We all experience seasons of life where we just feel “down.” Discouraged. Disheartened. Sometimes I find myself there because of a specific circumstance; other times I really could not tell you specifically why I feel the way I do. It is like wandering in a spiritual desert at times and I am not sure where the “exit” is.
My emotions wreak havoc and I find myself turning very introspective. The glass-half-full turns into the glass-half-empty and I start to view my world through a lens that does not take me anywhere profitable.
Ever feel that way?
It is in times like these where it is critically important to have a game plan. Like a “what clear-cut steps will I pursue when I fall into these seasons?” type of plan.
There are a couple times a year when I sense I am in these “deserts” – there are not definitive dates when these dry seasons come and go. And truthfully, I do not always know why they come on. But I am learning that I had better be prepared or they can put me into a tailspin.
So here are two distinct strategies that are working for me and perhaps they might benefit you as well.
Keep my roadmap close at hand
When I am in these periods of life, my flesh gets noisier than usual. And I just start to not care. Ever have those thoughts? And then I don’t care that I don’t care.
Not a desired place to be.
But one discipline that is always part of God’s success story is getting in the word, God’s truth, every day. Truth counters error every time. And I will be honest – during these times of dryness, I do not particularly want to be reading God’s words to me. But I have to press through. I have learned that my obedience cannot follow feelings. I must not wait until I feel like engaging His word. I need to obey. Period. And then allow God to reshape my thinking and desires.
I read God’s story of redemption and grace as well as the thoughts of men and women whom God has spoken through.
I would say that the majority of men I talk to are not faithfully absorbing truth most days. And with the seductive lies that come through my eyes and ears, I do not stand a chance on my own. Intersecting TRUTH with my own thinking is the most potent “map” I have for getting out of these “desert times.”
And it may take some time. God is not a genie whose lamp we rub and then go from desert to paradise in one day. It may take days. It may take even weeks or months. But stay faithful. God will answer.
Distribute of myself
The second strategy that I use came from a powerful reminder in Isaiah 58:10-11:
…if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
Pretty amazing “if-then” statement that I oft forget. Big theme? O-T-H-E-R-S.
An excellent way to give me a right perspective in desolate times is by being the hands and feet of Jesus. Feed. Help. And please do not translate these verses as “If I do for God, He will do for me.”
Rather, I have found that a compelling practice to help my myopic thinking is to set my gaze on those around me. And in serving those around me (and therein pleasing my Father), “the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.” God’s spirits begins to engage with my spirit, and my desert outlook begins to be transformed into a well-watered garden.
I have experienced this firsthand and it is effective. Why? Because I am moving from a “me focus” to an “others focus” and am better fulfilling the two great commandments: love God. Love others.
The problem with being in the desert is that no matter which way you look, there is only more desert. Heading in a direction seems pointless when there is only more of what you are leaving behind. But I want to offer hope because the “desert season” will end. But between now and them, it is essential that you are following an accurate map using a careful game plan.