Thursday, June 13, 2013

Blowing on the Embers

If you've grown spiritually cold and need to blow on the embers of the fire that once was in your heart, then this post is for you.  I've been there as a pastor.  I've been there as a husband and dad.  I've been there as a man.

I don't want to read the Bible and pray.  I don't want to serve my family.  I don't want to think about eternal things.  In fact, I may love sin a little more.  I may be a little more inclined to justify it rather than war against it.  I just want to slip into a coma and wake up sometime later, letting people tend to my needs until I'm all better.

But it doesn't work that way.

My family still needs me.  My neighbors are still my neighbors.  My job still needs my engagement and energy - and this applies to church-related jobs and non-church-related jobs.  I can't check out.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones had a term for this:  spiritual depression.  That's about as good as I've seen it described.

So what do you do?

First, realize you're not alone.  Sometimes the darkness comes.  You can blame Satan or your own heart or God.  The truth is most likely somewhere in the mix of those three.  And if you're offended about the God part, please remember it was the Spirit that led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil (Matthew 4, Luke 4).  People go through this and it's not unique to you and there's nothing uncommon about it (1 Cor. 10.13).  As I said, Lloyd-Jones had a term for it.  St. John of the Cross wrote about the extreme version of it in Dark Night of the Soul.  Welcome to the club.

Second, blow on the embers until the fire catches.  How?

Remember what it was like to walk with God.  When your mind wanders, let it wander to the days when things were reconciled and He saw you through hard times, etc.  That's a good spiritual discipline anyway, but it will serve to paint a picture for you of what your life could be based on what it has been.

Repent of your apathy.  That's always the first step that helps me.  "Father, I know I should be connected to you but I don't feel like it.  And I may not feel like it for a little bit, but I'm sorry that I'm so apathetic toward you."  Far from despising that, God enjoys honest conversations with His kids.

Return to your normal spiritual routines.  Read the Bible, though it may seem dry and dusty.  That's the fuel that will catch once the embers start to glow red.  Remember that the dry and dusty wood tends to catch more easily on the fire.  Pray too, being honest with God and with yourself as you make your requests.

It may take a while before the fog will lift and the darkness will be broken.  But that's not really the goal.  It's the result of accomplishing the goal.  Here's the capstone thought:  the goal isn't to have the sunshine, it's to be faithful in the night.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

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