Backsliding, wandering, sinning — whatever you call it, you haven’t been walking with God. After falling away from God, how do you return? How do you face your Heavenly Father after being away so long? What can you say to make Him love you again?
Maybe you feel guilty and ashamed about a choice you made, a relationship you destroyed, a hurt you committed, a problem you caused. Maybe you didn’t just “fall away from God” — you did something so bad you’re sitting in jail right now. Maybe your prison cell isn’t even in a physical building or jailhouse! Maybe you’re locked in self-imposed emotional and spiritual chains of guilt, shame, regret, self-hatred.
You fell away from your faith a long time ago, and you have no idea how to return to God. And yet you hear Jesus calling, you feel the Holy Spirit’s nudges, and you even pray to God to bring you back to Him. How do you return to God after falling away from your faith? How do you face Him after all this time and everything you did?
Good news! Returning to God after falling away — no matter how long you’ve been gone or how far you wandered — is easier than you could ever imagine. In fact, it’s harder to keep avoiding God than to simply return His gaze and accept His love.
My three tips will help you get back in step with Jesus, re-introduce yourself to the Holy Spirit, and refresh your relationship with God.
3 Thoughts on Returning to God After Falling Away
If you’ve read my recent blog posts or newsletters, you know I’m working on a She Blossoms Through the Bible project. I’m writing an article for every chapter in every book of Scripture. Right now I’m working on the book of Leviticus; today is chapter 11.
At first I thought Leviticus 11 was technical and boring, and that I’d have to gloss over it (kind of like I did with What to Remember When You Don’t Feel God’s Love, which was on Leviticus 8). But then I found the Leviticus 11 Commentary on Precept Austin and was astounded at how much practical, applicable information the ancient Mosaic laws have for Christian living today! So, believe it or not, my tips on how to return to God after falling away are inspired by the clean and unclean food regulations in Leviticus.
1. Know that falling away is temporary
“…unclean until evening…” is repeated four times in five verses (Leviticus 11:24-28). God gave Moses and the Israelites specific guidelines for clean and unclean foods. The Mosaic dietary laws and restrictions were clear (until you actually started to live them. Then, like everything, things get complicated). God’s initial food regulations were so clear, in fact, that they were almost repetitive. Leviticus 11:3-7 describes exactly what exact animals were clean — those with divided hooves and that chewed the cud. God also gave Moses and the Israelites specific instructions on what to do when they accidentally or purposefully became unclean. God expected His chosen people to become unclean because they were human. Uncleanliness and separation from God is a temporary state.
Choose to return God’s gaze after falling away. It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Just return God’s gaze after you’ve wandered from His path, hurt others, committed a crime, or neglected to follow Jesus in big and little ways. It’s not that easy, though. I get up early every morning to write to God in my journal; some mornings I feel so bad about something I said or did the day before I can’t even face God. I can’t return God’s gaze because I feel unclean, wrong, bad. I understand the shame and guilt of sinning, of hurting others, of deliberately choosing to ignore God…and I also know the deep peace, forgiveness, joy and freedom of choosing to come into His presence. It takes humility and weakness to choose to return to God after falling away…and that is the moment He will fill you with His love, forgiveness, and grace.
2. Separate yourself from the group and meditate on the good
Leviticus 11 starts with: “The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron:“Tell the Israelites: You may eat all these kinds of land animals. You may eat any animal with divided hooves and that chews the cud. But among the ones that chew the cud or have divided hooves you are not to eat these…” The commentary revealed the traditional Jewish symbolism of animals that “have divided hooves” and “chewing the cud.” Moses and the Israelites were invited to eat animals with divided hooves and that chewed their cud. Those were clean animals because they symbolized separation (divided hooves) and meditation (chewing the cud). The Israelites as God’s chosen people were to be separate from their neighbors and meditate on what God’s love, power and salvation.
How do you return to God after falling away? By taking time alone with Jesus and soaking up His presence. Ask the Holy Spirit to rebuild your relationship with God. You can’t do it by yourself — that’s why you’re searching the internet for tips on how to return to God after falling away! Alone, you don’t have what it takes. With the Holy Spirit, you have the power, strength, love and freedom to return God’s gaze, get reacquainted with Jesus, and move forward in a new relationship with yourself and others. But you can’t return when you’re surrounded by noise, people, pets, crashes and bangs. You have to separate yourself from others and meditate on God’s word.
3. Establish constant reminders that you are God’s beloved child
The Mosaic food laws and dietary restrictions in Leviticus 11 had a purpose: to constantly remind the Israelites that they were God’s chosen people, set apart to be holy and different than their neighbors. God’s instructions were important because they sacred regulations meant only for His holy people. The dietary and food laws in Leviticus also kept the Israelites physically healthy and clean. I especially liked that that Leviticus 11 stressed that the animals themselves weren’t to be judged unclean or bad; it was simply that God was setting apart certain clean animals for the Israelites to eat. Many of the Mosaic food laws were rules for living — ways to trust and obey the Lord God even if it doesn’t actually make sense — not condemnations of animals or other ways of living. God cared about every little detail of the Israelites’ life because He created and loved them.
How do you remind yourself of God’s love, presence, and power in your life? It’s easier to return after falling away from God if you have constant reminders of how much He loves you. External reminders are good, but not enough. Take time to soak up God’s identity of you. You are His beloved child, He created you for a reason, and He cares about the details of your life! God is eagerly waiting for you to return — and the farther you’ve fallen, the more exuberantly Jesus will greet you. Don’t let the accuser keep telling you that you’re not good enough or your sin is terrible or you’ll never be able to return to God. Those are lies.
You fell away from God, and that’s okay. It’s temporary. If you take time to be alone with Jesus and ask the Holy Spirit to mediate while you meditate on the truth, then you will be back with God quicker than the shake of a lamb’s tail.
What are you waiting for? Put your phone down, close the lid of your laptop, and look up. God is gazing at you with love, hope, and eager anticipation.
If you want to go further than “just” returning to God after falling away, read From Believing in God to Having a Relationship With Jesus. If you can can accept God’s forgiveness but struggle to forgive yourself, read 7 Practical Ways to Forgive Yourself for Past Mistakes.
With His love,