What do you do when you’ve had your quiet time, prayed, and you come away with a sense that you’ve basically gotten nothing from the Lord for the day? This is a question I wanted to tackle because it is my guess that just about every Christian has mornings like this.
First of all, let’s address this from the sin point of view. If we are in known sin from which we have yet to repent - this will be the norm. If we think we’re going to have a wonderful time alone with God when we are in conscious known sin, we are kidding ourselves. The Word of God is very clear on this matter. “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” (Psalm 66:18) Not only will He not hear - but usually when He speaks - it will only be to deal with the area of rebellion until repentance is embraced. Something I feel the necessity of saying is that He does this because He loves us. Scripture says God disciplines those He loves. But when this is ruled out we are still left wondering why it seemed like God did not do anything at all in our time alone with Him.
Second, let’s address this from the emotions point of view. We all want emotions - at least when we think that they are going to be good. But life is not a series of incredible emotions that are guaranteed every day. The emotion with which I loved my wife on my wedding day and subsequent honeymoon was a very high point in our marriage. The emotion we had at the birth of each of our six children was a high point in life. The emotions I had when I went up to preach my very first sermon to Calvary Chapel was a high point. But there have been many days as a husband, father, and pastor that were not equally as high. In fact, to wonder why every day isn’t that high, emotionally speaking, is ridiculous. I still love my wife - love my children - and love the congregation I pastor when I have average emotional days - and even when I have bad and horrible days emotionally. That is called living. Too often we paint the Christian life as one high after another - or like some kind of trip to an amusement park with thrill ride after thrill ride. That is a disservice to others on this path. A normal person has a normal range of emotions - up, down, and often - somewhat blah at times. To have a continuous high cheapens who we are to be in Christ. Jesus knew highs and lows and everything in between. To have a somewhat blah-zay time alone with God is not horrifically abnormal. This takes me to the third thing we need to consider.
Third there is the matter of faithfulness. Sherie and I do not have daily earth-shattering conversations. Most days we talk - and it is fairly normal, run of the mill, how was your day honey - kind of conversations. Because there is not a rush of emotion every time we speak does not make me doubt either her love for me or my love for her. We are faithful in really emotional times - and in times when the emotions don’t run as high. One of the things we need to remember is that God wants us to be faithful to Him. Therefore, when we have a really average time alone with God, or worse, a series of those average times - do we stop making time to be alone with God? The only way to build faithfulness in a life - is for there to be times when little more than faithfulness is why we keep going. We have things we value - regardless of whether they come with daily warm fuzzies or not. I value God - and value the relationship He has given to me through Jesus Christ. Whether I leave my time alone with Him high as a kite - or feeling very “non-feeling” will have no effect on whether I will continue to seek Him in the future. I seek Him BECAUSE I love Him - and I love Him because He first loved me. He values faithfulness - therefore I, too, will value it - with Him - with my wife - with my children - and with God’s saints. Truly - valuing faithfulness helps often with reaching out to the lost - because very often I get little back in response at first when sharing the gospel. But God calls me to love them and to share His Word with them - which requires (shocker alert) faithfulness.
The last (but certainly not exhaustive) matter is that of the silences of God. There are times when all seems to go silent in our spiritual lives. I’ve read many biographies of godly men and women who all testify to these times. Some call them the dark night of the soul while others refer to them as the silences of God. Whatever they are called, they are disturbing when they come. David spoke of one of these when he said these words:
How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, and my enemy will say, "I have overcome him," and my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken. Psalm 13:1-4
The silence of God disturbed David - it spiritually freaked him out. He wondered where God was. He had a longing to see God’s face. He desired God’s counsel - and the way that God would enlighten his eyes like He previously had in days gone by. He looked at how his being shaken in his confidence in God would cause those who hate God to rejoice. Now, I have to confess that I purposely left out verses 5-6 of this Psalm. David was shaken somewhat by what he thought was God’s absence - or at least disinterest in fellowship with him. In a way I believe that this was by design. The design behind it was for David to see how futile life was without God. The design was for David to recognize that there was no other God for him but Jehovah. That threw him even more dependent and needy upon God. Such words are not written because a person is disinterested in God or had an apathy about his or her spiritual life. These are the words of the true believer who is “desperate for God!” Peter spoke such words in John 6 when he said, “Where else can we go? You alone have the words of life!” Now I’ll share the rest of Psalm 13.
But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, Because He has dealt bountifully with me. Psalm 13:5-6
David goes from despair to trust - i.e. faith! One can almost hear him lifting these words to the heavens. “I’ve trusted your covenant-love.” Even as he lifts them there - he speaks them also to himself deep within his heart. This first phrase speaks of God’s covenant with Israel - and later His covenant with David. God made promises - and He WILL keep them. David turns from emotion to the Word. He turns from feelings to faith. I have trusted in Your promises. But next David says, “My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation” He turns from God’s promises to God’s prior works. He remembers the salvation of God - how God worked in him and he again shouts to the heavens, “I’ve trusted what You promised - and I will choose to rejoice in what You’ve done.” It is wise in our blah moments to remember the mercies and grace of God given to us in salvation. As we remember His salvation - we need to speak it to our heart - and speak it with our heart as well. Then David finishes with a song. “I will sing to Jehovah, because He has dealt bountifully with me.” Please note that exclamation points are not used here. I’m glad they were not - because I believe David is not speaking from excess emotion within himself. He is speaking truth TO himself. Remember what God has both promised and done requires singing. But what if we don’t feel like singing? Sing anyway, because deep down that is probably what David was doing. He sang of how Jehovah had dealt “bountifully” with him. The word for “bountifully” is the Hebrew word “gamal” which means to recompense or to bring to a good completion. But it can also mean, “to wean.” It was this meaning that grabbed me when thinking of my dry, blah moments in my time alone with God. There are times when what God is doing is weaning us from the constant call for an emotional experience. The child who is weaning may feel that he or she is getting a raw deal. There was plenty of food and a nearness - even an intimacy with mom involved. Where has that gone? But the mother is not removing love from the child - she is preparing the child for a thousand different foods to come. We need to grasp that at times our loving Father in heaven is weaning us from the glut of “feelings” so that we can be ready for mature food. We are being moved from milk to meat.
Also - when these times come - God is allowing us to do what is truly in our hearts. That can be a painful moment - if all you have in your heart is “religious obligatory practices” and not a deep love of God. In those moments many turn away from God. If this is how it is going to be - I’ll just go somewhere else! That is a statement made by someone who has yet to be ruined by God. They have been ruined by God so that nothing else satisfies except God. His silences - or even our lousy quiet times can remind us of this. I am not here to fulfill a checklist of religious obligatory practices! I am here to meet God! Since nothing but God Himself will satisfy that longing - I MUST HAVE HIM!
So - you’ve finished your time alone with God. You “feel” as if nothing has happened. You wonder why? Maybe its unconfessed sin - but that is not God’s only reason from allowing such a thing in your life. He loves you and wants you weaned from “emotionally-dependent Christianity” where life is one awesome experience to the next. He also loves you and wants to build faithfulness into your life. And He may love you enough to be weaning you from such things so that you can move on from milk so that you may begin partaking of the meat of the Word. Whatever it is - let Him drive you, not away from Himself, with such difficulties. Let them drive you further into His arms - further into His promises in His Word - and further into a relationship of trust and faith in His Son.
Most of these articles are taken from the Calvary Courier, a weekly newsletter that is sent to the folks who attend Calvary Chapel Jonesboro. Due to the response to these articles, we've decided to print some of them which proved to be very helpful to God's people at the fellowship.
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