As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God? (Psalm 42:1-2)
Of late I’ve not been maintaining a regular and fruitful communion with my Lord. I could use more socially acceptable terms like “struggling,” but the truth is my lazy flesh has won more mornings than my willing spirit. I’ve found myself–once again–in a dry and weary land. And I haven’t fought as I should. Does anybody know what I’m talking about?
Emerging from this period of dullness, I’ve been reflecting on some tensions in my approach to communion with the Lord. There are things that push me toward the Lord, and there are things that pull me away. It’s been good for my soul to see something of these tensions. I’m hoping I’ll be more familiar with my heart and more watchful of those things that erode my conscious communion with Christ. What follows are three positive motivations to communion with Christ and three enemies that war against them. Perhaps this will be helpful for someone else, too.
I’ve noticed that my time with the Lord is full and rich when I’m desperate–desperate for Him, desperate for wisdom, desperate for joy, desperate to escape the world, the flesh and the devil. Whenever a godly desperation leads me to conclude as I ought, “Apart from you I can do nothing!” then I’m gladly inclined to sit at my Savior’s feet. Little can deter me.
Until I start to feel self-sufficient. Invariably, at some point, I find myself feeling more confident, more able. I’ll have a day wherein my devotions were lacking but the day was fruitful. And rather than be humbled by the kindness of the Lord, I walk away like one of the nine lepers failing to return in praise and thanksgiving. That growing self-sufficiency cannibalizes desperation and communion.
I love the Lord. I love His word. I love the way He speaks to me through His word, the way He opens my eyes onto a world unseen, turning my gaze upon my own heart and then His. I primarily feel happy when I’m talking with Jesus in Bible reading, study, and prayer. That delight for some time drives me back again to the Savior’s arms.
Then, at some point, I’m prone to feel satiated. I’d never say, “I’ve had enough time with Jesus.” But I am prone to turn that full, joyful, satisfied experience of worshiping at his feet into unspoken permission to seek something else. As Lewis contends, I’m too easily pleased. I’m easily enthralled with the gifts rather than the Giver, with the fading warmth of God’s love rather than the crackling fire itself, with the memory of communion instead of the continuing enjoyment of it. There’s a strange tendency to taste God’s satisfying delights in Christ and then want to taste something else. That wandering taste bud takes me away from active communion with the Master.
Then there are time when I’m driven to the feet of my Lord with a renewed sense of duty. Duty isn’t a dirty word for me. Duty belongs to honor, obedience, and service. Doing one’s duty is part and parcel to maturity, manhood/womanhood, and warfare. Sometimes this sense of duty awakens fresh desire, desperation and delight in Christ. I’m made more zealous in communion with the Lord and more zealous in the other privileges and responsibilities of the Christian life.
Yet, duty gives way to formalism and formalism leads to drudgery. I notice that if duty alone motivates me, then in time I’m not actually communing with Christ. I’m communing with words on a page or paying homage to self-imposed routines. The proverbial box gets checked, but not my heart. Pretty soon drudgery creeps in, a harbinger of dry things to come. It’s a kind of despondency that undermines a more noble view of duty and leaves me non-communicative.
I assume these temptations are not unique since nothing has befallen me that’s not common to man. I’m certain there are other motivations and inhibitors to communion with Christ. I’m simply noting some tensions in my own heart and walk with the Lord.
I’m guessing also that there are not solutions that are not common to man. The way out involves, in so many ways, putting the flesh to death and walking in the Spirit. It involves returning to my First Love and forsaking the world, the flesh and the Devil. It involves doing the thing that gives life even when–especially when–you don’t feel alive. Praise God He has not left us unaware of the enemy’s devices or unaware of where to find Him. His word is life and He inhabits the praises of His people!
Feeling dry and spiritually ineffective? Praise Jesus anyway! Seek Him while He may be found! Praise Him until you praise Him! He stands always ready to receive His own and to renew them again!