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I don't know about you but while I was being discipled, I never heard anything about my mentors going through a crisis of faith.  Sometimes I think that believers go through crises of faith and perhaps fall away because they don't know how to get through their crisis.  As we think of discipling others or as we evaluate our own discipleship experiences, what do you think is necessary to know or to pass on to others about getting through a crisis of faith?  Do you think that there is such a thing as an "anatomy of a spiritual crisis?"

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Most certainly, that is why he gave us Psalm 23 to inform and remind us that we will have times of crisis and we need to remember Him and not to fear our crisis. Peter also says do not be surprised by these things, as a matter of fact, almost all of our Christian heros through out history have gone through such times. We should expect it and we should teach others to expect it. While at the same time we are the ones to help our brothers and sisters through these times which is the importance of a healthy body, fellowship, community and church! Often this is called the "dark night of the soul" and it is almost as if God is asking or wondering if we trust Him even we do not feel, sense, experience or see His presence in a situation. Can we still trust Him as Job did!
Forewarned is forearmed...a crisis of faith will happen as we journey this side...and often more than one..but although quite painful as we go through them..we can teach others that when the storm "hits" to not to batten down the hatches or run for cover..but to turn and face the wind with uplifted hands and to just "cry out to God"....when we try to hide and cover out heads..then things get buried that should not be buried, and as hard as our little legs will run, we can't outrun the crisis...but we can get through....and we can get through more quickly by being totally honest with God....yes, I know He already knows how we feel, but He desires to hear us tell Him...and the more graphic detail we give Him, the better...the good, the bad, and the ugly....including some "uglies" that we may be "feeling" about Him in the midst of the crisis...some peole may equate this with "complaining" but it's not...complaining is when we well, complain, and that's that...crying out to God is spilling our guts and then saying through tear soaked eyes..."now, Father...what do YOU say about this?" and then staying around long enough to hear His version, His encouragement, and receiving His peace....when we arise from our time with Him, the crisis is most often still there, but we see with different eyes, His eyes, and our attitude has been changed....it is through these crisises of faith that we learn new things about God that we would never have learned before....During one such crisis for me, I learned to trust God for things not yet seen...and to praise Him for those things not yet seen, and through it all He took away many fears....so much so that once I got through the crisis, I searched surf shops looking for a "no fear" tee shirt because of what He had done. :-) ...So I encourage those I am discipling to always be honest with God (crisis or no crisis), take the time to listen to what He says about the situation, and to stand on His promises to us, even if it means writing a bunch down on index cards and taking them with as you go about the day, and letting them know that they will come out of this stronger and better than they ever would be otherwise...so focus upon Jesus and Jesus only...I tell people that Jesus promised that we would get to the other side...our boat may break up in mid ocean..but He'll send a submarine if He has to...or we can "walk"...but He will never abandon us or leave us and we WILL get to the other side...

Jenni, very honest question and deserving of an honest answer. I have fallen more than anyone I know. I also know what it means to be in the company of those whose lives seemed unmarked by sin - though I fully understood that they could not possibly exist apart from sinning. In their efforts to portray "holiness" they presented an insincere faith. A faith elevated beyond my ability to grasp. As such, their best discipleship efforts were lost in the haze of their own piety. Good news though. I learned to be genuinely sincere and share not only the majesty of God in mountaintop moments, but more importantly, the doldrums and failures and false starts of daily living. I'm not sure we're ever out of a spiritual crisis. It's like a storm. You're either in one, coming out of one, or there are storm clouds on the horizon. But God is in the storm and it is there that our faith is tested and strengthened and reproducible.

 

God bless you for your honesty and sincere desire to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings (Col. 3:7-10).

Thanks for your input Doug. I so appreciate you and Suzie and the realness of your faith.   I think that there may be more than a few of us who could identify with the feeling of having "fallen more than anyone I know".    But I'm reminded of the passage in Luke 7, "Those who are forgiven much, love much."  Which brings me to another question, can we really disciple others without loving much?

 

P.S. I don't really like storms but like my daughter who is learning how to live in Seattle, where it rains a lot, I too am learning how to live--in and outside of the storms.

Doug Morrell said:

Jenni, very honest question and deserving of an honest answer. I have fallen more than anyone I know. I also know what it means to be in the company of those whose lives seemed unmarked by sin - though I fully understood that they could not possibly exist apart from sinning. In their efforts to portray "holiness" they presented an insincere faith. A faith elevated beyond my ability to grasp. As such, their best discipleship efforts were lost in the haze of their own piety. Good news though. I learned to be genuinely sincere and share not only the majesty of God in mountaintop moments, but more importantly, the doldrums and failures and false starts of daily living. I'm not sure we're ever out of a spiritual crisis. It's like a storm. You're either in one, coming out of one, or there are storm clouds on the horizon. But God is in the storm and it is there that our faith is tested and strengthened and reproducible.

 

God bless you for your honesty and sincere desire to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings (Col. 3:7-10).

Some of our best mentoring involves sharing our own crisis of faith. I know I am closer and respect those mentors of mine who are vulnerable and fall and aren't afraid to share their struggles - even of faith. I don't think I'd trust anyone who hadn't had a crisis of faith. The disciples themselves were constantly putting their foot in their mouth, failing....Peter was looking right at Jesus when his faith faltered and he began to sink.

 

I'm a writer and there is indeed an "anatomy of a spiritual crisis."  I'll look up some examples and post them here - but I think the Bible is full of God's people who experienced a crisis of faith (many times actually) and how they dealt with it.

Becky, I could not agree more. Looking at Barna's recently released 2010 church research, people are looking for genuine relationships. I pray each of us realize how critically important it is to walk in the Spirit.

Becky said:

Some of our best mentoring involves sharing our own crisis of faith. I know I am closer and respect those mentors of mine who are vulnerable and fall and aren't afraid to share their struggles - even of faith. I don't think I'd trust anyone who hadn't had a crisis of faith. The disciples themselves were constantly putting their foot in their mouth, failing....Peter was looking right at Jesus when his faith faltered and he began to sink.

 

I'm a writer and there is indeed an "anatomy of a spiritual crisis."  I'll look up some examples and post them here - but I think the Bible is full of God's people who experienced a crisis of faith (many times actually) and how they dealt with it.

Thanks Doug, Relationship is what a walk with God is all about. I think it's fascinating and comforting to realize that when we first start a relationship, be it with a friend or co-worker, boss, business associate or someone we've met at church - that the real proof of the closeness of the relationship is how we handle the small crisis in that relationship. The more healthy crisis' we have - for instance, misunderstandings because we don't know the person, or a failure because of our own issues - for instance we don't set boundaries well and end up resenting someone else because we can't say "no," appropriately - the stronger that relationship can become. If we lose a parent or child or loved one and that friend/co-worker/person joins us in our sorrow, or we (as the Bible commands) confess our sins to one another and weather a crisis with our friends, then  those spiritual crisis's strengthen us and our relationship. People fail. We're still human. 

 

If you think about it, notice how often the disciples and others were in a "storm" on a ship and ultimately turned to Christ or God for help. They ALL feared, they all expressed doubt and fear. No one stood off to the side and said, "I don't want to look uncool or unspiritual."  Peter "cried out Lord save me!" I think a spiritual crisis is a stage of growth for us and those around us. I would much rather fail and return to the Father as a prodigal, than to suffer along with a stiff upper lip in denial. 

 

In Matthew 9:13 "Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners."

 

We don't get points for being perfect. In Christ we are perfect. God doesn't tell us not to fail. He tells us to keep running the race.

In any novel or story the anatomy of the story is the same. It's called "The heroes journey." Whether it's a bible story, a secular story or anything else - the structure is the same. I've tweaked this version of the hero's journey so it is suitable for Christians and our journey.  Joseph Campbell, a writer, believed and demonstrated that all stories have a progression, or anatomy, and he set down that anatomy in a series of steps he called the "Heroes' journey." Many writers follow these steps deliberately, or subconsciously. They're very helpful in many ways if you're trying to understand either a story or your own crisis.

 

  • Departure
  1. The Call to Adventure
    The call to adventure is the point in a person's life when they are first given notice that everything is going to change, whether they know it or not. Think Moses spotting the burning bush.
  2. Refusal of the Call
    Often when the call is given, the future hero refuses to heed it. This may be from a sense of duty or obligation, fear, insecurity, a sense of inadequacy, or any of a range of reasons that work to hold the person in his or her current circumstances.
  3. Supernatural Aid
    Once the hero has committed to the quest, consciously or unconsciously, his or her guide and spiritual helper (for the Christian, God, Christ, an angel etc) appears, or becomes known.
  4. The Crossing of the First Threshold
    This is the point where the person actually crosses into the field of adventure, leaving the known limits of his or her world and venturing into an unknown and dangerous realm where the rules and limits are not known.
  5. The Belly of the Whale
    The belly of the whale represents the final separation from the hero's known world and self. It is sometimes described as the person's lowest point, but it is actually the point when the person is between or transitioning between worlds and selves. The separation has been made, or is being made, or being fully recognized between the old world and old self and the potential for a new world/self. The experiences that will shape the new world and self will begin shortly, or may be beginning with this experience which is often symbolized by something dark, unknown and frightening. By entering this stage, the person shows their willingness to undergo a metamorphosis, to die to him or herself.

  • Inititation
  1. The Road of Trials
    The road of trials is a series of tests, tasks, or ordeals that the person must undergo to begin the transformation. Often the person fails one or more of these tests, which often occur in threes.
  2. The Meeting with God
    The meeting with God represents the point in the adventure when the person experiences a love that has the power and significance of the all-powerful, all encompassing, unconditional love that a fortunate infant may experience with his or her mother. It is also known as the "hieros gamos", or sacred marriage, the union of opposites, and may take place entirely within the person. In other words, the person begins to see him or herself in a non-dualistic way. This is a very important step in the process and is often represented by the person finding the other person that he or she loves most completely. 
  3. The Temptress
    At one level, this step is about those temptations that may lead the hero to abandon or stray from his or her quest or calling. Temptation can be anything, but for Campbell (who crafted these steps) however, this step is about the revulsion that the usually male hero may feel about his own fleshy/earthy nature, and the subsequent attachment or projection of that revulsion to women. Woman is a metaphor for the physical or material temptations of life, since the hero-knight was often tempted by lust from his spiritual journey. You see this in the Bible as "The woman who rides the beast" and the portrayal of women as harlots who reject God.
  4. Atonement with the Father
    In this step the person must confront and be initiated by whatever holds the ultimate power in his or her life. In many myths and stories this is the father, or a father figure  (God) who has life and death power. This is the center point of the journey. All the previous steps have been moving in to this place, all that follow will move out from it. Although this step is most frequently symbolized by an encounter with a male, it does not have to be a male; just someone or thing with incredible power. For the transformation to take place, the person as he or she has been must be "killed" so that the new self can come into being. Sometime this killing is literal, and the earthly journey for that character is either over or moves into a different realm.
  5. Apotheosis
    To apotheosize is to deify. When someone dies a physical death, or dies to the self to live in spirit, he or she moves beyond the pairs of opposites to a state of divine knowledge, love, compassion and bliss. This is a god-like state; the person is in heaven and beyond all strife. A more mundane way of looking at this step is that it is a period of rest, peace and fulfillment before the hero begins the return. For Christians this step is to become a Christian, to be His son or daughter and identified with God's family.
  6. The Ultimate Boon
    The ultimate boon is the achievement of the goal of the quest. It is what the person went on the journey to get. All the previous steps serve to prepare and purify the person for this step, since in many myths the boon is something transcendent like the elixir of life itself, or a plant that supplies immortality, or the holy grail.

  • Return
  1. Refusal of the Return
    So why, when all has been achieved, the ambrosia has been drunk, and we have conversed with God, why come back to normal life with all its cares and woes? When Paul and the disciples were torn between dying with Christ, or wanting to be taken up to be with Christ - or to stay on earth and minister to people - they were experiencing this conflict.
  2. The Flight (Campbell calls it the magic flight, but it's essentially the powerful step away from the goal.)
    Sometimes the hero must escape with the boon (boon= prayer or request), if it is something that the world, circumstance, Satan, our human/carnal nature has been jealously guarding. It can be just as adventurous and dangerous returning from the journey as it was to go on it.
  3. Rescue from Without
    Just as the hero may need guides and assistants to set out on the quest, often times he or she must have powerful guides and rescuers (family, church, community) to bring them back to everyday life, especially if the person has been wounded or weakened by the experience. Or perhaps the person doesn't realize that it is time to return, that they can return, or that others need their boon (boon=prayer or request).
  4. The Crossing of the Return Threshold
    The trick in returning is to retain the wisdom gained on the quest, to integrate that wisdom into a human life, and then maybe figure out how to share the wisdom with the rest of the world. This is usually extremely difficult. For many of us we refer to this as returning from a mountaintop experience. We go to a conference, have a powerful and moving reaction to a revival, then go out into the mundane world with our excitement only to be met with apathy or  indifference.
  5. Master of the Two Worlds
    In Christianity, this step is usually represented by Jesus. For a human hero, it may mean achieving a balance between the material and spiritual. As a result of their journey the person has become comfortable and competent in both the inner and outer worlds - the physical and the spiritual - being IN the world, but not of it.
  6. Freedom to Live
    Mastery leads to freedom from the fear of death, which in turn gives us the freedom to live. This is sometimes referred to as living in the moment, neither anticipating the future nor regretting the past. For the Christian this is coming full-circle to trust God/Christ/Holy Spirit and to be faithful in that trust.

 

The other thing? This journey repeats itself throughout our lives in many ways. You see it in the Old Testament and in the New, with man, and with Christ. Once you recognize the cycle and where you are in it, it becomes so much easier to trust God!!



Doug Morrell said:

Becky, I could not agree more. Looking at Barna's recently released 2010 church research, people are looking for genuine relationships. I pray each of us realize how critically important it is to walk in the Spirit.

Becky said:

Some of our best mentoring involves sharing our own crisis of faith. I know I am closer and respect those mentors of mine who are vulnerable and fall and aren't afraid to share their struggles - even of faith. I don't think I'd trust anyone who hadn't had a crisis of faith. The disciples themselves were constantly putting their foot in their mouth, failing....Peter was looking right at Jesus when his faith faltered and he began to sink.

 

I'm a writer and there is indeed an "anatomy of a spiritual crisis."  I'll look up some examples and post them here - but I think the Bible is full of God's people who experienced a crisis of faith (many times actually) and how they dealt with it.

Fall away is part of the crisis of faith. I always fall away in many ways. My life is full of crisis. When I pass one, I encounter another worse  crisis. I fail as a father, a husbund a brother etc. Yet still I am here, loved and cared for by my Lord, Jesus Christ. What did I get our of it, I am always loved, cared accepted and missed. I BELONG TO HIM. At times, I told my Lord I am an embaresing to You and I must stop worshipping and following; and do something else. Then he will say I know before you accept my call that you will pass all through these crisis. Then  i say wow, what a love, a passion, a commitement to a wreched I am.. and move on. MOVE ON

Wow, what great discussion. What an important topic. The only problem with mentors is that they're human, they fail occasionally. I read, heard, recently (sorry, I take in so many 'podcasts" and read so much that I don't always remember where and when I pick up nuggets and gems of information) that as long as Peter was focused on Christ he walked on water. The minute his focus wandered, he began to flounder and sink (interesting that he didn't just suddenly find himself swimming).

Kasahun really focuses in on why we falter - we become distracted by people, events, things around us and in our lives that draw our attention away from the Lord. That life in this world is going to cause our being down, dismayed, confused, frustrated, disappointed - all feelings I've found present during crisis of faith; and, that all of this - including the fact that "once again I'm struggling here, Lord" happens in our lives. He knew us before our fathers even looked at our mothers, counted every hair on our heads, experienced every temptation we face... Including crisis of faith. So Christ knows what we're going, been, will experience on our walk with him. And, when we lift our eyes again - he's there.

You've all really uplifted my faith with this discussion.

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