Right Ladder, Wrong Building

My Path to Spiritual Burnout

Energizer Bunny for Jesus

I wasn’t your typical teenager or even the average church kid. I was pretty radical about my faith. To avoid distractions, I asked my parents to disconnect the cable in my room. I got rid of my TV completely. Instead of a gaming system for Christmas, I wanted a leather bond NIV Life Application Study Bible. At one point, I took apart my bed and started sleeping on the floor. I didn’t want to be tempted to sleep in and miss praying in the morning before school. I also thought this would be an excellent way to prepare myself in case one day I had to sleep on the ground on the mission field. All of this was done, not out of religious duty, but out of genuine love for God. 

In my senior year of high school, I started a Christian club at my Christian School. Which I know sounds silly. Especially since we already had chapels, daily devotionals, and classes that began with prayer. Our unofficial slogan was, “We put the C in B.C.S. (Bethany Christian School).” That kind of lets you know what our perspective was if you weren’t in our club.

 I also got special permission to miss school during lunchtime to speak at Christian clubs at other high schools in the area. Even sports were just another opportunity for me to share my faith. After pickup basketball games in my neighborhood, I would hold the ball and make everyone wait to play the next game until after I shared my testimony and gave an altar call. This full itinerary doesn’t include the small groups, prayer meetings, retreats, and leadership gatherings I also attended at church. You are probably starting to see that I was a little Energizer Bunny for Jesus. But how long could I keep this up?

University Missionary

I continued this same zealous routine in college. On my first day on campus, the front page of the school newspaper read, “LSU Ranked #1 Party School.” One of my friends posted this in his room like it was a badge of honor. I saw things differently. University wasn’t a place for me to prepare for a career or make memories. It was a mission field that needed to be conquered (The Seashell Message got me). 

Even when my grades suffered, I still made sure I was at church every time the doors were open. I volunteered for our church more than most people work while in college and I still worked full-time. I never stopped to ask myself if something was out of balance. At this point, my family tried to intervene. They asked me to slow down with the church involvement. I just thought they were outsiders who couldn’t understand my passion. 

Was Something Wrong?

I missed out on many typical aspects of the college experience because of the time and energy I devoted to my spiritual pursuits. For example, one weekend, a friend of mine and I decided not to eat until we had read the entire New Testament. Another time I had a ticket to LSU’s first football National Championship game in over 40 years but gave it up to go on yet another retreat.

There were benefits to some of this, but it was also very much out of balance. I limited my class load to the bare minimum to be more involved with church activities. I went to youth services and stayed out late in revival meetings many times the night before an exam. This limited class schedule caused me to go into debt even though I was on scholarship because I had to attend an extra year of school to complete my requirements to graduate. These were all sacrifices I was happy to make at the time. “Onward Christian Soldier!”

When a Good Thing Becomes a Bad Thing

After graduating from LSU, I joined the church staff. Working at the church kept my ministry plans moving forward even though I was becoming increasingly exhausted from years of a demanding religious routine. My weekly schedule had enough church meetings to fill most senior pastor’s month. I was doing good things but had the nagging feeling I wasn’t being true to myself. The busyness could only cover up the restlessness in my soul for so long. 

I had to learn that a good thing could become a bad thing when it is taken to an extreme. Healing needs to take place when we are producing out of insecurity or a need to be recognized. I did not know it at the time, but I was manifesting all of the symptoms of codependency (see the 5 attributes in this blog). I was a religious addict who was using spiritual activities to mask insecurity and wounds that needed emotional healing. Without being properly addressed, people like me end up hurting themselves and others. I experienced these consequences first-hand in multiple ways. At the time, my identity was more connected to what I did for God instead of who I was in Christ. It was hard to see that I was speeding towards a cliff of religious disappointment.

Right Ladder, Wrong Building

What started as a passionate love relationship with God had become a high-performance machine of religious production. It provided a way for me to be elevated and achieve my goals, but at what cost? I had become proud, critical, and generally spiritually unhealthy. Eventually, I would reach the top of my ladder only to realize I had leaned it against the wrong building. 

This experience was like a spiritual carbon monoxide poisoning. I wasn’t aware the air I was breathing was becoming toxic. Perhaps I was too busy to notice my first love had been exchanged for the trap of religious performance. I was naturally driven, which made it even easier for me to fall into this pit. Even though the signs were already warning me as I started my adventure in full-time ministry, it would be another seven years before I changed course.

Time to Believe Again

Eventually, I decided to make a U-turn before running into a brick wall that could have ended in disaster. For me, that looked like stepping away from full-time ministry when it appeared everything was going great. The result was over two years of working in the secular world and attending church as a member instead of a staff member or leader. You may wonder why I would make that kind of change like, but that decision forever changed how I view God, church, and people. It is from those experiences that I wrote the book Believe Again: Finding Faith After Losing Religion. 

The book is written much like this blog post. Each chapter is a short essay where I share a story from this incredibly uncomfortable but transformative season of life. Believe Again will be a great help for those who have experienced church hurt or spiritual burnout. If you know someone who has gone through something like this then please order a copy of this book and give it to them. They will laugh, identify with the story, and hopefully find inspiration to begin again in their faith.

Use this link to order Believe Again: Finding Faith After Losing Religion in paperback or Kindle edition.

Overcoming the Fear of Writing

Why it Took Me So Long to Write Believe Again

The Story Within the Story

It took eight years to write Believe Again: Finding Faith After Losing Religion. You see, I type very slowly. I’m just kidding. It’s because I am not a very good writer. Also, kidding. At least, I hope that’s not true. I have been writing and sharing stories since high school. So, why did it take so long to get this into your hands?

This book shares intimate and often embarrassing moments in my life. Just the process of revealing these details is enough to cause almost anyone to pause and reflect before pressing send. The struggle to believe enough in myself to write this book is the story within the story. 

Am I Crazy?

Multiple times, I have had to Believe Again that I could finish this project and that it matters. First, I had to convince myself I was not crazy to write these experiences down. Then, I had to overcome the insecurity of feeling I was not good enough to write publicly. This involved dealing with thoughts like, Who am I to think people would want to read what I write? Is my story even interesting to begin with? After that came the fear of people misunderstanding me and my intentions. 

Once I cleared those hurdles, something else began to happen. I grew spiritually, emotionally, and as a writer. Through this, I would review each current draft and think, “I have to change this. I don’t even write or think like this anymore.” During this time, God transformed my perspective on the situations I share in this book. What I thought was important was not. Other parts needed more emphasis than I realized at first. This story is so personal to me. I knew time would have to pass for my perspective to mature. This all led to more rewrites. Many times, I wondered out loud, “Will this ever get to a place where I could say it is finished?”

The Shadows of Fear

My circumstances have told me that I am not a writer every day since I began, well, writing. There has continuously been something else I was always supposed to be or do. But when I closed my eyes at night and opened them again in the morning, I knew something different. I am a writer. The question was, would I pass the test, believe again, and take another step? Or would I hide from what was in my heart? If anything, that is the lesson of this book. Believing again is not a grand gesture. It is a commitment to take one step at a time towards what God has put in your heart. To do this, you also have to have the courage to move away from the shadows where fear allows you to hide.

I hope Believe Again will help you let go of every substitute and find authentic faith. By the time you are finished reading it, I want you to realize that who you are in Christ is more important than where you are in life. This is crucial in our journey to living out an enjoyable, meaningful Christianity.

Believe Again: Finding Faith After Losing Religion will be released on October 4 on Amazon. In the meantime, you can pre-order it at joshroberie.com/shop at a 20% discount. You can find out more about the book and get Believe Again merch at BelieveAgain.net.

What Is Believe Again About?

An Honest and Hopeful Journey to Rediscover Faith

I hope you are not expecting Believe Again: Finding Faith After Losing Religion to be a typical “preacher book.” These pages are not filled with outlines and sermons. Instead, you will find a story overflowing with surprising friendships, unconventional mentors, and lessons I never knew I needed to learn. It is one I hope you can even find yourself in as well. If you have ever grown weary in your faith, wanted to give up on going to church, or have been discouraged by the circumstances of life, then I want to encourage you to read on. 

After years on staff at the large church I grew up in, I found myself suddenly working outside of full-time ministry. This transition into the real world was startling for someone who grew up in church and never intended to do anything but work as a pastor. It was the lowest point of my life. The exact rock bottom of this unexpected change was somewhere between asking the guy I used to pay to cut my grass if I could work for him and taking orders from a convict with a knife so I could support my family. But let’s not get nitpicky with the details.

One of the best things that came from this season was the relationships I gained as a result of this unique path. Much of this book focuses on these amazing people. They are the characters in the goofy spiritual journey I was on. Many of these friends came from the new way I was living my life and where I started working. Others came along as I developed the courage to share my story publicly. The things I was experiencing were so outrageous, and such a contrast to the life I lived before, that I started writing them down. Eventually, I decided it would be a good idea to share some of these embarrassing details with a blog.

True to how I was feeling at the time I named the blog, “Fish Out of Church.” I had blogged for a long time before this, but not in a personal and vulnerable way. The more I wrote, the more people would reach out to talk about their own experiences. Connecting over our shared disappointments in life and church as well as our hopes for the future seemed to bring some healing. 

Could maybe others use some encouragement to step out of their religious comfort zone as I had done?  Is it possible you fall into this category as well? I wrote this book to help anyone who was in the same situation I was in and needs to discover a fresh perspective on faith, find hope in trying times, or could use a little help learning to trust God one day at a time.

The circumstances I share in this book made it appear my time in ministry, along with many of my hopes and dreams, were over. I was surprised to find an uncomfortable season working outside of the church would strengthen my faith and teach me to lead more like Jesus. I believe this collection of outlandish stories will help you do the same. Here is how I lost my religion, found authentic faith, and began to believe again.

Believe Again will be available on Amazon on October 4.

Find out more about the book here: https://believeagain.net

Pre-order the book at a discount and check out the Believe Again merch here: https://joshroberie.com/shop/