Everyone goes through barren seasons, even if it's not something they openly talk about or easily admit. It's the nature of faith, especially when the faith that we have comes up against something it hasn't faced before. It's a learning curve; we have to figure things out in a new context, find how the goodness of God reveals itself in a new place.
There are a lot of suggestions on how Christians should handle such seasons. As we saw last week, there are segments of Christianity that say that all doubt is sin and condemn someone for going through a barren season at all. And we saw also that there are segments of Christianity that would say this is a great time for deconstruction and champion a tearing down of whatever faith already existed.
There's a third, fairly large, segment of Christianity that we could call the 'fake it until you make it' crowd - a group of believers who say that the way through a barren season is to keep singing, to keep praying, to keep reading, to keep studying, to keep churching, to keep doing all of the things that your old faith had you doing until you 'feel' like doing them again, until you make your way through the barren season.
That sounds good to a lot of us. Most of us have been using 'fake it until you make it' a lot in our lives. For several generations, our culture loved this advice. (The tides seem to be turning toward something like, "If it's not immediately fruitful and fulfilling, quit." The culture's version of deconstruction. But there are still some fake it till you make it folks.)
But that's not what God wants.
And it's not what faith requires.
The thing about the Christian faith is that it never grows by pretending to be something that it's not. Never. We see that over and over in the Scriptures, those folks who were trying to look like they were faithful, even though their hearts weren't in it, and they were condemned for it. Their lives didn't work out the way they thought. It still took a major encounter with God to transform them the way that they were hoping to be transformed (or others were hoping to transform them).
Faith is always an honest endeavor. It's always earnest. It's always real about who you are, even in seasons when you aren't sure who God is.
See, God's never going to ask you, "Why didn't you pray to me between April and October of 2022? Why didn't you sing even a single praise song?" But I think very much that He will ask us why we kept singing when our hearts didn't believe, why we went through the motions when our questions were heavier than our faith. I think He will ask us what we thought we were doing, being dishonest about our faith - because when we are dishonest about our faith, we are dishonest about our God, even if everything that we say about Him is true.
C'mon now, we know this. This is the very heart of hypocrisy - it's saying things we're not living, professing truths that haven't captured our own hearts. It's strange, then, that we defend this kind of living in our dry and barren places, when we've lost our faith for a little while. When we're trying to figure things out.
Is it okay to be a hypocrite for awhile? Do you think God approves of that kind of living?
Of course not. He'd far rather have your questions than your fakeness. He'd far rather you be honest and say, you know what, I don't think I can sing today. You know what? I'm not sure about prayer right now.
Honest doubt is more honoring to God than fake faith. Period.
So no, don't fake it till you make it. You'll never make it that way. Just be real about where you are - in a dark night of the soul, searching for that little flicker of light that your heart desperately needs to see.