Rough patches like the one I'm in, the kind that take us away from fellowship for a season, can be a real faith-killer for many. That's why it strikes some as odd that I would say I have never felt more loved by God than I have in this season.
But we have to be clear about what's going on here, lest anyone get the wrong idea.
There are a lot of voices out there right now claiming that you don't need a church to be a thriving Christian, that our faith is a private matter best lived out in our personal lives by ourselves, and that it's okay to not have a Sunday morning home. In fact, it might even be good.
Voices like this like to take stories like mine and make them evidence for their claims. They like to say that if someone like me can be removed from the church for months and feel more loved by God, then that's certainly proof that the church is holding us back from real, vibrant faith.
Let me be clear: I do not believe that for one second. Not for even half a breath.
God is very clear about wanting us to be in His body. He's clear that that's the plan. He's clear that that's not only what's best for us, but that it's necessary for our spiritual growth and solid foundation.
In fact, I would claim that it is my strong connection to the church that enables me to weather seasons like this.
We usually talk about this sort of thing when it comes to the spiritual disciplines - prayer, Bible study, worship. We talk about how it's important to read your Bible even on the good days so that when the bad days come, you already have that solid foundation to lean back on. We talk about how it's important to pray when you aren't desperate in you soul so that when you are desperate, you will already know with certainty how that line of communication between you and God works. We talk about how you worship and sing praises in the good times so that when darkness falls, there is still a song in your soul.
Well, my friends, the same is true about church. You go to church in the good and the easy times so that when hard times like these come, you are already woven into that web. The threads that are strung into your life through the fellowship you've established hold you up even when you can't be there for awhile. You establish yourself in the church so that if you have to be away for awhile, you don't feel isolated or lost; you still feel connected.
The reason my faith is not falling apart in this season is because I have invested every day in making sure it's the kind of faith that doesn't fall apart in a season like this. Because I have followed God's plan for the kind of faith that can weather the hard days and the valleys and the storms and the troubles that He told us would be coming.
Read that again: He told us these kinds of troubles would be coming. Our faith doesn't get us out of them.
But...if we follow His plan, our faith can get us through them.