Today I am sharing 10 ways to strengthen your faith when God seems silent. My last post was raw and a bit dark. That is how life is sometimes. I was grasping for faith while waiting. After leaving my job last year I was in the desert. I lost hope. I wasn’t angry at God, but wondered if there was anything left for me. It seemed very silent. I was concerned about what the future held for me.
It was a long winter. Then one phone call changed everything. It gave me hope and helped me focus my vision. I will share that God story soon but wanted to share the steps I took in between. There isn’t a magic answer and each of our journey’s is unique but I feel there is power in sharing our stories. I love hearing how God met others and hope that there is a nugget someone else can take from my time in the desert.
Looking back there are several things that I did over the last 6 months. Acts of discipline and acts of faith that I believe God used to shape me.
1. The discipline of spending time in the Bible and praying – I started consistently starting my day with God. Before I turn on the morning news, before I read emails (most of the time) I get up and read the Bible, pray and journal.
2. Humbling myself by being willing to do what I needed to provide. It is humbling to go from running a business to assisting someone. But each day I would pray that I would be a blessing and that I would do my best. God changed my heart in this period. We can spend a lot of time focusing on being someone important, but God cares most of our heart and our character.
3. Observing Lent – after reading Margret Feinberg’s Wonderstruck I felt called to give up coffee for Lent. People’s reaction to it was sort of funny and actually helped my resolved. In a world of me, me, me we don’t sacrifice anything for anyone. Really, giving up coffee is such a small thing. Though three days after I started the coffee fast I took a 3 week job that required me to get up at 4 in the morning. That tested my resolve more than anything. I learned I could be more disciplined and I feel it helped my spiritual growth.
4. Tithing – I used to tithe but when I lost my job and then took one that paid considerably less I stopped. I was really convicted during that 3 week job that I wasn’t having enough faith. Because that is what it gets down to.
Do I really believe God has a plan? Do I really believe God will take care of me?
This was one of the biggest revelations in my desert period. I feel like I have to take care of myself, I have to control it all. Being single I feel like it’s up to me. I haven’t trusted that God will be my provider.
The Bible is pretty clear on tithing, there are more verses about tithing than anything else. Malachi 3:10-12 says
Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
That there may be food in My house,
And try Me now in this,”
Says the Lord of hosts,
“If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.
11 “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes,
So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground,
Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,”
Says the Lord of hosts;
12 “And all nations will call you blessed,
For you will be a delightful land,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
Two friends really modeled and encouraged me in this area. There were times I gave not having enough money to pay my bills. I took my friend’s advice and prayed “Lord, you know I don’t have the money to pay my bills but I want to be faithful. I don’t want to take your money because your word says to give the first fruits to you. I am trusting you will provide.
He has provided. In all honesty I am still digging myself out of 8 months of unemployment but it has given me a new perspective of money. I still wake up with fear about how this is all going to work out. But then I give it to the Lord. I want to be debt free so that I can be a bold and generous giver. But God has met my needs.
5. Immersing myself spiritually – I listened to podcasts and read books that inspired and encouraged my faith. There were days this is what got me through the day. On days where I was fighting depression or feeling less than hopeful, I would listen to a podcast while I drove or walked my dog. I started listening to Joel Osteen and read Mark Batterson’s book. Those two were life changing to me. Joel gave me hope and encourage me in so many ways. Mark encouraged me to pray harder, to circle what I felt God was saying to me. Both encouraged me to believe God had – has – a plan for my life.
6. Family that supported and encouraged me in so many ways. They cheer me on, even when I am lost. I spent time with my niece and nephews often because that nourished my soul. They don’t care what you do, they love you for who you are. We played silly games, got ice cream at Rite Aid and watched the Shark Tank each Friday night.
7. Friends that lifted me up and challenged me to have faith – when you are in the desert you need friends you can go to that will do no harm. You all know what I mean. Friends that will encourage you and challenge you. Who will point you to Jesus. Who cheer you on. I have been blessed with friends who called, emailed and texted me.
8. Obedience – One morning driving down the 55 freeway I cried out to God – search me and reveal anything holding me back. Instantly one thing came to mind, one thing I had tried to push aside a year ago. It didn’t make sense to me and I didn’t want to dredge up painful memories.
A few days later I just did it. I asked a friend to pray and I prayed Lord, I don’t understand but I want to be obedient. I pulled my big girl panties on and did it with my heart in my throat. It ended up being sweet and not painful and that one little moment of truth bought me such freedom. I know that, I teach women about finding freedom but there was this one thing and finally doing it brought such relief.
9. Valuing myself – when you are in the desert it is hard to not lose your self-esteem. If it is something you already struggled with, extra hard. Trying to start a business without a sense of who you are is deadly. People will devalue you. Right before I send out a bid on a job, one of my friends wrote me saying remember the work you are providing, you don’t want to sell yourself short and be resentful that you are doing the job you are doing. If you don’t value yourself, no one else will.
I am not talking about robbing people blind but about charging market value for your services. There are times we happily donate or do things for less than valued but be clear and choose wisely.
10. Take the next step – to get anywhere you have to take that first step. I am convinced the first step is key, even if you don’t know the second one or don’t like where the first one is going. It is the act of willingness to follow God where he leads. I sent out resumes for jobs I really didn’t want and pursued the doors that were open trusting God had a plan.
Even after doing all that I was struggling at the end. It wears on you after months and months of uncertainty. I know some struggle for years. My struggles haven’t magically disappeared but I feel like my for once, I didn’t waste the time in the desert. I sought God and as I am entering a new phase I feel like it built a foundation for the rest of my life.13