‘But I Do Not Love Jehovah!’
BOB was just a young lad when his mother became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. For a number of years, he accompanied her to the Kingdom Hall and even in the preaching work, though he was never baptized. By the time he reached his late teens, however, he stopped associating with the Witnesses. Stumbling along from one bad situation to another, he made a wreck of his life. Though he still claims to believe many of the things he learned from the Bible, this has not been enough to make him want to come back to Jehovah’s organization. Why does Bob feel this way?
Consider another example. David had been a full-time minister for a number of years. Occasionally, questions crossed his mind regarding certain Bible teachings. But he always resolved the problems by reasoning that as in solving a jigsaw puzzle, a person does not give up just because one or two pieces do not seem to fit in at first. He was content to wait on Jehovah for clarification. But somewhere along the line, David claimed that he was no longer able to satisfy himself in that way. Resigning from his service privileges, he soon left the truth. What caused the change in his thinking?
Surely, it is heartbreaking to see those whom we love give up in the race for life. Without a doubt, we want to do all we can to help them. (2 Corinthians 12:15; Galatians 5:7) But what really causes a person to fall away from the truth? What can be done to help such an individual to return to the race? And what should a person do if such tendencies begin to develop in him?
Heart, Conscience, and Faith
There is one noteworthy thing about those who have given up the truth. Most of them do not do so because they no longer believe it is the truth. Quite to the contrary, many of them say, “I know this is the truth, but . . . ” or, “If there is any truth, I know this is it.” Deep down in their hearts, many of them still believe that what they have learned from the Bible is the truth. But somehow they have slacked their hand and lost their zeal. James said: “Faith without works is dead.”—James 2:26.
True faith involves more than just possessing knowledge or believing that something is true. Rather than being just a process of the mind, faith involves the figurative heart, for the Bible tells us: “With the heart one exercises faith for righteousness.” (Romans 10:10) Reasonably, then, the Bible points to the heart as the source of the problem when a person begins to deviate. As Paul warned: “Beware, brothers, for fear there should ever develop in any one of you a wicked heart lacking faith by drawing away from the living God.”—Hebrews 3:12.
For evidence that the heart is deeply involved, we might listen to Diane, who had fallen away. When fellow Christians tried to help her, she frankly responded, “I can’t come back to Jehovah. I don’t love him!” She knew that the only thing that would help her to stay close to Jehovah God is love for him as a Person and as the One worthy of her devotion. In fact, it was this kind of love that motivated her to dedicate her life to Jehovah in the first place. But somehow she felt no such love anymore. Without it, she knew that she would only be going through the motions if she were to come back. But how does a person lose a love that was once so deeply felt?
Well, Paul mentioned “a wicked heart lacking faith.” In some cases, such lack of faith results from allowing the heart to desire what Jehovah God forbids or to resist something he commands. The heart thus becomes divided and is no longer complete toward Jehovah. Then, sensing that one’s course of action is not approved by God, the easy way to avoid further confrontation is to ‘draw away from the living God.’ (Compare Genesis 3:8-10.) Instead of repenting, the “wicked heart” moves one to blot out Jehovah and his purpose from one’s life. The faithless person thus gives up the truth.
In other cases, rather than suffering the pangs of conscience for a certain course, an individual lets his heart treacherously move him to seek intellectual escape through doubt, faultfinding, or even apostasy. If he can convince himself that the whole framework of his faith is wrong, he no longer feels the obligation to live within its bounds. Such individuals thrust aside a good conscience and ‘experience shipwreck concerning their faith.’—1 Timothy 1:19.
Of course, a person may give up the truth for some other reason. But whatever it is, it almost invariably involves the heart. For this reason, timely indeed is the counsel: “More than all else that is to be guarded, safeguard your heart, for out of it are the sources of life.”—Proverbs 4:23.
Recovery Is Possible
Admitting that our own wrong inclinations were at the root of our loss of faith takes courage. But doing so is the first step toward working our way back to a solid relationship with Jehovah. The experience of Steve, a pioneer in England, well illustrates this point.
Although Steve never did fall out of the truth, at one point he began to feel an emptiness and a lack of conviction. When he preached to others, his words sounded hollow in his own ears. When Steve was among his spiritual brothers and sisters, he felt out of place, as though he was not one of them.
Happily for Steve, he recognized that the problem rested with him. “I did not make the mistake of isolating myself in order to think things out, as if there were some source of inspiration within the imperfect flesh that would provide the right answers,” recalls Steve. (Compare Romans 7:18.) Rather, he realized that he must search his heart and root out the deceptive desires leading him away from the truth. Starting from the very foundation, he worked to reaffirm his love for God and faith in His Word. Today, Steve is happily serving as a missionary.
How Others Can Help
Not everyone who has lost or is losing his grip on the truth sees things as clearly as Steve did. In fact, often it is this loss of clear spiritual vision that leads to a final downfall. This is where fellow Christians can lend a helping hand. (Romans 15:1; Galatians 6:1) But how can this best be done?
Obviously, it is not enough to invite or encourage such a person to return. Obstacles need to be identified and removed. Efforts must be made to appeal to the heart of the weakened or inactive individual. Frank, but kind, heart-to-heart discussions may help the person. Using scriptures such as 1 Timothy 1:19, Hebrews 3:12, and Jeremiah 17:9, 10 may help him to search deep down in his heart and see what is causing him to ‘draw away from the living God.’
Once the causes are identified, efforts must be directed toward dealing with them. A diseased physical heart requires care and perhaps painful surgery if the patient is to survive. It is similar with an ailing figurative heart. Wrong desires, tendencies toward independence, or other factors that are causing the heart to be wayward must be removed if it is to become responsive once again. Active Christians might well pray with the inactive person, even studying the Bible with him if the elders consider this advisable. Only in such ways can the heart be revived and the individual come to love Jehovah once again.—Proverbs 2:1-5.
This was true in the case of Diane. Discussions with mature Christians helped her to recognize what she needed to do in order to rekindle her love for Jehovah. Realizing that she had to come to know Jehovah intimately once again, Diane accepted the help offered. After studying the Bible for about a year, she and her husband again became active praisers of Jehovah.
Since love involves action, often it is doing what Jehovah says and experiencing his loving help that prove most effective. Yes, activity helps a person to regain the love that once motivated his heart. (Psalm 34:8) This may start with taking active steps to combat the wrong desires or correct the improper tendencies of the heart. Every victory in this battle is a step closer to bringing the heart back to Jehovah. (Proverbs 23:26; 1 Peter 2:1-3) As the heart is won over, the desire grows to share what is in it with others. Hence, as soon as formerly inactive Kingdom publishers qualify, they should be helped to have a share in the preaching work, for “with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.”—Romans 10:10.
For any who feel that they do not love Jehovah any longer, the road back to a godly life may be a long and difficult one. Yet, the spiritual recoveries of Steve and of Diane are evidence that a change of heart can occur. Yes, restoration is possible through the working of Jehovah’s spirit, the application of his Word, and renewed cooperation with his organization. It is our sincere hope and prayer that such persons can be helped to rejoice once again in Jehovah’s worship and sacred service as those who wholeheartedly love Jehovah.—Mark 12:30; 1 Corinthians 13:8; 3 John 1-4.