By Summer Stevens
Walking closely with God brings joy, peace, comfort and fulfillment. But sometimes our journey with Jesus feels hollow and devoid of life. We may find ourselves missing the closeness and spiritual intimacy that we once enjoyed, but unsure how we lost it or how to get it back. Here are the top 5 killers of a spiritually vibrant life and how to regain sweet fellowship with God.
Persistent, unrepentant sin in our lives is one of the biggest killers to enjoying spiritual intimacy with God. This type of sin holds hands with our pride and self-righteousness. Sometimes these are “big” sins that we refuse to address, but more often we cling to the quieter sins of discontentment, worry, or offense. Releasing them to God means a loss of control in our lives or being faced with extending forgiveness to someone that we don’t want to forgive.
If your spiritual life has been dry, take a quiet time of confession and ask God to bring to mind any sin in your life (pray Ps 139:23-24). We sin because we believe, ultimately, that the sin will be beneficial for us—that it will bring us more fun, satisfaction, or safety than we could experience by doing things God’s way. Repent of your faulty belief system (i.e., not believing in God’s love, His provision, His goodness) and, as Jas 5:16 says, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”
We were made to live in community with other believers. The work of God in the world today is happening primarily through His church. If you are not actively involved in the mission of your local church, you are missing out on what God has for you. You have talents and gifts that your church needs, and you need the church for fellowship, prayer and purpose. Many of us have been hurt by the church, and Satan has used this to separate us from investing in the Body. Many times we struggle to find a church that aligns perfectly with our beliefs.
Don’t let Satan win! You cannot experience spiritually vibrancy alone. Speaking to the church, Paul writes in Eph 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Enjoy fellowship with other believers and also with God through investment in your local church.
Our culture offers the opportunity to be entertained every minute of the day. Netflix, social media, the news are at our fingertips, and we fill up the little extra spaces on our calendars with good things like kids’ sports, church events, volunteering, and recreation. None of these are bad, but they can become a drain on our spiritual lives when we go to them for life, instead of going to Jesus. At the end of a rough day, often we want to flip channels or scroll through Facebook or some other mindless distraction. Or maybe we want to eat ice cream or take a nap.
God wants our hearts. He wants us to look to Him for comfort and fulfillment. A spiritually vibrant life with God requires that we have the mental space to commune with God and listen for His Holy Spirit’s leading and prompting. If you feel like your soul is in a spiritual desert, ask yourself where you have been going for life. If it’s not God, pray Psalm 63 to Him, and ask Him to make this your story. When you pray and read your Bible, put away your study notes and devotionals and just spend quiet time interacting with God through His Word.
If you feel like you’ve been doing all the “right things” and yet you still feel distance from God, check your exhaustion meter. After Jesus’ marathon healing session in Mark 1, we are told that Jesus, “having risen a long while before daylight, went out and departed to a solitary place, and there He prayed” (v 35). Jesus was human, and He felt exhaustion, even after doing all the “right things” for the glory of God. He needed to be replenished and restored. A few chapters later, we read how, after a full day of teaching, He fell asleep at the stern of a boat, apparently out of sheer exhaustion, despite a raging storm on the sea (4:35-38).
God knows how hard you’re working. He sees your heart’s desire to serve Him. He loves you. But working yourself to the point of burnout does not glorify God. I haven’t seen very many beautiful pictures of people at the edge of burnout. More often they are wary, irritable, and very, very tired. Jesus tells us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matt 11:30). If you find yourself feeling like following Jesus is a weight upon your shoulders, meet with other people who love you and can help lift your burdens so you can enjoy a season of rest and replenishment and rekindle your spiritual vibrancy.
If you have experienced a loss of a loved one, a divorce, an empty nest, illness, betrayal, an aging parent, or the loss of a job or church family, you may feel swept into sorrow and depression and unable to get out. The joy in your relationship with God may be replaced with hurt, bitterness, or simply the feeling of lethargy or emptiness when you approach God through His Word or in prayer. Satan will do whatever he can to derail your spiritual effectiveness and rob you of joy. Your sorrow may be public which often means you have support from friends and prayer, but if your struggle is a personal or private struggle, loneliness and isolation can further add to your discouragement and spiritual dryness.
When the author of Hebrews wrote to the church about their persecution and discouragement, he urged them not to neglect meeting together (10:25). Share your struggles with your church, they can support you and pray for you during this time. Find creative ways to immerse yourself in Scripture, whether through memorization of helpful passages (for example, on God’s faithfulness and care for His people: Deut 31:8; Zeph 3:17; 1 Cor 10:13; John 16:33) or by reading alternate versions like The Message paraphrase. Play music that will reach you where you are and can remind you of God’s character. Many who have battled depression will tell you that serving others is the best way to get your mind off your own troubles and help someone else. Finally, pursue counseling with a qualified Christian who can help you see God’s continued love for you during your time of sorrow and help lead you back to a fulfilling vibrant relationship with Him once again.
Summer Stevens has been a “pastor’s wife” for almost 12 years. She and her husband Nathanael live south of Pittsburgh where he serves as the pastor at the Bible Chapel–Rostraver Campus.