I started following Jesus as a teenager. I did not come from a Christian family, and was extremely unfamiliar with this strange new world I had become a part of. I was eager to jump in and get involved. And so, starting at age 15, I took every possible opportunity to serve and be a part of my Church community. I hardly slept, and I worked as hard as I could to maintain an active social life, an active ministry life, and still graduate with honors. This intense need to always be active continued throughout college, where I decided to graduate in 3 years while commuting two to three times a week to a different state to assist running a nonprofit organization, and spending my summers overseas.
By twenty-two years of age I was exhausted. I had spent the past 7 years at a nonstop sprint. I was so overloaded with “good Christian things” that I started to feel bitter, disillusioned, and depressed. I did not want to move forward any longer. I didn’t want to worship. I didn’t want to serve. I didn’t want to be a part of community. I just wanted to be alone and take a nap. At first I did not understand why I was feeling the way that I was, but as the years went on I realized that I was burnt out. I had emptied my fuel tank, and it was skewing my perspective on perfectly good things like worship, fellowship, and service. My emotions had become the filter through which I viewed everything. The world was tainted with my disillusionment.
Maybe you have found yourself there as well. For different reasons, or for similar ones, it can be easy to become disillusioned. Perhaps someone who you looked up mistreated you. Maybe a Church split or ecclesiastical crisis has put a bad taste in your mouth. Maybe you, like me, have put too much on your plate and consequently lost all desire to be involved. Whatever the reason is, many of us will find ourselves wrestling with disillusionment at some point in our lives.
When we do, it is important that we learn how to deal with it. Disillusionment can easily become a slippery slope that leads to walking away from Jesus entirely. A disillusioned person can be full of bitterness, under the surface anger, cynicism, and fatigue. These words stand in direct contrast to the words used to describe a disciple of Christ – joyful, peaceful, forgiving, and zealous. There is no point in beating ourselves up when we realize how far we are from what Christ calls us to be in this area; truthfully, these are the fruits of the Spirit, not the fruits of our efforts to be better (Galatians 5:22-24). But, if we aren’t careful, we can allow our disillusionment to turn our hearts from a position of receiving what God has for us and being willing to have Him change us, to a position of turning away from His best for us and settling down in our own emotions.
So how do we go from disillusioned to be full of faith and hope? Here are a couple of things that I think we can all do to help redirect our hearts.
Look back: Remember all that God has done in the past
Webster’s dictionary defines disillusion as “the condition of being dissatisfied or defeated in expectation of hope.” It is impossible to lose our satisfaction and hope when we look back and remember all of the ways God has already satisfied us and met our hopes in the past. When you feel overcome by disillusionment, look back. Remember all of the times God has exceeded your expectations and moved in ways you could not have imagined possible. Remember all of the ways throughout history that He has been faithful to His people. Recall all the reasons you have to be satisfied in your Creator and to have faith in the living hope that we have received (1 Peter 1:3).
Look around: Be intentional about being thankful
It is easy to get wrapped up in all the things we have to complain about – it is less natural for our minds to focus on all the things we have to be thankful about. Make it a habit to daily thank God for all the good things He has blessed you with. If you are so disillusioned that you can’t think of anything – start with the basics. He has given you life and breath. Thankfulness is exponential. The more we practice it, the more thankful we become. For someone in the middle of this struggle, it is tempting to overlook this step as a cheesy platitude. DON’T. Thankfulness refreshes the weary heart.
Look up: Worship God for who He is – even when you don’t feel like it
Our God is strong, mighty, loving, sacrificial, faithful, never ending, all knowing, eternal…the list goes on. When we become disillusioned with our faith, we stop marveling at the goodness of our Father. We become so focused on ourselves that we forget how beautiful He is. Study Him. Go back to His word and remind yourself of whom He is. Allow your heart to engage in worship, even when you feel disconnected. We are changed when we enter the presence of God. When we position our hearts in an attitude of praise, He begins to soften the hardened places of our hearts.
Talk to someone
Find a brother or sister in Christ, a pastor, or a Christian counselor to talk through all the things that are taking place in your heart and mind. Scripture says that “iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). We need one another to grow in our faith, and this area is no different. Things like disillusionment tend to grow in darkness, and when we bring them before the light of Godly counsel, we have the opportunity to grow within fellowship and experience healing.
I pray that as you continue to seek the Lord in the season that you are in, you would daily take one step closer to openness, joy, and delight in our Heavenly Father. These steps are simply ways of positioning ourselves to receive from the Lord. Ultimately, He is the one who will do the work in your heart to “restore to [you] the joy of [your] salvation” (Psalm 51:12). May we look to Him and willingly receive what He has for us!