“I used to enjoy prayers, fasts, lengthy services and pilgrimage trips, but suddenly everything changed. Why?”
Reason One. Doubts
I believe that growing colder in faith is a completely normal process. What is it caused by? Let us look into this question. When a person comes to faith, usually he perceives the temple, the priest and the service as something magical, transcendental and directly connected with heaven. He looks at the people around him being very kind and helping one another and views everyone nearly as saints, which, of course, is a pleasant experience. This period may last from several months to several years before certain factors begin to appear that influence this person. He watches TV, reads the media and social networks, communicates with friends and relatives and learns the facts that may discourage him. For example he may read that the descent of the Holy Fire which he viewed as a miracle, is nothing but “a trick played by the deceiving priests”, and then he may come across a video showing a priest behaving in an inappropriate way.
A combination of such factors leads a person to doubt. He begins to question the correctness of his faith and the righteousness of his church, wondering whether everything in it is really as he was told. This is normal. Every Christian needs to pass through such doubts. In fact, it seems stranger to me when a person does not have them. In doubts, questions and pursuit of a deeper understanding, our faith grows deeper. Where there is no doubt, there is also no depth. I believe that doubts and the ensuing changes in our faith are parts of a natural process.
Reason Two. Fatigue
I can say from my own experience that fatigue is a very common reason for growing cold in faith. When I was ordained, I was on a very high spiritual ascent for some time. Many Christians know this feeling of spiritual “weightlessness” when they easily spend hours in prayer, fasting on bread and water. However, this stage ends after some time and is often replaced by the feeling of weariness. A person then realizes that constantly living at this pace is very difficult. This situation is also an absolutely normal process. It is important for a believer to find a competent and sensible confessor, who can advise spiritual exercises that he will be able to bear.
Our ruling bishop once expressed a very interesting thought: the prayer rule contained in the Typicon was “designed” for monastics, and not for laity. Imagine an Olympic champion training to win high-scale competitions. Can an ordinary person bear the same “load” and train in the same mode? Of course not. The same applies to Christians. A person needs to determine this “mode” for himself and make sure that he can bear it every day. Those who grow cold towards their faith because of the feeling of weariness need to understand that they do not need to surpass themselves as long as they do what they can.
An athlete develops certain muscles as he trains, and then he takes on more and more load. A Christian does the same thing spiritually. If he joins the church life more and more actively, he will gradually learn to pray more sincerely, as well as to receive communion and confess more often. But again, just as an athlete needs a coach who regulates his physical activity, a Christian needs a spiritual father who will regulate his “spiritual load”. The main thing is to find a priest whom you trust. If you want to stay on track for a long time, look for a coach!
Reason Three. Feeling of Boredom
Sometimes our coldness in faith occurs because we are fed up with the same services, the same prayer rule and other “routine” things. Well, it’s no secret that the so-called ‘mosaic thinking’ is common to modern people. We want entertainment or information very quickly and in an accessible form. For example, for this reason, many modern young people cannot read classic literature, finding it boring.
What can I say in this situation? Yes, the church is conservative. But if we come here, we need to understand that we did not come for entertainment or something spectacular, but we came to God. We don’t expect to be amused at a doctor’s office. On the contrary, we understand that there will be tests, examinations, and then, perhaps, some long-term treatment. It is the same with church. A believer walks towards God step by step, gradually revealing his soul. This takes time. Prayer is work and it takes time, concentration, and the appropriate attitude. A Christian needs to understand that church is the Father’s house but it is also the Doctor’s office where there will be no immediate result.
To a person who is tired of the monotony of his spiritual life, I would say: pray, observe fasts and work on yourself as well as on your attitude to the world around you. The result will follow, and you will feel the grace of God. But if you come to church for the “show”, there will be no result. The church is not about that. Faith helps us change the very essence and meaning of our life. But there is an important aspect: we must be ready for this. The entire life of a Christian is the road to Christ.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds