2011-05-17 - Losing the Government
Richard and I once went to the Emergency Room because I was having chest pains. They turned out to be the result of a ragweed allergy, but the most memorable part of that visit involved our interactions with the insurance specialist. Richard was employed with the federal government at the time, and we a very comprehensive policy, with a reputable and highly-respected company. So we presented our card, and one might think we would then quickly move to the next step of the process. Think again! The specialist informed us that my husband's employer was no longer in the hospital's system. The hospital had "lost" the federal government. It's amusing now, but at the time, it was a bit frustrating, when we thought I might be having a heart attack! Of course, the U.S. government was really there all the time. But for the time being, for the purpose of my health care, it was "invisible."
Sometimes, our faith is the same way. We think we have "lost" it. Our prayers seem to go "unanswered;" we wonder if anyone is even listening. We feel spiritually dry, and we find the Bible boring. Church services become a chore, and we may even begin to believe we are agnostic (not knowing whether God exists).
Many Christians go through such spiritually dry periods, and often come out of them with even stronger faith. Sometimes they last for only a brief times; other times, they go on for years and seem interminable. Some of the world's most dedicated Christians, even some leaders, have gone through what has been called "the dark night of the soul." So if you are going through such a time, please know that you are not alone; you are in very good company.
In fact our Lord Jesus Himself once asked God why He had "forsaken" Him, and the Psalmists were very frank about the distance they sometimes felt toward God.
Psalm 22:2 (Holman Christian Standard Bible) My God, I cry by day, but You do not answer, by night, yet I have no rest.
If you are going through such a time right now, what can be done? I can't promise an immediate fix. What I can tell you is that there is a psychological principle wherein you act your way into feeling. In our society - at least in the U.S. - we too often see people giving up too quickly - on marriages, on jobs, on friendships - and even giving up on God. But this counter-intuitive principle of "act into feeling" often works for spiritual dryness, as well. It may seem illogical to continue going to church, reading the Bible and praying when these habits feel meaningless. But if we persevere in them, usually the joy of our salvation will return. We'll hear something in a sermon, that resonates with us. A Bible passage that we have read dozens of times, will suddenly be the catalyst for an epiphany. Or even just the support and love of Christian friends may "put flesh on" God's love for us.
If you are in a spiritually dry time, don't give up. To quote a poem from the 1960s, "just keep a `goin'." As the Bible reminds us, "... joy will come in the morning." (Please see Psalm 30:5) The morning may be literally just one morning away, or much longer - but it will arrive. Don't give up on your faith. Just as with the Psalmists if you continue reading (which I recommend), a close relationship with God can be reestablished.
Dear Father, during those spiritually dry times, give us the impetus to "keep a `goin,'" and lead us to the people and experiences that will reinvigorate our faith. In Jesus' name, amen.