Miranda Heidecker grew up surrounded by Christian family, but that changed when she arrived at the University of Saskatchewan. She was overwhelmed by the needs of being a college student. She attended church regularly, but the flood of homework and exams left no time for a Bible study or in-depth community.
She didn’t feel close to God. Her first year came and went in a blur of schoolwork and anxiety.
“I feared and respected Him, but it didn’t feel intimate,” Miranda said.
We’ve all heard stories like Miranda’s. College has a formative impact on many Christians. For some, it strengthens the faith of their childhood. For others, college is a time of growth, including “outgrowing” their faith.
Still others come to school with a strong faith that doesn’t disappear, it’s just stagnant. The student slowly transforms into the feared “cultural Christian,” one who knows the correct answers to Sunday school questions, but lacks a personal relationship with God.
But how can you help a friend who may be on the way to spiritual stagnation?
Duncan Moore works with Agapé UK, as Cru® is known in the United Kingdom. His main ministry is “leading Christians to faith.” He helps people think critically about faith and helps them see how to heal broken relationships with God. He says helping friends who may know God, but whose faith has faded, can be done.
1. Address your own doubts first.
We all have questions from time to time. Duncan stresses the importance of setting yourself up well, so that your questions and your friends’ questions don’t feed off each other.
“If someone who struggles with a doubt or a question opens up to someone who struggles with the same thing, that’s not going to be pretty,” he said.
2. Normalize the struggle.
Many Christians who have not yet wrestled with God believe one question or doubt could mean the difference between a thriving faith and abandoning God completely. Acknowledge that doubts need not be feared. This frees your friend to honestly address his own misgivings.
3. Be prepared for a long journey.
Duncan once considered challenging a friend to join the staff of Agapé.
“As I was parking my car, I had this really clear sense that God was saying, ‘Not yet.’ As soon as I sat down with him, he started listing all of his doubts and questions.”
The friend stepped away from the faith for many years. He dealt with doubts and questions. Finally, he turned back to Jesus with a renewed fervor. He even ended up working with Agapé. It was an eight-year journey from faith in Jesus to leaving the church to then returning.
When Miranda returned for her second year at university, she knew something needed to change. She and her friend Hannah checked out Power to Change, Cru’s name in Canada. Power to Change staff members helped her see how to have a personal relationship with God.
Miranda learned about God’s character and felt free to pray to Him not just as the Creator of the universe, but as a friend. She made Christian friends and experienced deep fellowship with God.
Two months later, Miranda’s faith was tested. Her grandfather and a friend from her Bible study died in the same month. While this was a difficult time, she found her faith ultimately strengthened. Witnessing her grandfather’s own relationship with God comforted her. Through his fight with cancer he never doubted his Savior. This assurance and deepening her prayer life helped Miranda understand her relationship with God.
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