You all know what it’s like to become discouraged with life. Seeking the Lord may sometimes begin to seem like a burden. Things that used to intrigue you seem to lose their wonder. Do you ever feel like a grunge-muffin on the inside? I’d be telling an unnecessary lie if I said it didn’t happen to me. A friend of mine recently described it as “things feeling slippery and pointless.”
Yep. I know what it’s like. You’re not alone.
Romans 12:11-12 says, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (NIV) I often wonder how to keep spiritual fervor as I seek to serve the Lord. “I’m trying to be joyful and fervent,” I think, “but nothing is changing.”
These times remind me of the many places in Psalms where the psalmist seems to be in spiritual doldrums. Doldrums are places on the sea where a sailing ship can get stuck because the wind just does not blow. My father often uses this analogy to remind us that doldrums do and will come in our walks with God.
Spiritual Government and Authority
But there is a correct response when we find ourselves in spiritual doldrums, difficult though it is for us. We must exercise the spiritual authority God has given us over our souls. Your soul is the part of yourself that feels and exercises your emotions. Your soul is not supposed to be in charge of you.
What’s that? “In charge” did you say?
That’s right; God has created a system of spiritual government for our lives. Our soul and body are to be subject to our spirits.
If you have accepted Christ’s salvation and His lordship over your life, then the incorruptible seed of Christ is planted in you. A righteousness that is not of us is growing in our spirits. We are given the authority and responsibility to make our souls and bodies obedient to the nature of Christ in our spirits, and to “take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.”
The government of your soul is no small thing. Rebellions and coups are being thrown daily, perhaps hourly, by your sinful nature, to throw off the constraints of Christ’s lordship. But it is these constraints that give us life; abundant life. And so we must recognize disobedient thoughts and attitudes and forcefully take them captive, to make them obedient to Christ.
What does it look like to exercise this spiritual authority?
How Do I Do This?
Let’s look to scripture for examples. One of the clearest illustrations of this is in Psalm 42. It’s a song by the Sons of Korah. It opens with a sense of exhausted desperation, saying,
“As the deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” (Psalm 42:1-3; )
And then the psalmist recounts vivid memories of better days, saying,
“These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.” (Psalm 42:4)
This man is weak, desperate and exhausted with weeping. But he remembers how he used to lead the procession to the temple, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving! He now looks back wonderingly on this strength of the past. But he turns on his despairing soul and exercises the authority of his redeemed spirit saying,
“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:5)
I will yet praise Him. He goes on to relate his distress, for,
“all your waves and breakers have swept over me,” (Ps. 42:7b)
but the psalmist does not, will not, despair. He says again as he closes,
“I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Ps. 42:11b; NIV)
In the many Psalms where the writers seem to cry out, “How long, O Lord, how long?” the spirit in the end is over and over again one of praise and hope:
“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:5,11)
This picture painted in the Psalms has helped me against and again.
The Psalms Build Spiritual Muscles
On a similar note, many of the Psalms are filled with recountings of the works of God, the mighty things he has done. This is a spiritual exercise the psalmists used that builds the muscles that we need when we encounter spiritual doldrums. Psalm 29 is a good one. Psalm 105 is another perfect example.
Meditating on passages like these is like exercising to build spiritual muscles. We know from scripture that it is also right to recount the promises of God; the promises of who he is and what he will do. God’s promises are where our hope rests. So meditate on these things. Feed your heart and mind with these truths.
Pump the Well
This is not any easy thing. Faithfulness to these attitudes may be very hard. Another analogy that my father has used for our family is pumping a well. When you start pumping an old fashioned well, nothing happens at first. The pump sputters and spits out air. But if you keep pumping, water starts gushing out. Working to keep our spiritual fervor can be like pumping a well. Engaging in the exercises I’ve touched on here can be like pumping a well. It may seem useless at first, but if we obey these commands, change will come.
I’m inspired by the command to:
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” (Psalm 100: 1-2; NIV)
All the earth! And shout! David danced unabashedly to the Lord; his joy could not be contained! Psalms says over and over to sing to the Lord, to praise His name with song!
So sing, and pump that well! Pray for the water! Pray for joyful zeal! I’m sure David did. In fact, it was David who prayed the words I often repeat in my own heart, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalm 51:12) Please, Lord!! Even the spiritual giant David was in this place.
So pray David’s prayer, sing to the Lord, read His word with eyes for his praiseworthy deeds, (they’re infinite!!) and exercise the authority of Christ over your soul to keep it in line. “I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God!”
I encourage you in your walk with the Lord to rejoice, and I pray his blessing upon you. “To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy– to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forever more! Amen.” (Jude 24-25; NIV)