How God never let me go - faith lost and rediscovered
You don't expect a Church Army evangelist preaching at a carol service to be secretly thinking "it's all a lie ..."
LYNDA ALSFORD explains how she lost her faith – and rediscovered it in a new and vibrant way
“It's a lie. It’s all a lie; don’t believe a word of it.”
These are not the words you would expect a Church Army evangelist to be thinking while preaching at a carol service. But that’s what I was thinking on 20 December 2009 as I preached the most evangelistic sermon I have ever preached.
After 27 years of being a Christian, the last six working as a Church Army evangelist, I had come to a major crisis in my faith. Doubts about God had been building up over the previous few months and came to a head while I preached that sermon.
I thought I was going mad, but I also knew I had to leave ministry or lose my mind.
You may wonder what would cause such a dramatic loss of faith. Well, after finding a new and very quiet job, I had time to start thinking about it.
I thought that perhaps I had never really become a Christian. But I knew my faith had been real.
I’d made a commitment to God when I was 18, was filled with the Holy Spirit nine months later, and baptised by full immersion five years after that. Within weeks of my baptism I’d received a call to full-time Christian ministry, and after a long search for the right ministry I found Church Army.
So what had happened to me? With the benefit of hindsight I know that it was the unresolved, devastating pain of broken dreams that gradually ate away at my faith.
The pain of unwanted long-term singleness and therefore childlessness drove me from the God who could have eased my sorrow.
In the depths of my anguish I allowed doubts to creep up so imperceptibly that I didn’t notice them until it was too late.
When I left ministry I was almost certain that there was no God. I just had to learn to live as an atheist.
At first it felt like freedom, but I didn’t bargain on one vital thing. I realised I missed God. I missed him so much it hurt.
All of a sudden this freedom from God became a dark, dank prison in which I was destined to spend a lifetime. However, it also turned out to be an enormous blessing because it led me to search once more for our Father God.
I tried to seek God using reason alone but quickly realised that when I was totally objective in my thoughts, both sides of the argument seemed completely reasonable!
In fact the more objective I was able to be, the more confused I became about what the truth was and the less able to make a decision about God’s existence. Reason alone wasn’t the answer.
I remembered times when I had experienced God in my life – times when his healing and liberating power seemed so real to me. Although these memories of God’s touch chipped away at my doubts, they didn’t wholly convince me of his existence again.
By Christmas 2010 I’d realised that if God couldn’t be reasoned into existence then faith had to be involved. Faith, I realised, was an act of my will. It was not a feeling. It was a decision I made.
So, one day in January 2011, I made that step of faith. I prayed to God, telling him that I believed he existed.
All the peace and joy of believing came flooding back. I knew once more that there is a God.
Within a few months I’d had a dream about Jesus. It led me to wake up knowing God’s love in a far deeper way than I have ever known it.
My faith is now far stronger than it was before – it’s more real and I am finding freedom from things that have held me back for years. I now know beyond all shadow of doubt that God never lets us go.
• Lynda Alsford’s book He Never Let Go: The true story of a prodigal evangelist is available in paperback (£6.75) and Kindle (£1.98) formats from www.amazon.co.uk