3 Most Unexpected Stumbling Blocks to a Stronger Faith
- 2019 Oct 08
About a year and a half ago, I hit a wall in my faith. Although I still prayed, read my Bible on a regular basis, and was active in the church, I didn’t feel connected to God the way I used to be. I faced constant frustration and discouragement over my lack of growth, but I wasn’t sure what needed to change. I felt stuck.
Over the course of many years walking with God, he’s instilled one truth in my mind over and over: If I come to him with an earnest desire for more of him, he will deliver. But I also have to be willing to listen. And the listening part is often where I fall short.
In my stagnant season I came to him several times asking for guidance, but not hearing anything. Then, while pouring my heart out one day, I realized it wasn’t him who was ignoring me. I was ignoring him.
Photo Credit: Unsplash/Leon Biss
Here Is What Stopped My Faith from Growing:
Several months before, he’d given me a nudge.
Go to the pastor’s wife. Talk to her about leading a women’s Bible study.
But I didn’t contact her. I made lots of excuses why it wasn’t the right time, saying I was too busy, not qualified enough, and overcommitted already. Despite all my reasons, God was persistent. And so was I. I even questioned whether I heard God, declaring the nudge was just in my head, and not from him.
But it was from him. And it wasn’t until I listened and moved forward in obedience that my faith moved forward with momentum again. Instead of keeping my feet planted with stubborn resistance, I took a step, even though I didn’t know what the outcome would be.
As I look back on this chapter of my life, I see all the unexpected roadblocks to my faith that kept me stuck in a pattern of frustration. Although I couldn’t see them at the time, they stand out now with remarkable clarity.
Friends, God’s grace is available to reach and every one of us who makes him Lord and asks him for it, but often we are our own worst enemy. Why? Because a healthy faith is one that continually moves forward, but often we want to remain comfortable. We’re afraid of what a step forward into the unknown may cost us, and aren’t willing to find out.
Here are 3 unexpected stumbling blocks to stronger faith that can keep us in a holding pattern of discouragement and immobility:
1. Second-Guessing God
This stumbling block seems black and white when we look at it from an objective standpoint or even after the event passes, and we have a chance to reflect. But often when we’re at the crossroads of faith and fear, we don’t see it. We think we’re being rational. We think we’re choosing based on logic.
Here’s the truth about faith, and it’s a truth we have to internalize over and over again: Faith doesn’t mean trusting God with what we see, but what we can’t see. When he’s asking us to do something that seems to make absolutely no sense, we have a decision to make. We can question, second-guess and doubt, or we trust him based on his Word.
When God called Moses, he did a lot of doubting and second-guessing too. He argued with God for two chapters in Exodus after the Lord called him to lead his people out of Egypt.
Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” (Exodus 4:1 NIV)
Even though the Lord was patient with Moses and gave him repeated signs to show him he is trustworthy, Moses continued to doubt. So, for a time, God used Aaron to deliver his word to the people instead of Moses.
The same may be true for us, when we don’t heed God’s call. He doesn’t choose us because he is needy, but because he loves us and wants us to be part of the love story he is telling through his people. But we always have the choice of whether or not to act.
2. A False View of Self
Many times, I act as though doing what God calls me to do is entirely up to me. If I mess up or fail, the weight falls on my shoulders. If someone asks me a tough question or challenges my faith, it’s up to me to make them see the truth. In short, I act like an orphan instead of a child of the Most High God.
But when God looks at us, he doesn’t see all of the mess-ups and the times we’ve fallen. He sees someone who’s been made perfect by the blood of his Son. Someone who is becoming more and more radiant with each step forward toward him, who was chosen for a specific time and place to make an impact for his glory. However, if we want to make an impact, we must acknowledge we need a Helper. We must activate the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in us by simply saying, “I need you.”
Paul knew this power, and talked about it repeatedly in his letters. In his letter to Ephesus, his love for the church shines through as he speaks of his longing for them to be filled with knowledge of the Spirit’s love, power, and wisdom. This knowledge goes beyond our heads and into our heart and soul.
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in all the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1:17-19 NIV)
3. Worry About Others’ Opinions
When I worry about others’ opinions of me, I miss the power of the Holy Spirit in me. I think if I do what God is asking, no one will understand. Or I think I will make a fool of myself, and instead of making God look good, I will make myself look like I don’t have a clue. I’m certain there have been a number of times when I listened to the voice of insecurity more than the voice of the Spirit who brings life and freedom.
This is one of the reasons why I was hesitant about starting the women’s Bible study. I didn’t know what questions or issues these women might have or if I’d be equipped to handle them, so I put it off. It wasn’t until I acknowledged God’s ability to work through my weakness that I finally moved forward in faith instead of letting fear dictate my decisions. I saw that it wasn’t people who I needed to worry about pleasing, but God.
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10 NIV)
When I finally realized this and extended an invitation to my church, I saw a church full of women thirsty for the Word. I saw women who wanted an encounter with the Living God, but were in a stuck place, just like I had been. Yes, there were some hard conversations. Yes, there were times when I wondered what I’d gotten myself into.
But there were also moments when all I could do was lift my hands in thanks to a God who loves each and every one of us as if we were the only person in the room. He bends down to come near to us, and longs for us to pause long enough to listen.
Friend, stumbling blocks are natural parts of our faith journey. If we didn’t face them and trip over them from time to time, we wouldn’t be descendants of Adam. We would be standing face to face with Jesus. And one day we will. But until then, we continue to learn and grow.
If you feel like you’re groping through your spiritual walk today, get honest with God about it. There is something about complete transparency that opens our eyes in a fresh new way. Then, still your heart and listen. You may be surprised at what you hear from him.
Abby McDonald is a blogger, speaker, wife and mom whose work has been featured on Proverbs 31 Ministries, (in)Courage, For Every Mom, and more. Her passion is to empower women to grow in faith and hope, even when life is messy. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English from the University of South Carolina, and loves to teach about writing at conferences each year. Abby lives with her husband and three children in western Maryland. You can connect with her at abbymcdonald.organd on Facebook.
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Capuski