Yesterday, a dear writing friend shared this quote by Bonnie Grove with me. As I’ve read and reread the quote, its syllables echo against the cavernous walls heart.
Right now, writing doesn’t feel like an exploration into God’s grace, it feels like a march across the desert. It’s not that I can’t write or don’t want to, it’s that the inspiration and connection just aren't there. The well of my soul that routinely fills my bucket to overflowing now returns but a few drops. My lifespring seems tamped down to just a trickle.
It’s not just with my words. God feels distant, period. As American Idol judge, Randy Jackson might say, “I’m not feeling it dog.”
How can this be? We enjoyed such a Sprit-filled weekend at the Alpha retreat and I saw God at work in powerful ways. How can a time like this follow a time like that? Yet, even before the retreat I sensed it coming.
Have you ever had this experience?
Lots of times our faith is first sparked and then buoyed by big emotions. When we first meet Jesus, it’s a lot like falling in love. We’re excited to be around anything that has to do with Him.
But eventually we come to the end of our feelings. Old doubts start to creep in, maybe some cynicism too. Busyness encroaches and distracts. Our spiritual habits don’t bear the fruit they used to. Our souls feel parched. We wonder how we missed the signs and ended up on this valley, dry as dust.
The first time I found myself in a spiritual trough I panicked, thinking my faith hadn’t “stuck” or wondering if I’d done something wrong. It was then I learned faith is a choice, not a feeling.
C.S. Lewis describes this very experience as the Law of Undulation. He says humans aren’t able to achieve constancy and instead we operate between a series of peaks and troughs that affect all areas of our life, including our relationship with God.
As he brilliantly elaborates in The Screwtape Letters:
Did you catch that? First of all, God uses these troughs to grow our faith. He wants teach us to walk by faith, not by sight…or by feelings. Second, the enemy is never more powerless than when we obey God as an act of our will and not as a response to the evidence and emotions of the moment.
“[God] leaves the creature (you and me) to stand up on its own legs—to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best… [God] wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles.
[Satan’s] cause is never more in danger, than when a human, no longer desiring, but intending, to do [God’s] will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys."
So right now, I choose to follow. I choose to keep on keeping on even though it’s not all that rewarding. But, just as the sweet emotions don’t last forever neither will the lack of them. I know that in time the Spirit will send a fresh anointing and the feelings will return. As for my writing, perhaps God’s leading me to a new place? Maybe He wants me to pause or change direction. At the moment I’m not sure.
Do tumbleweeds blow across your faith landscape? Have heart that this too shall pass. God may be teaching you to stand on your own two feet and leading you to a new vista and a higher calling. Choose to persevere and keep on keeping on.
I’ll share the counsel my wise friend gave me today, “Claim God’s truth. Pray the Psalms. Beseech Him.” That's where I'm going to start—in Psalm 139. Maybe I’ll find that even now, time spent in this arid place is still an exploration into God’s grace — minus the exclamation point.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”