Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Walking in Dry Land

I want to start this post with Psalm 13

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

1 How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever?
       How long will you hide your face from me?

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
       and every day have sorrow in my heart?
       How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
       Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;

4 my enemy will say, "I have overcome him,"
       and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
       my heart rejoices in your salvation.

6 I will sing to the LORD,
       for he has been good to me.

(New International Version - UK (NIVUK) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society)

This post title of course refers to a spiritual walk not a physical one. Lately I have found myself walking a very dry and parched spiritual walk. That is not to say I have not learned a lot recently. I have been continuing my quest to understand what Joy in Christ really means. I have read John Pipers excellent book ‘When I don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy’ Link in my book list on the left. Am now reading a book by Larry Crab called Shattered Dreams. This is also about the search and fight for Joy. These two books have been very helpful in my Theological and Mental understanding of Joy. However the practice of what they teach is very different.

God seems quite distant recently. I have found prayer and praise very hard over the past couple of months. More so than usual it must be said. I seem to have lost contact with my heart and with it any trace of Joy I had discovered last year. I enjoy singing to Christian music on the way in to work and it lifts my spirits to do so. However this doesn’t seem to last and Marvin is back. (Marvin is the depressed robot from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy if you don’t know what that refers to.) I hate being like this and it can bring out my worst traits. That of grumpiness, intolerance to others and a very childish selfish streak. It makes me want the quick fix and to not have the energy to fight for the longer right path of drinking deeply from the spiritual water found in relationship with Christ.

This brings me to the point which is very well elaborated by Larry Crabb in the aforementioned book. Why when we most desperately need to feel and sense God deep down does he seem a million miles away? I know this may seem anathema to the Evangelical Christianity to which I am associated. Isn’t that all about experience and knowing? If anyone is entirely honest then no. We all have times when we enter the desert places.

The issue is what to we do when we are there. Do we sulk and distract ourselves from the pain with worldly solutions and the quick fixes our society is so ready to hand out? Do we push the feelings down and try harder to be good Christians? Or do we do what the Psalmist did above? Be bluntly honest about how we are feeling and not live in denial.

A good example of this would be what happened last night. I went to a meeting of the Church Worship team that I am a part of. It was a special night dedicated to praying for the team and two of the elders and several other key prayers were also invited. After some worship the team stood in the middle and the other parties prayed for us. Several people had great encouraging words spoken over them and seemed to benefit from the prayer and I would in no way detract or judge what was going on between them and God. I on the other hand felt totally disconnected from the whole thing. I tried to engage my heart during worship and prayer but felt to be honest, cold and untouched. I went desperate to hear from God and was pleading inside to hear from him and …… nothing, silence, not a word. I appreciated the prayer for blessing that I received, it is always good to be prayed for but I left downhearted and disappointed. It would have been so easy to pretend things were happening and God was moving and certainly the pressure and expectation is there to do so. But I have been a Christian too long now to pretend about such things.

However to bring the tone up from these dark depths. I, as David did in the Psalm, trust in Gods unfailing Love for me. I know that scripture sais God is good, loving, slow to anger and full of Grace and Mercy, just and Holy. In these times of spiritual wastelands the only thing you can hold on to are the promises of Scripture. They ARE true because Scripture sais so! Regardless of how you are feeling they hold true. God loves me with a passion and love I can never grasp or get my head around. It is too awesome to comprehend yet it is true. It is these things that keep me going in the dark periods. If you have no understanding of scripture then what do you fall upon in the tough times when you feel nothing? For this reason it is so vitally important to feed and be fed the truth of scripture. If you base your understanding of God on experience then you are in for a big shock when that experience is removed. I believe God uses these times to test and refine us. To show us where we are at and how spiritually mature we are by how we respond to God in these times. I wish I could say I respond well and just fling myself upon God even when I feel nothing. Sadly I don’t and feel I have such a long way to go even though I have been a Christian for nearly 20 years. However I am keen to change and not deny where I am at.

God change me from the Inside to choose you more often than not and to desire you above earthly nonsense that clamours for my attention. To learn to praise you even:

17 Though the fig tree does not bud
       and there are no grapes on the vines,
       though the olive crop fails
       and the fields produce no food,
       though there are no sheep in the pen
       and no cattle in the stalls,

18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
       I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
       he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
       he enables me to go on the heights.

Habakuk 3:17-19

God bless you!

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