Q: I feel as if the harder I try to be better and live my life for God, the more things fall apart. I can’t really sleep, and when I do I have stressful dreams and I wake up with a sore jaw from grinding my teeth. I don’t know what to do. I’m praying more than ever, but I still feel alone.
Reading those lines reminds me of King David’s feelings in Psalm 22 (New Living Translation). Check out these verses:
1 My God, my God, why have You abandoned me? Why are You so far away when I groan for help?
2 Every day I call to You, my God, but You do not answer. Every night You hear my voice, but I find no relief.
11 Do not stay so far from me, for trouble is near, and no one else can help me.
14 My life is poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax, melting within me.
15 My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead.
Only David had such a knack for expressing raw, honest angst. Yet he never let it end there. Even in his darkest admissions, he always came back to what he knew to be true of God (even if he didn’t feel it in that moment). Here are some more verses from the same psalm:
3 Yet You are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 Our ancestors trusted in You, and You rescued them.
5 They cried out to You and were saved. They trusted in You and were never disgraced.
22 I will proclaim Your name to my brothers and sisters. I will praise You among your assembled people.
23 Praise the LORD, all you who fear Him! Honor Him, all you descendants of Jacob! Show Him reverence, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For He has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy. He has not turned His back on them, but has listened to their cries for help.
25 I will praise You in the great assembly. I will fulfill my vows in the presence of those who worship You.
26 …All who seek the LORD will praise Him. Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy.
This may sound strange, but I’m really proud that you are at least trying to “be better and live [your] life for God.” God wants our obedience more than He wants gushy feelings for Him. The feelings may (or may not) come later, but the important thing is to keep struggling to do the right things for the right reason (because of your love for God, not to earn God’s love–big difference!). Even the Apostle Paul struggled between wanting to do right and giving into temptation. Check out Romans 7:15-25 (again from the NLT):
15 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.
16 But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good.
17 So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
18 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t.
19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.
20 But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
21 I have discovered this principle of life-that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.
22 I love God’s law with all my heart.
23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.
24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?
25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
Yes, we are responsible for the sin in our life (because we sin by choice), yet there is grace for those who place their faith in Christ. Keep fighting to follow the Spirit’s leading in every area of your life (Galatians 5:25).