Faith Identity

When I Remember Not-Part 1

This is part 1 of a 2 part article on what can happen when we forget God. Part 1 may leave you wondering if there is any hope. Be sure to check out part 2 of this article next week.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,  Psalm 103 vs 1-2 ESV

It happened again! Like a bad song on repeat, that same sin reared its ugly head. It’s a horrible disaster. Make it stop! Problem is, it doesn’t. You can have your doctrine air-tight, 100% biblical and still be plagued with habitual sin. Like the Pharisees of old, we can be spot-on and yet miss the entire purpose of faith in God altogether.

Some who struggle with habitual sin conclude the problem is not with them, but with the Gospel. That it is diluted, watered down, weak, impotent. Such a viewpoint will eventually cause you to discount Jesus, ultimately walking away from Him. You may still attend church, even serve on some committee or teach, but deep inside you and Jesus are at best silent neighbors. Cordial, but no relationship.

The other destination of frustration over your repeated sin is to emotionally throw up your hands and leave Jesus in the dust. Many warriors do such. They are leaving the church and Jesus in droves. 59% of millennials raised in the church have left.  Only 20% of millennials attend church. That means, there’s an 80% probability you are a non-church attending millennial. Somewhere along the way, you have disconnected your life from God. Your attempts to solve personal problems rarely, if at all, consider Him. 

Pushing Jesus away is the equivalency of forgetting Him altogether. When David, the psalmist says forget not all his benefits, it means whatever you linger on you remember. To neglect the Gospel is to forget anything God has to say about life. In relegating the Gospel to the sidelines, your attempts to solve personal issues, like bad habits, results in the endless pursuit of behavior modifications. And, when those fail, you throw caution to the wind and dive head-first into your forrays.

Scott’s Story

Raised in a small town, Scott’s family attended church regularly. In 5th grade, he understood the Gospel; Jesus’ redemption of us on the cross and his resurrection. Scott trusted Jesus as his savior. Like most churches, Scott’s church celebrated his newfound faith, but no one took the time to disciple him. Scott made little connections between his faith and the daily issues of pre-teen boys. 

By the time Scott hit middle school, his awakening hormones often sent him mixed messages. On one hand, he couldn’t stop noticing the cute girls. Tomboy Cindy who caught frogs with him in 5th grade was now this shapely young woman in 7th grade. Wowzer! At the same time, he and a few of his buddies would trash-talk each others’ changing bodies. Competition over who was bigger, taller, stronger and who could tackle the other down first was at times fierce. Scott usually lost the matches. With that, his buddies labeled him gay.

By high school, Scott was secretly deep into porn and masturbation. He dated a few girls but nothing lasted more than a few weeks. During his sophomore year, a new kid moved to town. Zach was a quiet loner, much like Scott. The two hit it off from the start, sharing common interests in biking, camping, and graphic design.  For the first time, Scott felt like he found a friend for life. His parents were glad to see their only child finally have a good friend. Those buddies from middle school days had drifted off into other directions, leaving Scott to himself. 

One summer day, Zach and Scott biked to the nearby river to fish. In setting up their spots, Zach came over and sat right next to Scott, putting his arm around him. “I love you, Scott,” Zach said with an ere of affection. Scott responded with “…Like you too.”  “No, you don’t understand, Scott. I love you”. With that, Zach took Scott’s hand. Scott felt totally awkward and yet for the first time felt wanted. His old friends didn’t care about him anymore. His dad rarely spent time with him and there was no one at church he considered a friend. That summer experience further separated Scott’s connection between his faith and his identity. “Maybe I am gay?” he thought.  “Then, why do I really like girls also?” Unfortunately, Scott and Zach shared a sexual experience while camping later that summer. It drove Scott deeper into confusion over his identity. His interest in gay porn increased.

By college, his secret split-sexual identity drove him crazy. Shame and guilt crushed him. He knew God saw all his actions and concluded that God had already rejected him, so why bother asking Him for help? After graduating, he took a bold step and moved in with two gay guys. The problem was he wasn’t gay enough for them to have sex with him. He dated several women and they each concluded he was too gay for them. Living on his own, Scott struggled with severe depression. He started drinking and was eventually pulled over for a DUI. Life was out of control.

Scott’s journey away from his faith may or may not parallel yours. Perhaps you have a dark story hidden away deep in your soul. No one knows, except you. You might even surmise no one cares.  Scott struggled with his sexual identity because he felt forgotten. He desperately wanted to be loved. So do you. So do I. Every attempt to find love apart from God leads to despair.

Next week we’ll dive deeper into Scott’s story. Until then, ponder this one question. In what areas of your life do you forget God?

Warrior On!

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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