When a Christian Feels Like an Imposter

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When everyone is worshiping on Sunday and seems to be “into” God, you stand with them.

But you’re not feeling the music.

You’re not feeling love for God or for others.

You instead feel alone and disconnected.

You wonder what is wrong with you.

You may even ask yourself, Am I an imposter?

Feeling as if you are faking your way through the Christian life is not unusual. In difficult times, when nothing seems to be going right, that sense can become overwhelming.

But are you really a phony with regard to your faith?

Hiding behind a maskTruth is, most Christians who struggle with feelings of being an imposter need to realize, generally, that people who fake their Christian devotion aren’t self-examining. Real imposters in the faith, those who may go to church and talk the talk but who aren’t truly born again, don’t pose questions of their motives because, for the most part, they simply don’t care. Theirs is not an attitude of wanting to fix their phoniness, so they abide it without worry.

Yes, sometimes God does break through in the life of someone who has been phoning in their faith for years or even decades, but I think that’s not the majority case.

Instead, I think the people who most struggle with feelings of being an imposter are genuine, born-again Christians who have run into some kind of spiritual barrier that has forced self-examination.

What are some causes for feelings of being an imposter?

1. Legalism—Whether imposed by a church or self-imposed, a mandated set of spiritual do’s and don’ts can lead that imposter self-accusation. Everyone else is doing this Christian life thing right, but you’re not making the grade, and you know it.

2. Listening to the Enemy when you should be ignoring him—Satan is real. And more than anything, discouragement is his tool for ruining believers. A discouraged Christian never reaches his or her full potential in Faith, which is what the Enemy wants. In addition, a discouraged Christian is an antiwitness.

3. Disconnection from other Christians—Sometimes, the people in the pews go through turnover. Suddenly, you don’t know who those new folks are, have no relationship with them, and your church just feels different. You find yourself increasingly distanced from the Christian connections you once had. You wonder if there’s something you’re doing wrong, which explains why everyone seems not to care about connecting with you.

4. Change—Your church changed it’s worship music style. The sanctuary was remodeled. You have a new pastor. Your closest friends at the church moved out of the area or switched to a different church. Everything feels different.

5. A new direction in your own life—If bridges are burning through no cause of your own, if everything you were doing feels as if it’s coming to an end, maybe God has a new direction for your life. Maybe it even means changing your church. In short, not all feelings of being an imposter must be negative. Perhaps God is opening a new vista for you or is getting ready to launch you in a new ministry opportunity.

And then there’s that final one:

6. Perhaps you’re not truly born again.

As noted above, that final one is less likely than you might assume when you feel as if you’re an imposter.

Here’s the curious thing, though: Whether you are a genuine imposter or just feeling like one, the solutions are the same:

1. Repent—God desires that all men and women repent of their sins. If you are not a genuine Christian, then you need to repent. If you are a genuine Christian and you’ve just succumbed to ignoring what God says positively about you as His son or daughter, then you need to repent. Even if #5 applies and God is using your feelings of being an imposter to take you in a new direction for His work, repentance is always the place to start. You can’t go wrong with repentance.

2. Humble yourself—Sometimes, feelings of being an imposter can make a person feel superior to others. You alone recognize that you’re a fake and everyone else is too dumb to see that. They’re all imposters too. Or so the self-deception goes. Don’t go there. If you’ve repented, allow yourself to be humbled. You’re dust and so is everyone else. Stop thinking that you’re any better or any worse than anyone else.

3. Accept grace—God offers grace to imposters, whether they are genuine imposters or just mired in the mistaken feelings of being one. Learning to accept God’s grace is key to ridding yourself of feelings of being an imposter. But it has to be learned. Ask God to help you improve in your ability to accept His grace.

4. Draw closer to Jesus—Every answer to every problem is found in Jesus. Really.

I want to expand that fourth solution.

My experience with people who feel as if they are imposters is that the majority are on the cusp of a deeper walk with the Lord. Allow Him to take you there. Deep calls to deep, and that feeling of being an imposter is often God’s way of saying that He has a more fulfilling relationship He wishes to pursue with you. He wants more of you for Himself and for His Kingdom’s purposes.

Because God doesn’t want us to be satisfied with the status quo. He doesn’t want us to be thrilled by mammon, but He wants us to be thrilled by what He values. Feelings of being an imposter are one means by which God can correct the course of your life to look more like His Son’s. In a way, that feeling of being an imposter is real because all of us are imposters if we’re not living in the fulness of life in Christ that He so desires for us.

So while feeling like an imposter IS something of a bad situation, it’s not a hopeless one. In fact, it most often signals the start of a wonderful new direction that God has always desired for you but which you were unable or unwilling to accept because you were not ready.

He has made everything beautiful in its time.
—Ecclesiastes 3:11a ESV

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20 thoughts on “When a Christian Feels Like an Imposter

  1. Very well said Dan. I agree that those who feel “phony” are more likely to be actual, born-again Christians than those who blithely go along Sunday after Sunday. I think some of this has to do with the religious culture we live in that hampers relationships and encourages plastic faced religious anonymity.

  2. Linda

    Hi Dan,
    I’m thinking that being a Christian imposter is a serious offense. You are right, I believe, when you say that repentance has to happen and truth has to be the default in this situation toward God and toward others.

    Deception is wicked. Truth is righteous. If we remain in deception and in deceiving there will be serious consequences in the end. It would probably be better for this person to leave the church if they are too afraid to reveal what is true. We must be true to ourselves. If we are living a lie we need to change this. There is no profit in deception.

    You say that some people may feel like imposters but really aren’t. I’m not sure that the Holy Spirit would do this. We are convicted of truth by the Holy Spirit. The only other thought for me would be that the church being attended by this person is fraudulent and that there are no real Christians attending this church.

    I’m trying to think of stories and teaching in the OT and in the NT that deal with decepton. The only ones on the top of my head are the mediums who were deceiving people with their witchcraft and magic. They were not allowed by OT law to remain alive in the OT. This is harsh, but I think that we have to realize that God is very serious about this issue.

    • Linda,

      I think it’s more of a sense of not fitting in, making it more of a social issue than a spiritual one. The problem is that people conflate it with a spiritual problem. I also think it is a very common feeling. You feel like an imposter because, at that moment, you’re not feeling a part of the fellowship. You feel distant and disconnected.

  3. Luke

    Well put, Dan. I’ve been feeling like an imposter for some time and I have to say faking it is very draining; mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Sometimes I feel it would be so much easier to not be a Christian, but of course biblically that would cause more inner turmoil! You have definitely given me food for thought. Thankyou.

  4. Donna

    Thank you so much for this post. I have really been struggling lately and came up on this post. It was very helpful. Thank you!

  5. Hannah

    I’ve been struggling for awhile wondering now if I’m truly saved. I’ve felt that maybe my repentance to the Lord was not genuine, or that I have phony motives. I’ve asked the Lord to show me the errors of my ways, and he may have… I think I keep examining myself and worrying I’m not saved rather than focusing on Christ. And I think I’ve been selfish, but every time I try to look to Christ, I just can’t focus enough! I truly don’t know what to do, I read God’s word all the time looking for guidance, I’ve been praying that the Lord would help me get through this, but I’ve been going nowhere! I almost feel hopeless… because without God, I wouldn’t no what to do. I don’t know if God’s testing me, or just not answering because I might have wrong motives… I’d really like some help!

    • Kevin

      Hannah I sympathize with you. I too know how this is can be so debilitating. I too have struggled and it has been at times debilitating. What has helped is drawing closer to Jesus remembering what He has promised to those who have been invited Him ” He who comes to me I will never cast away” John 6. It seems that at times you feel so rejected. But the cross says that God now accepts us through Christ. All the sins that have separated you from God, Jesus out of love for the Father and love for you humbly submitted to the punishment that yours and my sins so justly deserve. The answer is to focus on the the truth of who Jesus is and what He came to do for you! “Christ also suffered once for sins the righteous for the unrighteous that He might bring us to God.” If you feel that you are a impostor ask Jesus to help you draw near to Him to know him better and to trust Him and his work more fully.
      This surely is his will. Jesus will never reject those who come to Him for help. You and I need that assurance to help us in our time of need.
      He is a merciful and gracious High priest who right now is interceding before the Father for you!

  6. SHANIEL GUTHRIE

    I FEEL LIKE AN IMPOSTER WHEN EVER I AM WORSHIPPING IT FEELS LIKE IM DOING IT FOR PEOPLE TO SEE I FEEL LIKE I AM A BIG FAKE PLEASE HELP AM I ? I JUMP I SCREAM BUT I JUST FEEL LIKE I DO IT FOR PEOPLE TO SEE I REALLY AND TRULY WANT TO SERVE GOD I GIVE MY LIFE TO HIM I STOPPED SO MANY STUFF TO SERVE HIM WHY ME ? WHY THIS? PLEASE PRAY FOR ME I DONT WANT GOD TO HATE ME PLEASEI JUST YEARN FOR HIS ANOITING I YYEARN FOR HIS LOVE AND FAVOR PLEASE JUST HELP ME PLEASEE

    • Shaniel,

      The easiest way to course correct is to go somewhere no one can see you but God and rediscover Him, just the two of you. You can’t be fake then.

      “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”–Matthew 6:5-6

  7. Trent

    Hannah: I feel very much the same way. It’s like you took the words out of my mouth about how I’ve been feeling. I’d like some clarification too. I’m at the point where I almost feel like I’m trying to distance myself from thoughts of God and this struggle in general in some ways just to not have to think about it all the time. It doesn’t really ever go away though

  8. Shey

    Im in a more serious situation sadly. 🙁 years ago i became so in love in reading the Bible and always remembered what God says. But when I had deeper knowledge and discovered many false doctrines on my church I started to be cold to my brethren and became judgmental at some point, thought I can really see that they are worldly Christians. And this made me feel superior over them that makes me avoid having fellowship with them with love. I hate this feeling and attitude,the evil thoughts etc. I always pray to God to change me and give me love for others which he commanded. It also prevents me from sharing the truth with them when I think i cant deliever it with love. And that makes me question my faith, if im really saved. 🙁 im really really depressed. I wanted to stop studying the Bible to avoid this but I know it’s not what God wants. I have no one to talk to but God.

    • Shey,

      Here’s something I posted on Facebook the other day. I think it will help:

      Most people are just trying to get by however best they can. What I may pereceive as sloth, indifference, hostility, or even malice may very well be that person’s coping mechanism in that moment, their attempt to try to get by. Most people don’t act out of purposeful evil, even if our interpretation reads it that way. Fact is, few of us know anything about anyone else’s life or why they react the way they do. Most likely, it’s because they are just trying to get through the day in one piece. Here’s what I can do: Be as kind and as caring as I can be, recognizing this truth.

      A very simple prayer I would pray:

      “Lord Jesus, in every interaction I have with another person, help me to see you in them. And when I see you in them, help me to love that person more. Help me to be, at least, the one person they interact with today who exhibits your love for them. And in seeing you in them and loving them more, let me love you all the more for having loved them. Reveal yourself in love, Lord, and help me to be a vessel of love in every interaction I have with another, whether it’s my neighbor, you, or you in my neighbor. In that way, teach me to love you more. Thank you for your love now. Amen.”

      It’s not a hard prayer. I hope you can begin to pray it regularly and, as a result, grow in real love for God, the Son, the Holy Spirit, and every person you meet daily.

      • Shey

        Hi Dan! Thanks for replying. I agree and I always ask God to help me be the one He wants me to be. He is good cuz i am now somewhat recovering, tho sometimes i still struggle with new questions on my mind.

  9. Megan

    Hey Dan,

    Thanks so much for this post. The article came up when I did a search regarding how I’m having a hard time not feeling like a faker when I pray out loud, as if I’m just parroting everything I hear and not authentically praying as I feel. SO frustrating. Many of the things you pointed out in reference as to how we might be feeling this way made so much sense to me, and some definitely apply. I especially appreciate the mention of this being a time where the Lord is inviting me to take a deeper walk with Him, and that speaks to so much of what I’m experiencing. My old tapes tell me that I’m just not fitting in with everyone and urges me to go find another church, yet I can also see the invitation to open up and trust in deeper ways. He has me in His arms, which is the piece that I need to remember. Thanks for your thoughts in this post! 🙂

  10. Frank Suarez

    Oh dear me, I’m SO thankful for this post. So, this is my story: For the past few years, I felt like the last thing I needed in my life was God or “religion” bcus, even though I was brought up Pentecostal as a child practically from birth, I felt that I only did that bcus it was what I was being told to do, it was never a conscious decision on my part…until recently. And when I say recently, I mean less than a month from when writing this message you’re reading.

    It took the last 3 years of suffering from not having my children with me after my children’s mother (whom I’ve now forgiven within myself) accused my current wife (whom we decided mutually [stupidly] to split from the weekend of my bday on 6/3), of abusing my children both physically & sexually. Now, I long for my wife bcus even though we had only been dating (albeit without God in our lives) for 10mths when this began, she stuck around, and fought with me side by side, until my own negativity and the walls I put up after blaming life’s unfairness, and my own stupidity, and of course not having God as an anchor for when we went thru the storms we did, finally couldn’t take it anymore, and decided it was best for her to leave since I had given up on life, and was very close to taking my own life thinking “I have life insurance, so she’ll be ok, and I know she’ll take care of my kids” bcus she fell in love with my kids, and they reciprocated the love right back which is what caused their mother to do what she did for NO reason other than what I was able to finally beat the case & accusations thrown at us that determined she was the one behind what my children were saying. The problem again was that, bcus we didn’t have God in our relationship, and eventual marriage (that’s right, despite all that was happening, she stuck around & even married me! Now THAT’S a woman you want to keep around) eventually the negativity was too much for her to bear, and aside from literally being by my side watching me suffer for what’s now reached the 3yr mark (yes, I haven’t seen/heard from/talked to my children for 3yrs at this point), and the fact that I had given up &, again, was ready to take my own life, she told me that she “HAD to leave. Because if she’s still around when the time comes that I kill myself, then she will follow me and she can’t do that. So, I HAVE to leave.” and me thinking “well, since I’m going to kill myself anyway, let me let her go so one of us can at least have a chance at a happy life…” not realizing what I’d be giving up bcus I had already checked out mentally, I voluntarily gave up love & happiness from my own negativity.

    Still, something was inside of me that I had been denying all along, and that was God. So, a few weeks ago, after finding out that she was going to divorce me, 2hrs after finding out my job was at stake, and totaling my car that same weekend, I have had it. Between all that was going on, the fact that even though I proved our innocence in the case, & was probably still going to lose my children (which she couldn’t bear bcus she loved these kids), the fact that I was drowning in my own negativity, possibly losing my job, losing her, and my financial troubles due to all the money I spent on fighting this case that prevented us from moving in ANY direction; I felt like I was trapped in a box, shackled with these great wings that were longing to fly, I couldn’t take it. My heart couldn’t take it.

    So, I was driving home trying my hardest not to cry while driving since I couldn’t let my emotions get the best of me that’d make me wanna run my car off the road and hurting or killing myself bcus I had my puppy with me, and his life mattered more than mine in my heart, I came home, and IMMEDIATELY ran to my bedroom where I fell on my knees sobbing. I prayed harder than I ever prayed before, and asked Jesus to come into my life, and to “PLEASE! HELP ME!!” I went to sleep, thinking “God, please just take me now, bcus if you don’t–I will, and if I do–it’ll be all your fault so don’t send me to hell for this because YOU allowed this to happen to me and *with eyes closed pointing at the ‘devil’* THIS F*CKING GUY! YOU–you are the worst of the worst, and you should be ashamed of yourself!” began my reconnection with my faith. I attended a church from a Brother who for 2 years was a customer of mine, and had always told me that I was “meant to do great things in life and that God was going to use me” meanwhile, my dumb self was like “PSHH! Please. I don’t believe.” while internally trying to convince myself that that little itch within me was nothing more than fear placed on me from what I was taught as a child growing up “Christian”, and then who do I call? Him.

    So, it’s been two weeks since I FULLY made the SOLID commitment to The Lord, and was even baptized (again bcus I had when I was 15, but again, to please my parents, not for myself), and then this feeling of uneasiness fell upon me. A great sense of responsibility that feels like a 1000lbs on my heart thinking “great, I’m JUST learning to let go of the past but not forget the lessons, stop worrying about the future bcus it’s not guaranteed, and live for today, but MAN, why do I feel so guilty? Like I can’t have fun bcus everything that isn’t of the Lord is a sin, so I’m back in that box feeling like I can’t move in any direction bcus I don’t want to do anything to offend the Lord, and I thought I was supposed to be free?! What’s going on? What am I doing wrong? Did I fall victim to some false faith? Am I being real with myself? I know I’m a good person, and I surrendered to God, and I’m legitimately asking him with all my heart to fix what I have no control over, and I constantly say ‘Thy will be done!’ regardless of what’s going on in my life. Why do I feel this way?! Why do I still feel trapped, burdened, confined, & tormented?” I feel like my entire apt is against God’s will bcus I have my movies (nothing pornographic bcus I do have kids, and plus, I have the privacy of my phone for that, though I do my hardest to not give into temptation, and I’ve been doing a good job at that) but, everything else in my apt I feel like it’s a sin. From my love of professional wrestling, to the music I’ve been listening to for YEARS, it all seems to bother me, but at the same time, I know better to let it influence me or distance me from God, but at the same time, I feel like if I listen to it, or watch something on netflix that isn’t religious or watch WWE that I’d be sinning against the Lord which could destroy whatever things I’m hoping He’d fix for me, so I refrain from all of that while STILL feeling miserable inside.

    I pray to God every chance I get, and I ask for guidance, and for Him to speak to me to tell me what I should do, but even during a teary prayer, an open heart, and a blank mind, I still feel like I’m “faking it” when I really don’t believe I am, yet I’m still tormented. I do like the Church I’ve started attending bcus of what it represents, but I don’t genuinely feel comfortable in that church bcus everyone looks like they’re Amish, meanwhile my style of dress is more urban and “comfortable”, but yet that’s “frowned” upon in that church, so I’m already feeling stifled, and I’m even afraid of bring anyone to it bcus I feel that church is for the “advanced” Christian, and not the GENUINELY born again who maybe can’t make the 180 degree switch from ladies wearing pants, to a dress that covers from the neck down. I keep thinking “God wants us to come as we are, and HE will make the necessary change in our lives.” and then at the last service, ONE THING stuck in my head that keeps playing over and over and it bothers me which was “Homosexuals, you disgusting creatures! And women showing off all the goods!” and I’m like “Wait, that’s not a message of Love, that’s condemnation based on the same Gospel they’ve been preaching since the 50’s and times have changed!”

    So, part of me feels like I’m meant to be a part of a revival for THIS generation. The “Understanding” generation where straights, LGBT, and Millennials CAN be welcomed into church without feeling like they’re being persecuted for the lives they live, but rather TEACH LOVE. If all we need is LOVE, and GOD IS LOVE, then WHY would a Church immediately command someone to dress a certain way for Church off the rip instead of letting The Lord express that as I feel one should “come as you are”, believe, accept, and GOD will do the rest? So, that’s where I’m tormented bcus I’m starting to feel like I did when I was a kid, when times have changed, and it’s TIME for a revival that I feel I’m meant to lead based on how I’ve grown up with traditional family values mixed with modern day thinking & ACCEPTANCE, but yet feel like “Hey, I’m JUST starting my own journey. How can I feel like I’m ready to lead a revival? I’m NOT ready! Why am I being tormented?!?!”

    And I think I’ve just answered my own question. Sorry for making this so long. But, I welcome any and all feedback. May God bless each and every one of you. I love you all, and don’t even know you….yet.

  11. Rob

    I googled ” I pray and pray yet still feel disconnected from God” and it led me to this page. I am so glad it did and will take Dan’s advice

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