"Bart's" phone doesn't ring as often as he'd like it to. After seven months of unemployment, he's heard all the cliches from his well-meaning friends, and they no longer feel comfortable being around him because nothing has changed in his life. He wonders, "Do they think I'm lazy?" They wonder, "I wonder if he thinks that I think he's lazy."
Which is what he does spiritually, too. He's too worn out to look for God himself, and so he keeps hoping someone will explain what he can't seem to see in his faith anymore. There are some in his life who are helpful in this, and others who only seem to add to the confusion... as if they just don't get how serious a crisis he's going through... as if they only see his crisis through 2-dimensional eyes.
Time passes differently for everyone.
Most of us know the advice for such times when the clock doesn't tick as fast as we'd like is to just wait it out. Or write a better resume. Or network more. Or read a book on this or that. Or knock on more doors, and knock harder.
- First, we must recognize the temptations we face in times like this. When our confidence and self-esteem are attacked, we are in a dangerous spot of isolation - not necessarily shutting us down relationally in life (so we can still appear normal), but internally creating all sorts of fears in us that paralyze our ability to make choices. Sometimes we are so fatigued that we lash out at those closest. Most often, though, we wake up for our day already worn out... which can easily get in the way of us seeing what God is genuinely up to.
Only we don't realize the true level of any of that on our own.
- Second, we may have to finally face up to some very practical challenges - such as not having enough money to pay the bills, meet our deadlines, or keep up with friends. It could be that we feel that we've done our part, but there is a small reserve of effort we've held back because we don't want to be disappointed. We may even find ourselves tempted not to take part in productive spiritual habits like prayer, Bible reading, and tithing.
Isn't it odd how in times when we know we need to trust God more we hang on to the things that keep us from trusting Him?
Some of my boldest steps spiritually happened when I threw myself forward with the last ounce of prayer I had... the last moment of wakefulness I could muster before my body collapsed into sleep... or setting aside that "first 10%" of our limited income to join into the beyond-us movement of God.
Such things don't make a whole lot of sense on the surface, but in hindsight you find they are the emergency shock paddles of defibrillation to your soul.
- Third, or perhaps "first," maybe it's time to slow down. I know that's ridiculous because when you're slowed down against your will you find that everything in you wants things to change in a second at hyper-speed. And yet sometimes we are challenged with a hurdle because God wants our attention. Even in those times when being in a trial has nothing to do with your spiritual state, setting aside intentional time to slow down and "take it easy" with Him can calm your soul, and produce unexpected spiritual growth in the midst of struggle.
We are not immune from falling away on our hardest days from the hope that seems so clear on our best days. And yet we always have a resource in the Heavenly Father - One who promises never to leave us or forsake us. Failing to call upon Him relationally from the places of our ache denies us access to His comforting Presence in the midst of the very time we need Him most.
And we also have a resource in a community of imperfect people on the same journey we are. That's what a Church is - "people and God" fleshing it all out in practical ways. We remind each other of what is true when the blind spots become our focal point, and help each other find something powerful to do "in the meantime" - a purpose for our lives that turns us into proactive builders with the pieces of our lives instead of reactive lumps to the attacks of the Enemy.
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)