be recharged, then you will be better able to prioritise issues and cope with the struggles of decision making. When you are able, talk to a priest.

I hope this helps in some small way.

God be with you.
Amen...you are in my prayers.  Jeremiah 29:11  Isaiah 40:31
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« Reply #9 on: October 06, 2009, 11:52:27 PM »

Upsilon,

Riddikulus has given great advice. God will speak to you in a whisper when you can quiet your mind. Sometimes God
will lead you with voices of those who love you. I always pay attention when two or three of my loved ones give me the same advice. I would include my priest in that category.

May God give you peace of mind.

Sincerely, Tamara
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« Reply #10 on: October 07, 2009, 01:03:31 AM »

Lord have Mercy.
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« Reply #11 on: October 07, 2009, 05:02:41 PM »

Upsilon,

Welcome to the Convert Issues Forum which we hope is a place  where inquirers, catechumen, and newly converted may ask their questions about the Orthodox Faith in a safe and supportive forum without retribution or recrimination. We try to provide insight in the basic teachings and practices of the Orthodox churches by providing direct and simple answers with sources.

Once again welcome to the Convert Issues Forum!

In Christ,
Thomas
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« Reply #12 on: October 07, 2009, 05:15:28 PM »

Upsilon,

This thread isn't really my business, but there is a prayer I like very much, in which we just express our faith that everything is in God's hands. I'll pray for you, and I hope you will be able to feel less troubled soon. It sounds as if you are in the right place to have your questions answered; there are some great people on this forum who can really communicate the integrity and attraction of Orthodoxy.

God bless,

Liz.
« Last Edit: October 07, 2009, 05:16:31 PM by Liz » Logged
upsilon
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« Reply #13 on: October 07, 2009, 07:16:56 PM »

Thank you to each and every one of you...I really do mean it from the bottom of my heart...for taking the time to reply and also to pray. It gives me a lot of hope when I "meet" people like you guys who are willing to care for others even if we've never met.

I realize that I need to give myself some more grace, that I shouldn't be so hard on myself. I suppose, partly because I'm a perfectionist, that if I don't have all my ducks-in-a-row, then something is wrong and God won't like it.

I have a very messed up picture of God even though I was brought up in a loving home and in a loving church. I don't know where I got this picture of God being an angry old man upstairs who is just trying to mess me up or to make my life miserable.

Again. Thank you.
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« Reply #14 on: October 07, 2009, 10:25:17 PM »

Upsilon,
Grace is key.  Trust me God is not up there looking down on you shaking a big stick... you might be projecting that because of how you view things and what your expectations of yourself and of life are... the way of a perfectionist are tough... "been there done that!"  Try to let go of the shoulds... and should nots... and the oughts.
"I realize that I need to give myself some more grace, that I shouldn't be so hard on myself. I suppose, partly because I'm a perfectionist, that if I don't have all my ducks-in-a-row, then something is wrong and God won't like it."
Definitely you will be in my prayers.  Imagine God loving you just as you are; He does. Smiley
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« Reply #15 on: October 08, 2009, 01:00:18 AM »

No matter what question, doubts, or even anger you feel, God can bear it!! He is infinitely merciful and understanding to those who would seek His truths with a sincere heart.
If you love your studies, that may be worth exploring rather than thinking you should quit. God reveals things in time, and, (IMHO), in a way that will make it clear to us,so if you are type, like me, that seems to need a big flashing neon sign, then you'll get it at some point. So, i just wanted also to say i think we all have different gifts that are needed. You sure don't need to be a priest to make your contribution. You can be a professor, a ceo, or whatever you want (well, within a few limits, lol)- Wink
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« Reply #16 on: October 08, 2009, 09:05:28 AM »

I've had similar experiences myself, particularly when I was wrestling with the decision to become Orthodox. A couple of things you may want to think about: God loves you more than you can even conceive, and He knows you better than you do yourself. Also Fr. Michael Oleska once gave me an excellent piece of advice. As Christians, we are only called to do the next right thing, and leave the grand plan to God. We don't have to know all the details of His plan, just trust Him and be faithful.


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