If you are anything like me, sometimes your spiritual life just stalls out. Church feels like going through the motions, your quiet times are having little to no impact, God seems far away, and you certainly do not feel like you are growing in the faith. While I do believe that the vibrancy of our spiritual life will go through natural highs and lows as we journey onward, I also believe these plateaus can be prevented to a degree.
In Matthew, Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Matt. 7:7-8) Friend, this is a promise! So, in a time of prolonged spiritual dryness, I must confront myself—am I asking? Am I seeking? Am I knocking? If I am totally honest, the answer will likely be a resounding no.
So, what is one to do in this situation? How can you reclaim the joy, fulfillment, and fellowship promised to us in Christ Jesus? A good place to start is self-reflection. Ask yourself the following questions and be honest with your heart’s responses.
Am I being disciplined in my devotion time? This may seem like a cliché thing to ask, but I believe it is of vital importance. You can have a daily time of devotion that you faithfully adhere to, and yet still get nothing out of it, merely using it as a hollow box to check.
Think of it like a workout routine. I can press play on an exercise video every single day, but if I hardly put forth any effort, lackadaisically copying the moves and never breaking a sweat, I can’t expect much of a result. The same is true when I open my Bible and have a time of prayer.
How many times have I sat down to read God’s Word, then continued through the rest of my day, not remembering a thing that I read! The hard truth is these things take effort. It takes mental discipline and a strategy in order to see any fruit. There is not enough space here to talk about what those strategies may be, but there is much information out there in books and online about how to study and abide in the Word. Whatever you do, find a different approach to what you are doing now—after all, we all know what they say about the definition of insanity.
Am I engaging in community? I find that when I am disconnected from other believers, not having spiritual conversations, not being held accountable, I am more likely to get off track. I am a firm believer that we often learn through conversation, and that God often speaks to us through our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Therefore, prioritize finding times to spend with other Christians. Ask a friend out for coffee and be intentional about having a spiritual conversation during that time. Do not neglect attending Sunday School classes and small group meetings. Call a friend or family member you have not heard from in a while and ask how you can pray for them.
There is simply no substitute for fellowship with other believers. These times often edify and encourage us like nothing else. Do not underestimate their importance.
What am I being filled with? I believe that all these questions are important, but, oh, how crucial is this one! Every day we make dozens, even hundreds, of choices regarding what we choose to fill ourselves with. What will I listen to while I do my makeup and later when I drive to work? What will I watch on TV after dinner? What will I occupy myself with while I wait at the DMV? With what food and beverages will I choose to fuel my body?
The devil would love for us to think that these little choices are insignificant, but they are not. These choices deeply shape us. They mold our desires, our speech, our attitudes, and even the health of our bodies.
Personally, I can tell a difference in my spiritual life when I am spending an inordinate amount of time on social media, watching Netflix, and making a practice of eating unhealthy foods. As the old saying goes—garbage in, garbage out. So please ask yourself regularly: What am I being filled with?
What am I orienting myself toward? Most of us have dreams, goals, obligations, and plans—and this is good. This is what allows us to make progress in life. However, our worldly pursuits and fleshly desires have a way of usurping what our ultimate orientation or “goal” should be—growing in Christ.
For example, at the time of the writing of this article, I am 31 weeks pregnant with my first child. Every day my head swims with thoughts of getting the nursery ready, organizing and cleaning my home, preparing for labor and delivery, etc. Being the control freak and planner that I am, I am often worried about getting everything done on my to-do list and making sure everything is just right for when baby comes.
While planning and preparing for a child is certainly not a sinful endeavor, even innocent pursuits such as these can become an idol when they eclipse my pursuit of Christ. How wise John Calvin was when he said, “The human heart is an idol factory.”
Ask yourself, what occupies my thoughts much of the time? What am I desiring most in this season of life? Are my motivations for my current goals God-honoring or motivated by pride or some other sinful attitude? Whatever season you are in, it’s never a bad time to check your heart.
In conclusion, as the old hymn says, we are indeed “prone to wander.” Nevertheless, one of my favorite verses from my favorite book of the Bible says this: “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” (James 4:8a KJV) Friend, He is never far from one who asks, who seeks, who knocks. Call on Him today.