I’ve been asked often if I ever have times when my spiritual life feels flat and I don’t feel God’s presence.
Of course I do. I’ve never met a serious Christian who didn’t!
I’ve described periods in my relationship with Jesus, like and old married couple we’ve all seen, sitting across from each other at a restaurant, saying nothing to each other for minutes at a time. It’s painful to watch.
When I see that, I ask myself, “What happened to their relationship? Did those silences start with 10-20 seconds of not communicating and then slowly grew from there into these long silences?” The scary part is that they’ve been doing this for so long they’re probably not even embarrassed about it. It’s their new normal.
In the same way, the most frightening thing for me about being spiritually flat is that I might get used to it. So, what do I do to bring me back to my first love? 1. Examine my life for serious sin areas. I’ll literally make a list of people I’ve not fully forgiven and repent of it. I’ll also ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any habitual sins that continue to cling to me.
“…and do not give the devil a foothold. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:27, 30-32
Did you notice the phrase “grieve the Holy Spirit?” When I’ve hurt and grieved someone, like my wife, I tend to avoid her. I’m embarrassed and don’t know what to say. My sin caused her to grieve and nothing will end it without a sincere apology and an intentional commitment to correct my behavior in the future. This is the imagery I think of when I read the verses out of Ephesians. My sin makes the Holy Spirit sad and the only solution is confession and repentance.
2. Take a break from Bible Study. Yes, that’s correct. Take a break from the familiar – the routine. I’ll then read serious devotionals or books like The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas A Kempis, Life of the Beloved, by Henri Nouwen and The Spirit of the Disciplines, by Dallas Willard. The point is to let the Holy Spirit speak to you through some of the spirit giants of the past. (And then at some point, of course, you’ll want to get back into scripture.)
3. Hang out with godly people. When I’m around serious followers of Jesus, it inspires me to be more like him. I’ll go to a men’s retreat, or a conference with a few great friends. Or I’ll hang out for an evening with them. I’ll ask a godly man to meet with me and share how he handles these occasional spiritual droughts.
Here’s the point; Do whatever it takes to fall in love again with Jesus. He hasn’t changed. If there is a problem it’s because you and I have it. Have the courage and conviction to do whatever it takes!
4. Plan a personal, spiritual retreat. I’ll sometimes go away for a day or two, all by myself just to do business with God. I will be flat on my face in repentance, begging him to do in me, whatever it takes to renew our relationship. I’ll take long walks, sing and pray. I’ll read long passages of scripture. I’ll fast. If you’re married and think a two-day retreat will never work? Ask them. I’d be shocked if they wouldn’t jump on that idea if they felt it would help you be a more godly person. Then, tell your spouse you’ll do the same for them.
How following Jesus works in real life.
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