I’m a notorious loser. But not in the way you are thinking. See, I lose things. I lose my keys and my phone just about every day. I can never find my computer power cord. I couldn’t tell you the last time I owned a pair of sunglasses for more than a week or two.
But it’s one thing to lose your keys, and it’s another thing to lose your faith. Replacing your keys (though troublesome) is possible. Replacing your faith is much more challenging.
There are a lot of reasons that people walk away from their beliefs. Each person has their own set of motives, I’m sure. But in my experience as a minister over the last many years, there are three reasons I see most often.
The Teaching Is Too Hard to Understand
In John 6, there is a fascinating exchange between Jesus and his followers. In verse 56 Jesus says, “Those who eat my body and drink my blood live in me, and I live in them.” This must have been the first time many of his followers heard anything like this and they didn’t like it. According to John, they said, “This teaching is hard, who can accept it?” After that, many of them stopped following Jesus.
Of course, Jesus was speaking in spiritual terms. The followers, who had recently feasted on the miraculous loaves and fishes, thought Jesus was being literal.
Today, a lot of people decide to walk away from their faith the moment they can’t understand every tiny detail. To them, if God cannot be rationalized and categorized then they can’t believe.
It’s okay to have questions if you’re a believer. It’s ok to have gaps in your belief.
You would think that because I’m a pastor I don’t have any doubts or questions about my faith. I have tons! There are many things I don’t understand, but I know that one day I will.
The Lifestyle Is Too Hard To Follow
Can we be honest? It’s hard to be a good Christian. It’s tough to forgive others. It’s challenging to be patient with people. And it’s near impossible to forgive in all situations.
My default mode is to be selfish–to look out for #1. But following Jesus means that we need to act opposite of our selfish ways. We should put others first. We should turn the other cheek when wronged. We should be patient with people. It’s just much, much easier not to.
In Matthew 7:13, Jesus said we should “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.”
The narrow gate is the harder path to navigate. The wide gate is easy to enter. Anyone can do it.
Frankly, people give up on Christianity because they thought it would be easy. Someone must have told them that when they decided to follow Jesus life would be a cinch. Sorry, the opposite is true. Those who decide to place their faith in Christ face an uphill battle. They must suppress their fleshly desires and seek God and his desires.
I realize that I’m not painting a rosy picture of Christianity here but I’m being honest.
The People are Too Difficult To Live With
Of all the people I’ve known that have fallen away from Jesus, most have left because of other Christians. They've been mistreated, spiritually abused or exploited, taken advantage of, and lied to.
Maybe you’ve felt this way too? Perhaps you trusted someone who professes to be a “Christian” but acts like the devil. You may feel betrayed and rejected by them and so you turn your back on God.
Remember that Jesus was betrayed too. He was rejected. In the gospel of John, chapter 6, Jesus asked his disciples, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.”
Jesus knew that Judas would betray him and yet, he still chose him. Do you ever wonder what it was like for Jesus to spend three years with Judas, the whole time knowing that Judas would sell him out? And yet, during the last supper, Jesus washed the feet of all his disciples. That included Judas, his betrayer. What an incredible picture of love and acceptance.
So, What To Do?
I know that it’s tempting to abandon faith because a few of the “faithful” are poor examples of Christianity. But don’t. Remember that Jesus accepted Judas. Remember that Jesus died for everyone, including those who left him because his teaching was “too hard.”
Learn to rely on Christ for guidance on the narrow path. Lastly, learn to be comfortable not understanding everything. After all, the prophet Isaiah quoted God as saying, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.”