Each of us has had our own trial of faith, and many of us know someone who has struggled or is struggling right now. Sometimes, these trials seem like they’re too much to handle and we lose our faith. Lost faith is an injury to the soul. The first step to healing any injury is to identify the injury, and to do so requires observation and identification of symptoms.
While this isn’t a comprehensive list, and any of these things alone don’t disqualify you for all of the Lord’s blessings, here are seven signs that you, or someone you know, may be faltering in the faith.
The Many Quits
“And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.” (1 Nephi 8:28)
Like a child tentatively testing the waters of a swimming pool with her big toe, many of us probe the waters of darkness to test whether or nor Heavenly Father’s wrath will be turned against us. More often than not, we will not see lightning and storms from the Lord, but will feel an absence of His Spirit.
These small dips are manifest when people quit
- Going to church
- Reading scriptures
- Attending activities
- Going to the temple
- Asking questions
- Speaking with the bishop
- Repenting of their mistakes and sins
When we notice quits happening, we can urge ourselves, or our loved ones, to test the waters of the Lord. “Prove [the Lord] herewith” (Malachi 3:10), and see if He won’t bless us when we keep His commandments.
Loss of Spiritual Knowledge
“Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him?” (1 Nephi 7:12).
Spiritual knowledge is gained through hard work and diligence, and is maintained through faith and action on our beliefs. While it’s difficult to see in others, we can know that we’re losing knowledge when things we once knew become vague and distant. This is a sign that we may have begun to wander off the Lord’s marked path.
We have to be constantly diligent in maintaining our stores of spiritual knowledge inside ourselves. If you notice yourself beginning to slip, you may consider making changes to your lifestyle that allow the Spirit to be more present in your life. He is like a librarian in your mind who brings knowledge to you in times of need.
Expectations of A Perfect Knowledge
“And now as I said concerning faith — faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true” (Alma 35:21).
With so much doctrine in the Church, it’s easy to be baffled at all the things we must learn to fully appreciate the fullness of God’s plan. It’s not uncommon that I’m either at church, or reading scriptures and find something new that astounds me. Something, that while probably simple, I see as a new and exciting truth.
The constant discovery and need to keep searching for understanding can be frustrating for some people. Some may find that there are too many questions left unanswered and wonder when they will know what they mean. They want to know everything from the words of the sacrament prayers to the exact location of Kolob. While some of these things are good to wonder and fun to speculate about, the truth is we’re not going to know all things in our time on Earth.
Through faithful study of the scriptures, Church-endorsed literature, and the words of the modern prophets, we are able to know many things and gain inspiration from the Lord. It’s all right to wonder and want to know, but when we dwell on unanswerable questions, we’ll wind up losing focus on the small, simple truths that are the center of the Gospel.
“Open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view” (Mosiah 2:9).
Reciting doctrine and knowing doctrine are two different things. While I was a missionary in Argentina, a recent convert said to a companion of mine, “Why should I keep going to church if it is so simple?” She proceeded to tell my companion that if all there was to the gospel were the missionary lessons, then it wasn’t deep enough for her questions and she wouldn’t attend any more.
My friend, being a wise missionary, came back to this convert with the book “Gospel Principles.” He began to show her all of the things written there and testified to her of the depths of wisdom and knowledge she could have if she continued forward with the Church.
There is so much to learn in the Gospel. It offers amazing answers to so many different questions and if we know the doctrine, we will be able to have those answers as well. While it can be as simple as: Faith, Repentance, Baptism by Immersion, Receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End, we can have eternal truths revealed to us as we look through the words of prophets old and new.
Trial or “Catalytic Event”
“And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith” (Ether 12:6).
Trials are ever present throughout the Scriptures and are a constant in our lives. We are consistently being sent challenges and trials, and if we aren’t careful, they can become catalysts to failing in the faith.
I have read stories of several people who, having gone through similar losses, take very different roads. Where one person takes the death of a loved one to be a time for reflection and pondering on eternal families, another sees the same as an eternal separation, loses hope for the future, and distances himself from the Lord.
In times of trial, turn to the Lord and ask Him for strength to overcome that which has been placed in your path. Ask for help to understand why the trial is happening to you and turn to the scriptures as a guide for what you should do in reaction to that which troubles you.
If it is your loved one that is struggling, take him by the hand and show him that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You’d be surprised what a few kind words can do to lift someone’s spirits. Listen to him, and if moved by the spirit, share similar experiences and trials that have happened to you in the past.
Self-Doubt and Put Downs
“We can cheer every talent and ability, wherever it is bestowed, thus making life here more nearly what it will be like in heaven” (Jeffrey R. Holland).
We’re all prodigal children of God. Some of us stray in different ways than others, but we all need to return to God with a “broken heart and contrite spirit” (3 Nephi 12:19). It can be really hard to return to the Lord after spending time away from him. It’s a long and painful path, but we can all do it.
One difficult part of coming back after you’ve wronged Heavenly Father and disobeyed His commandments is facing your friends and family around you. It is very difficult to admit that we’ve done wrong, because we know we were supposed to do right. This is because it becomes very easy to “[compare] our weaknesses to [other’s] strengths” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf).
We have each been “given [at least one] gift by the Spirit of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 46:26). Using this gift and progressing are reasons to celebrate! You should be happy with the progress you’re making. When you move forward, you’re getting closer to the Lord. Rather than looking around at others and asking, “Why can’t I do what they’re doing?” say instead, “Look at what I have been able to accomplish!”
It may be beneficial for you to make a list for yourself, or a struggling loved one, that lists your/their accomplishments and gifts. Keep it posted somewhere where it can be seen every day, so you know that you are indeed improving towards a beautiful goal.
What Should I Take Home From This?
“Whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day” (Alma 36:3).
The first step to change is noticing that you need to change. Everyone has the ability, but it will take some people longer than others to do so. Here are a few main ideas I’ve picked out that you can focus on as you look to identify areas in which you can improve. As you pray and work diligently, the Lord will guide you through your trials of faith to become a stronger child of God.
- When we notice ourselves or others quitting, the Lord asks us to “prove [Him] herewith” (Malachi 3:10) and see if He won’t bless us when we keep His commandments.
- Spiritual knowledge is gained through hard work and diligence and is maintained through faith and action on that which we believe.
- When we dwell on unanswerable questions, we wind up losing focus on the small, simple truths that are the center of the Gospel.
- In times of trial, turn to the Lord and ask him for strength to overcome that which has been placed in your path.
- Rather than looking around at others and asking, “Why can’t I do what they’re doing” say instead, “Look at what I have been able to accomplish!”
- We can have eternal truths revealed to us as we look through the words of prophets old and new.
I strongly suggest to anyone who is looking for comfort and guidance regarding loved ones who have already fallen off the path to read this talk by James E. Faust.