What causes people to not be faithful? See if any of these potential roadblocks resonate with you.
Roadblock #1: Fear – If we have an opportunity to step out of our comfort zone, to step out in faith, we can be afraid that we can’t handle it. We hold back rather than trust God to carry us through. Sometimes we never make the commitment to serve or give because we’re afraid we won’t keep it. The fear can be overwhelming.
Think about Jesus’ teaching like “lay down your life” or “give it all up for me.” Jesus taught that his disciples will die to themselves and follow him. If we follow Jesus like that, will God provide? Will he care for us? We are sometimes not faithful, because we are afraid that God will not be faithful to us. So we don’t risk it.
Roadblock #2: Imposter Syndrome – This is when we don’t think well enough of ourselves to step out and serve. We think we can’t do it. We don’t think we are smart enough, qualified enough. When I was working on my dissertation, I battled a major case of imposter syndrome. I love reading books, but I really doubted that I had much I could contribute with my writing. There are plenty of other people way smarter than me, way more insightful. They should be writing, not me. I battled that every step along the way. In fact, a couple weeks ago, my track mentor asked me to come to a dinner for some current doctoral students and share my doctoral studies experience as well as some of what I had written on culture. I was super nervous. I told the group that I was struggling with imposter syndrome standing before them. One guy spoke out and said, “Oh man…you mean it doesn’t go away?” When you struggle emotionally, the result can be that you can become unfaithful.
Roadblock #3: Bitterness – If someone hurts you, you can grow bitter or even hateful toward them. Those dark attitudes can often lead to a lack of faithfulness on our part, both to the Lord and to the people that have hurt you. So there will be times when we need to address ourselves first. You might read that last sentence and think, “Wait, Joel…are you saying I need to be faithful to people who have hurt me?” Almost certainly, yes. In marriage we will often hurt our spouse, and they will hurt us. In parenting, we will often mistreat our children, and they will often mistreat us. In a work setting, employers and employees hurt one another. Our hurt toward one another does not negate the need to be faithful to one another. Marriage vows state this very clearly.
Of course, there will be, sadly, some hurts that require us to build healthy boundaries between ourselves and the person perpetrating the hurt. Those boundaries are faithful expressions of love for self and others, with the purpose of keeping us safe from needlessly experiencing more hurt from that person. The person we set up boundaries against will almost certainly accuse us of being unfaithful, but their accusation should not deter us from erecting those healthy boundaries.
When you are struggling with hatred and bitterness, when you have been hurt by someone, before you can be faithful, you’ll probably have to spend time with God, dealing with your own thoughts and emotions. You might need professional counseling.
We can spend so much time thinking about and discussing how we have been hurt, how difficult it is for us. “I have rights,” we declare. It is so easy to get vindictive and fight for our rights. But faithfulness is about surrendering your hurt to him. Give up your rights to him. You’ll probably not have the comfort of having the person come and ask forgiveness. Turn to Philippians 2:1-5, page 951. Self-sacrifice is essential for growing faithfulness.
Roadblock #4: Busyness. Another roadblock to faithfulness is that we have so jammed packed our lives full of things, that we have very little room to grow in our faithfulness. Whether it is habits, hobbies, entertainment, or otherwise, we need to evaluate our lives. Is your life overly scheduled?
In years past we’ve planted a garden in our back yard, but this year we decided to just have a berry patch. Even though we didn’t plant vegetables, our berry patch was covered with weeds, which, of course, happens every year. So first we had to get rid of a bunch of weeds. Then we had to care for the overgrown berry plants, many of which have thorns. We trimmed them. Some were growing too thick, too close to each other, so we had to thin them.
With weeds gone, berry plants trimmed and thinned, they had freedom, space to grow. And grow they did! Not just berries, but more weeds too. So we have to constantly weed. Life is like that. We’ll have a period where we clear out some space to grow closer to the Lord, and then things get busy. Before you know it, you feel like there’s no time for the Lord. Clear out the weeds. Trim your life. Thin out your life.
I experienced this recently with writing my dissertation. When I would be adjunct teaching a local Bible college class, I did not have time to work on my dissertation. Or barely any time.
The first year of dissertation-writing went by and some of the guys in my track graduated. They finished their dissertation! They were done, and I watched their progress with admiration and a bit of jealousy. I so badly wanted to be done, but life was too busy when I was teaching a class. When I didn’t have a class, I had freedom to write. But when I had a class, my dissertation ground to a halt. So this past winter and spring, I said, “No” to teaching opportunities, and I was able to focus on my dissertation.
What about you? Is it time to pull some weeds?