It is time to prepare our hearts for worship. How do we prepare our hearts for worship if we are spiritually dry and our affections for God are low? What if we are feeling spiritually stuck? Paul Maxwell writes: “We are stuck people. We get distracted, pulled down, undone. God feels distant and irrelevant. Dane Ortlund says, “You are not abnormal. So relax. We all go through this from time to time.”
Seasons of spiritual darkness are common — even when many pretend they’re an anomaly. Even when indifference pirates our most pious intentions, and we surrender ourselves to isolation in our lack of holy zeal, don’t be deceived: gloom in the Christian’s heart is common.” Maxwell goes on to give us a few places to start if we are feeling spiritually stuck. The first one is to ‘be honest about your heart.’ He says: “Let’s be honest about what we feel toward God — our tangled thoughts, our slogging feet, our raw experiences, our dulling passions, our disappointed expectations.” If I am being honest about my heart, this week just hasn’t been the best for me spiritually. I have read my Bible and prayed each day, but I have been caught up with the cares of this life. Work was really busy this week and I have been frustrated, and somewhat stressed by it. I have not done a good job of running to the throne of grace with my frustrations and stress. Then in my home life my wife and I are applying to become missionaries and we have done paperwork, written our bios, worked on ordering materials for the Bible classes that we have to take, etc. Things that I should have been doing joyfully, brought more stress and anxiety to my life. On top of that I struggled writing my digging deeper blog post this week. When I finally finished I just felt as though it wasn’t put together as well as I would have liked. Then we come to today and I am a little stuck spiritually. So, if this is how you are feeling, just know that we are in this together. So, let’s start by being honest about our hearts.
Next, let us pour out our hearts to God. Maxwell says: “Now, speak your honesty. We need the blessing of God’s fatherly ear toward us, inviting us to speak what we might not say out loud in church:
“I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with weeping.” (Psalm 6:6)
“I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.” (Psalm 69:3)
“I am weary, O God; I am weary, O God, and worn out.” (Proverbs 30:1)
Maxwell then recommends that we should turn off our iPhones and Social Media for a little while and go outside and enjoy nature for a little while. Go to the park, or the river, or go watch a sunset. This is something that Charles Spurgeon recommends as well: “Spurgeon recommends that we breathe country air and let the beauty of nature do its appointed work. He confesses that “sedentary habits have tendency to create despondency . . . especially in the months of fog.” He then counsels, “A mouthful of sea air, or a stiff walk in the wind’s face would not give grace to the soul, but it would yield oxygen to the body, which is next best.”
Next, we need to remember that God cares for us. I found this list to be moving from Paul Maxwell: “God intimately cares about and knows:
- your every deliberate sin (Psalm 32:5)
- your every stubborn turning away (Psalm 139:2–4)
- your every desperate moment (1 Samuel 2:8)
- your every unmet hope (Proverbs 13:12; Psalm 34:18)
- your every cynical thought toward him (Genesis 6:5)
- your every crippling fear (Psalm 56:3; Psalm 77:16)
- your every lonely moment (Psalm 25:16; Psalm 102:7)
- your every overwhelming crisis (Isaiah 43:2)
- your every despair (Psalm 69:14–15)
- your every feeling of rejection (Psalm 147:3).
He knows everything about us. And he still sustained us today. He still gave us breath. He still woke us up. He still gave us what we need to live a full, 24-hour day.
For some purpose, in his knowledge that is greater than ours, and in his care and provision and compassion that are more imaginative and sufficient than we can conceive, he has not allowed the atoms that hold us together to dissolve. That would be terrifying, knowing we live our lives teetering on the cliff of non-existence at the whim of a more powerful, all-righteous being, except that he tells us why he gives us another day, another breath, another reason for hope: he loves us.”
Finally, we should practice receiving the love of God. Maxwell again: “This may be the most important thing you can do. Without this, all the other spiritual exercises you could possibly integrate into your personal life will quickly disintegrate. So let’s have at it.
God loves you so much. He loves you…He is with you in the dim and the dark. He sings songs of joy about you.
The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)
You don’t need more good news than this, whether it’s the first day you belong to Christ or the fiftieth year you walk with him: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).”
So, let’s preach the good news to ourselves today and tomorrow and every day! As Joe Thorn says: “Most of us need to rediscover the gospel. And such a recovery is needed daily because our need is ever present and our hearts are prone to wander. But gospel recovery only happens when we feel the weight of our sins, the weakness of our flesh, and the frailty of our faith.” Charles Spurgeon tells us to: “Let the gospel enter into your inmost being. As the rain soaks into the ground, so pray the Lord to let his gospel soak into your soul.”
Let’s not forget to pray for Ian, and Erin who will lead us in worship. Let’s pray for Jerry who will lead us in a time of confession, and let’s pray for Mark as he preaches from Genesis 27 tomorrow. The ESV text of Genesis 27 is below:
Picture from here