Am I beyond hope?

I’ve been wrestling with Christianity since I was a small child, growing up in the South, where fundamentalism reigned. I was drawn to God, but the faith that was presented to me frightened me. I was terrified of going to hell. In my adult life for the past 25 years or so I been in and out of Christianity, doubts weighing on me about the veracity of the faith as well as my seeming inability to believe. Mostly the latter. It’s a heart problem; I’m drawn to the faith but something in me wants to rebel. I have been helped lately by finding better expressions of Christianity, mainly theology that magnifies God’s love rather than the image of Him I grew up with.

But I feel so hard-hearted often, sometimes it goes on for weeks. It’s a regular thing for me to throw up my hands and just walk away frustrated. I try to believe, I pray “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.” Sometimes I even feel hopeful that I am saved. But inevitably I am crushed with doubt due to the hardness of my heart and the ease in which I give in to sin.

I should also add that I have been diagnosed with severe depression and I know I have OCD, though I don’t want to use those as excuses. I am not a good person, not at all. I am resentful at life and people, and have been so since I was a child. That doesn’t go away, no matter how hard I try to change. And I do believe that if I was truly saved I would at least have new desires and a new outlook. At least that’s what I’ve always been told and read happens when one is saved. But I am utterly discouraged at my life and the condition of my heart.

I’ve been at this for decades, and I am wondering if I crossed the line to where repentance is no longer possible.

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There is no such line, Robert. Not for those who still agonize about it. There is a gradient, of course - the deeper we get into the weeds of our own sin, the more difficult and complicated it is for us to find any way out - or to even want to get out. But it’s at the moment that we cry out in desperation that I think we paradoxically come into the presence of our best Hope, even if we can’t feel it at all.

To know that you’re hard-hearted is to be the beginning of God giving you a softer heart. I wish I could have words and counsel that would ‘make it all better’ - but we both know that throwing words at our own heart conditions can itself be a game that we play. And nor should such ostensible encouragements or friendly counseling take the place of professional help with depression if you need that. I pray that you can also seek out any help you need on that front. But meanwhile, for what it’s worth, know that you aren’t alone. A lot of us here have spent seasons of our lives in need of respite from the less loving fundamentalisms that have attempted to represent themselves as the face of God. There are a lot of resources and authors now that can help you delve more faithfully into scriptures than what too many fundamentalists have been willing to do, and (infinitely more importantly) to want to know and be known in Christ. There is much help to be had on that front!

That’s a very good place to be I think. Hope is strong. And is not preclusive of fear and trembling. I join you in fellowship over such desperate hope even more than I feel any spiritual kinship with those who claim nothing less than ‘certainty’.

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Robert. Me too. A much milder version. But bad enough. It’s not your fault. Any of it. Even the benighted, abusive culture that surrounded you and made it all much much worse. I had that for 20 years. Including the lie of unforgivable sin. It’s done enormous, incalculable harm to us both and countless others. You need no excuse. You need medication and good, ongoing therapy, counselling as you know, to help manage your condition. That is incredibly expensive and hard to come by. You need professional help and real love and understanding. Not a whole culture’s psychosis from the dark ages. There must be recovery groups, on line you can join. If Jesus is for real, then He does what He says on the tin in every way. Saves. What, who He cannot save, fix, heal in this life [where He’s limited to us] He will in the next. As in Rogerian therapy, only deal with the positive. Only the positive is real in Christ. In Christ is yes. There is NO condemnation in Christ Jesus. You are entitled to love and understanding only Robert, from mature, educated, sane, sound Christians and others. Entitled. You are entitled to share it all in safety. Publicly here isn’t safe. I’m just this guy Robert, happy to PM under the auspices of the moderators here. They are good people.

Martin

Even in hopelessness, there is hope. Salvation is bigger than us, bigger than all of it.

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Well … can we at least go for “safer than a lot of other places?” … at least if any of us “good” moderators are doing our jobs. Not entirely safe here, to be sure. Attacks and perceived attacks are happening. But I would like to think that many in this forum would help rise to one’s defense as well, and not let harmful or untrue words go unanswered. In short … y’all could do worse, I think. In my biased opinion.

[And of course nothing about any of this is really safe anyway. It’s not like He’s a tame Lion, you know.]

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You all do a fantastic job @Mervin_Bitikofer. But there are some very broken, discouraging people here, including me. People with all the answers which makes it all the other person’s fault if they don’t accept them. Job’s comforters. It would take another level of moderation to deal with that. So we have to pre-empt and work with the constrained reality, do we not?

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Welcome, @ROBBY. You are not the only one who struggles with these feelings…many of us do. Absolutely, we are all works in progress, and if we were unaware of our failings, it would be a sign we needed to stop and question our view of ourselves.

I love Henri Nouwen, the Dutch priest who wrote “Return of the Prodigal Son,” imagining himself from the standpoint of each of the participants. A typical quote from him would be

Spiritual identity means we are not what we do or what people say about us. And we are not what we have. We are the beloved daughters and sons of God.

Thank goodness God is easier on us than anyone else is.
Blessings.

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As you can tell on this thread Robert, you have friends straight away. As it should be. Friends stick up for each other. We’ve got your back here. Instant friendship comes with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Christ. That’s who He sent. So that we would be His friends to others, with Him. He can’t do friendship without us.

PS His incarnation was the greatest possible act of solidarity, sympathy and apology by God. The God He proves in resurrection. Not damnation.

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I think many of us have felt that way throughout points in our life . Some more than others. Our past can sometimes be really discouraging and we can feel like in the present that we still think to much about evil.

The first thing to know is that God is aware and that we all do it and that’s why he sent his son. The other part of that reason is that no one is beyond salvation. Very evil men snd women throughout history , many probably never known about, has turned to a Christ.

Another thing to remember is that doubt is normal. We all have some doubt in some way and that’s why it’s called faith. Our faith is not made strong by evidence, but by faith.

None of us here will ever be perfect. We all will always have to continue to work out our salvation. We work on bearing fruit of the spirit. It’s a misconception that when we become Christians that suddenly our entire worldview and habitats just change. The violent greedy man who becomes an Christian is still a violent greedy man. He will have to continue to work on his greed and work on his abuse of anger.

Anytime someone is struggling with a hard heart they need to realize it’s still a choice. Regardless of how apathetic or angry they feel it’s a choice on how we respond. Whenever I am carrying out the great commission with someone and they repent and get baptized I always stress these few to them.

  1. They need to remember to read their Bible like an hour a week. As we read the Bible, we learn more of what it says. We can mediate on its stories and lessons like we are asked to. For many who don’t initially enjoy it another reason for them to realize they are making sacrifices to their life for God. It helps teaches discipline. If you have to give up watching an extra episode of some show to read them Bible it helps you keep less self centered focus on yourself and more on Christ.

  2. There are no lone Wolf Christians. Christianity is not about this isolated faith. We can’t be a lamp with a sheet tossed over is. We are commanded to not give up fellowship. We also see a lot of scripture on submitting to the elders of our congregation, orderly worship and so on. When you read the Bible you see a clear set of examples and expectations of Christians gathering together to study, to pray and to worship God. It does not mean we don’t need to take precautions. It does not mean we must do it for every service. It just means that we do need to have a active and ongoing connection with our local brothers and sisters in Christ. Inside and outside of assembling. We are also expected to tell others about this faith. You don’t have to be a salesman’s pushing it on others. You don’t want to be that. But people should know you are a disciple.

  3. You need to give and share love. To soften your heart there are many things you can do. When you see trash on the sidewalk and your are walking past it you should pick it up. When driving to work , even if you’re going to be late, you need to make sure you’re not cutting people off or riding their tails. Offer a helping hand to people. There have been times I have been driving down backroads , I am in the Deep South as well, looking for wildflowers and I see something like once an older man outside trying to lay sod. He was moving slow and I could tell he was not sure what he was doing. He even at first was wanting to reject help but I recognized that it was some kind of pride issue. So before giving up I explained that I enjoy nature, I do this all the time , and that I don’t need anything from you. I do it because I think more kindness is needed and that with me we can knock this out in two hours or if I leave I’ll just be down the road hiking around for a few hours and when I’m done you’ll still not be half way. So he let me help.

Also realize you have to deconstruct harmful paradigms and rebuild them. Get books on emotional intelligence and cognitive processes. The Bible does not have all the answers. We often need more specialized answers. We know for example the Bible says to love on another. We often have to work through things like trauma or hardness to do it and we can rely on counselors, pastors , friends and books to all help us get better.

As for the angry God wanting to torture lost souls forever and ever anyone should take issue with that. Conditional Immortality does a lot to address those issues. Books by Edward Fudge and the Rethinking Hell podcast are some great resources on it.

I dont want to sound pessimistic but if there is a God he will always be there and he will forgive you. Dont worry.

Even the most rached person is capable of grace and saving. God is good. If he exists no one is beyond redeption. Expect those who choose not to.

But even then we dont know who will go to to heaven and who wont
I dont believe anymore and im a little worried about my salvation but maybe God has other plans for me

Maybe you need to talk with yourself and look at your heart.
I lost my faith when i did this ,but maybe youll gain it and never leave it. Its either this or that. I hope you do stay though

No one in their transcendent mind would choose otherwise.

Hello friend, and welcome.

Uh oh…

You should know that doubts are not sinful. They are part of a walk in faith. There are valleys and mountains, and beautiful meadows too. Life isn’t always a beautiful meadow, and neither is one’s walk. Please don’t be discouraged about that. Still, I know that unceasing doubts can grow beyond wearisome and are incredibly stressful.

That’s everyone. You’re not alone there, friend, but in good company. :slight_smile:

Everyone has a heart problem. Something in everyone wants to rebel. That’s the point of dying to oneself. Of repentance. Of asking forgiveness and forgiving. It’s a constant battle for Christians. But Jesus is worth it. Fight the good fight and don’t give up.

Your struggle is real and it is hard…

…Is there something that you are afraid of? I feel like fear of something is getting in your way. I could be totally off-base, but if I’m right, please feel free to share with me, if not in this thread definitely in a private message.

Jesus died for sinners. Do you remember Jesus’ example of the Pharisee and the tax collector who prayed? Luke 18:9-14. I encourage you to read it, that it might lift your spirit. :slight_smile:

Bitterness is a poison that corrupts every part of us, if given the chance. I’m well familiar with this poison. Bitterness. Resentment. And since childhood. Bitterness doesn’t spring up in a vacuum. It sounds like you need lots of counseling. Good counseling. You have a lot of hurts, I think. There are many terrible counselors out there, Christian and secular alike. If you need someone to talk to, I am here. I won’t always respond right away, but I promise that I will do my best to get back with you ASAP.

Sit and reflect. New desires–from when? A new outlook–from when? When? Have there really been no new desires? And from which point are you even measuring?

Let me ask you something quite plainly: do you love Jesus?

Jesus has brought people from the brink and the darkest depths. I don’t think you are beyond hope, not by a long shot. Are you not seeking, after all? Are you not longing? That doesn’t describe someone who has “crossed the line”.

Take heart, my friend. I shall be praying for you, and I await your response. :slight_smile:

With love in Christ,
-Joshua W.

There is no such thing. :slightly_smiling_face:
 

What comes to mind immediately is at the end of Tim’s Keller’s book, not about finding God, but being found by him:

During a dark time in her life, a woman in my congregation complained that she had prayed over and over, “God, help me find you,” but had gotten nowhere. A Christian friend suggested to her that she might change her prayer to, “God, come and find me. After all, you are the Good Shepherd who goes looking for the lost sheep.” She concluded when she was recounting this to me, “The only reason I can tell you this story is – he did.”

Tim Keller, The Reason for God, p.240

Have you ever seen the TV show “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina?” I think it can be seen as a parody of some sectors of Xtianity. How do you tell the difference between God and the devil? How do you know which one of these beings the religion you are dealing with is actually worshipping. It is Jesus who suggests that those who think they are on God’s side might actually be more on the side of the devil. What is the character of this deity they are worshipping. Does he call to mind the character of those we admire or is he more like a criminal such as a mafia godfather? Is the salvation being offered more like the protection racket of the mafia?

I am Christian – Trinitarian and not universalist either. But wasn’t raised that way. And thus I wasn’t indoctrinated to believe a lot of nonsensical dogma. I looked at the Bible for myself and by myself, asking myself whether I could find anything there of value – anything worth salvaging. I did. But there is a great deal in western Christianity which I did not buy into and never will. And guess what? The same is true of the majority of Christianity in the world.

Could it be that a big part of your problem is that the Christians in your community and family have given you an unreasonable black and white choice between THEIR Xtianity or no Xtianity? Christianity is the largest and most varied religion on the planet – you have more choices than what these people have been pushing on you.

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You’re absolutely right! If there is one thing that should be humbling to any Christian, it’s a thorough study of church history. To think that our tiny sliver of Christianity is the only right form of Christianity is just ignorant, if not arrogant.

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You haven’t crossed the line, God is still pursuing you.

I also grew up in fundamentalist churches, and I know that it is possible to escape the bad parts and cling to the love of God.

A good church and a small group is very helpful. There may be one affiliated with my church in your area.

Look here:

https://my.northpointpartners.org/locations

Your posting here seeking help is a good indication that you have a right desire.

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Desiring a right desire counts. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Finding God in little things and being thankful for them is pretty important, too. That’s what this book is about, although her poetic prose puts some people off:

    One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

(An Iraqi Muslim became a Christian through reading it – that’s pretty high praise. :slightly_smiling_face:)
 

One more that was important to me, anyway, is Desiring God, all we need to want (check out the subtitle :flushed:, an apparent oxymoron :grin:).

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It wasn’t my family, they were nons. However the surrounding culture was basically fundamentalist Baptist, Methodist, and Pentecostal, so in a sense I was immersed. A lot of it I found disturbing, though the people weren’t all bad. It was the theology I guess that got under my skin. There would be times in my childhood where I would fantasize about there being no God, or wishing there was a God behind God that wasn’t like the one everyone else seemed to believe in.

Having said that I have over the years found different expressions of Christianity that have come across as much more hopeful, with better images of God. Recently I’ve been reading C. Baxter Kruger, Robert Capon, Thomas Torrance and others that have been hopeful. But even with that I often find myself faithless, hard hearted, even resentful. Not at all sure where that comes from, or why I can be so hopeful one day and in a kind of grey zone the next. It’s discouraging, and I will begin thinking that maybe I did cross the line somewhere and interest and occasional good feeling are the last sputtering of dying faith and hope.

Thanks for all the replies.

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Resist that, for sure! We do make a choice all the time as to what we are paying attention to – easy for me to say, but it’s true. We need to be vigilant and pay attention to the right things. That’s one of the reasons I mentioned thankfulness – it’s important. Knowing he was going to die a painful death, Jesus even gave thanks for the bread not long before.

Well one of the things in Christianity which I have not bought into is the idea that atheists are all going to hell. And yes I do believe hell exists. I just don’t believe in Pascal’s wager that we can purchase our salvation by believing God exists. I certainly don’t believe God exists for any such reason. It is simply my considered opinion that He does exist, and I frankly don’t believe it earns me anything at all. I think it a wonderful and entertaining irony, if the atheists turn out to be God’s chosen people of the modern era – those who do what right for its own sake and thus show they have the law of God written on their hearts.

My recent encounter with the teachings of Augustine in Jay Oord’s book has given me a greater appreciation of humanism and the work of less than Christian philosophers such as Kant who supported the “end in itself” value of human beings. I have always been a strong supporter of secular defense of religious freedom, but this has strengthened it considerably.

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“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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