For several years, the key to my Christian walk has been discerning what specific area the Holy Spirit puts on the agenda for my growth each week. The usual pattern is that every few days I start having difficulty walking in joy with God, but can’t say exactly why. I pray and try to obey more and try to trust more, but there remains a vague sense that something’s wrong. I’ve learned not to fret at that point, but to just keep mulling over what could be wrong, while I wait for God to make things clearer. Generally, after about three days, everything subtly shifts into place, and I know what’s going on. I become aware of some hidden motive that’s been driving my actions and emotions without my realizing it. Once I see it, it’s easy to lay it before God and move on. Life goes smoothly for a couple of days, until the cycle starts over.
Recently, the same thing happened, but it took about three weeks instead of three days, so I didn’t recognize the pattern at first. For about three weeks I’ve been irrationally discouraged by a couple of disappointing ministry opportunities. There was a Cru (Campus Crusade) meeting that fell flat, and for which I felt largely to blame. There was a Sunday School that went contrary to everything I had planned. There were a few other things. I kept working hard to trust and obey, and objectively there were a lot of things going well in my life, but I felt generally disconnected from God. I noticed that my personal quiet times with God were beginning to drop away, something I monitor because it is a reliable indicator that things are going wrong in my spiritual life even when I feel okay.
A week and a half ago, I spent some extended time with God in Scripture and prayer. God met me in that time, and I saw a lot of exciting things from the Scripture, but there was no sense of resolution as far as the malaise I’d been experiencing.
This past Friday, I asked someone to pray for me, but couldn’t even put into words what was wrong. “I’m just spiritually restless,” I told him. “I think there’s something wrong, but God isn’t convicting me of anything specific. I’ve learned that God usually shows me what it is eventually, but just pray that I’ll see what is going on.”
This Saturday, I tried to explain to Kate how I felt, even though I wasn’t even sure what I felt. As we talked, I started seeing how to describe to her what was going on. After about five minutes of interaction with her, I could define the problem clearly: “I’ve been feeling very task-oriented in my walk with God. I feel brisk and business-like, but I don’t feel as though I have any sense of walking in relationship with God.”
As usual, once I was finally able to put everything into words, the whole problem was easy to resolve. Kate and I talked about the study I’ve been doing on the Sabbath, and the importance of finding rest in Christ. We talked about how easy it is to walk in obedience while still missing out on an on-going interaction with God as a Person. It’s easy to make our spiritual life a task list instead of a relationship.
So everything’s good now. In fact, I think one of God’s purposes in the last three weeks was to help me understand my own Sabbath study better. He had to be sure that the meaning of finding rest in Christ was real and practical for me.
The reason I shared all this was because this kind of thing is so typical of my walk with God. I haven’t heard very many other people describe their own spiritual lives this way, but if my life is any indication, there must be some others out there who experience the same things, and for whom my example will be an encouragement in some way.