The following journal entries describe what I was experiencing just prior to my six month sabbatical which began in March of 2010. The dark night of the soul was a difficult place for me. God allowed me to be sifted. At the time, I did not fully understand what I was going through. That understanding came months later:
How I desire to see you stretch forth your arm and your holy hand. We need to be touched by your love.
Some of what I have been experiencing, I don’t want to forget because I want to be able to identify with other pastors who are (or have) experiencing a similar burn-out or depression. I know that I am not the only one experiencing this.
- Decision-making difficult, even in the littlest things.
- Hiding from people I used to enjoy (and from those I don’t enjoy at all)
- Numbness of mind (difficulty focusing, holding details in mind)
- Short-term memory loss (intermittent)
- Desire to not do anything
- Extreme tiredness most of the time
- Seems like a heavy blanket of exhaustion covers me from time to time lasting a couple of days. Then lifts for a time. Only to return again.
“As one who knows righteousness, who has Your law in my heart, may I not fear the reproach of men or be terrified by their revilings.” (Isaiah 51:7)
In the future (near or far) as more and more people deny you and my Savior, Father manifest in me the grace and love I need to lead many to you. May my most fruitful days be yet ahead. I will not look behind except at your command, to see what great things you have accomplished by your hand for your glory. I don’t want to get stuck in my “stuff.” I want to be free from it, standing solidly in the forgiveness and grace purchased for me by Jesus. Let me enter fully into my sonship. May I bring a sense of the family to everyone I meet. May I always cheer the best in them. And may I always call them higher (this thought inspired by a short-short film: The Butterfly Circus http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anR_7zM0Pkc).
I want to be like the circus owner who saw the best in people and drew it to the surface. Lord, please let me have your eyes with people. May I always affirm their BEST. May I always point them to you in themselves. Thank you Father.
Lord help me this morning to share what will build up all who hear.
Amazing how down I’ve been the last two days. That heavy, oppressive weight that comes upon me. I get so physically and emotionally tired that I feel totally immobile.
Just when I think I’m ready for anything the Lord wants to use me in, I feel that he’s finished using me. I told Marcy today that I sometimes feel like I have imagined that God has some great purpose for my life. And perhaps what the Father is showing me is that such a notion is full of pride. And has been the source of much ineffectiveness in ministry. Marcy believes that God is refining us and that He does have an important assignment for me to carry out. I don’t know. I’m too tired and disappointed, discouraged and troubled by my lack of interest in ministry. I feel like pulling my plane into the hangar. I’ve thought much about retirement, but know that I can’t afford it, nor would I truly be happy unless the Lord commanded it.
I’m extremely disappointed that all the years of writing my book seem to have been a waste. Perhaps several hundred copies have sold. But I have received only two or three emails or messages that the book has had a positive impact. Others have been silent. I cannot think of investing another couple of years for the same result. All my dreams have failed. Now I need a Savior again. To save me from my disappointment and discouragement.
I can’t think anymore about this. It’s too overwhelming.
* * *
David, crucified people don’t struggle. They don’t strive to figure things out. They’re DEAD! They live only for revelation. They are at peace. They rest in me. They wait for my word and then walk in it. You must surrender. Cease your striving. Wait in my presence. Be still and KNOW that I am the Lord. Go off by yourself and be quiet. Be still. Stop thinking about yourself and your future. Enjoy me. Be with me. Enjoy the quiet and enter my rest.
* * *
Thank you Father.
The sabbatical given to me by my church-family, gave me the time I needed to rest, reflect, and be refreshed. My wife, Marcy, and I had extended time to go to the mountains and the shore, visit friends and family, and spend unhurried time with the Lord. We came back from our sabbatical renewed and ready to serve from a more solid center–anchored in the love of the Father. He was refining, by allowing the enemy to sift me. I now understand that anyone who wants to know the deep love of God must pass through the valley of the shadow of death. This is the valley the produces trust, endurance, and perseverance.
“You mean I can’t just decide I want to be a Christian and be “born again?”
Scripture teaches that our minds are darkened. We cannot perceive the things of God with unaided reason. No “decision” for Jesus will ever produce the spiritual birth that Jesus said is prerequisite to knowledge of God and entrance to the Kingdom. Neither Jesus nor the Apostles ever described the new birth as a “decision.” All we can decide is to agree with the Holy Spirit and the Word regarding our need before God. We must agree with him that we are spiritually destitute. And that we need him. That we don’t know how to love him sufficiently to produce lasting change in our lives. This is an important truth, because it explains the missing component in the American Gospel.
Somewhere along the line, the Gospel became infected by the notion that a relationship with God could be attained by human effort, apart from revelation–God personally “revealing” himself to a human being. Proclamation included making a “decision” for Jesus. And dispensing with emotion. Unusual since throughout the Bible we see that God is a God of emotion. He created emotions.
You cannot approach God on your own terms. Without His previous action in personal experience, we do not have in us that love that produces devotion and obedience. He must “reveal” Himself to us.
The Bible, God’s own Word, says it this way:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, ESV)
Here Jesus told his disciples how they could bear fruit. They needed to stay in close relationship to him (and God’s love). They needed to be connected. For apart from love (and proximity to Him through Christian community) they would not produce fruit worthy of the kingdom.
In the following verse, the Apostle John says it more directly:
“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19, ESV)
Scripture teaches that “His Love Comes First.” His love–a prior revelation of Himself, His heart, His values.
I believe that the lack of an experience of God’s presence and love explains in part the shallowness of much “so called” Christianity. This love-deficit is behind poll figures that claim that 84% of adults who claim to be Christians; 40% of Americans claim a “born again” experience.* Yet fewer than 21% believe that Christian community is vital to their faith.** They do not discern the Body–recognize the Family of God as important in their spiritual growth. Many who claim to know God have no passion for him or the people and values He loves.
The Barna Group shares these interesting trends:
On the one hand, four out of five self-identified Christian adults (81%) say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today. More than three out of four self-identified Christians (78%) strongly agreed that spirituality is very important to them. Yet, less than one out of every five self-identified Christians (18%) claims to be totally committed to investing in their own spiritual development. About the same proportion of self-identified Christians (22%) claims to be “completely dependent upon God.” Those figures help explain why a majority of self-identified Christian adults (52%) believe that there is much more to the Christian life than what they have experienced. Without a full determination to live like Christ and for Him, the path to complete transformation is blocked.**
“Well, if the love begins with God, then what can we do?”
We can desire to know Him. We can place ourselves in an “environment of grace” by being with others who know Him. Or by reading his book, the Bible. We can listen to those whose lives demonstrate that they have a relationship with God. As we do, and as others pray for us, God meets us.
The Bible says it this way, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” Begin to do the things that you think please Him. As far as it is in your power, keep a clear conscience. From time to time, focus your thoughts on Jesus Christ. Think about his life. If you can find a copy of the Jesus film, watch it. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the Father’s love to you.
“But isn’t this my behavior or actions before God’s love?”
Yes and no. You are simply seeking. God’s promise is that when you seek (and keep seeking) you will find. When you ask (and keep asking) it will be given. When you knock (and keep knocking) the door will be opened to you. Seeking, asking, and knocking are not the same as approaching God intellectually, then making a decision. Our intellect can only take us so far in our search for God. Reason and will can place us on the path. Only love takes us the distance. And His love must be prior.
That is why He gave Himself to us in His Son, Jesus. And as we gaze at his life, death, and resurrection, we see the Father-Heart in Christ. Jesus came to reveal the Father’s love.
Revelation is always the initiative of God:
“All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”” (Luke 10:22, ESV)
God’s Love Comes First! If you have not already–at whatever stage you are along your spiritual journey–ask Him to reveal himself to you. You will not be disappointed.
QUESTION: Has he revealed his love to you, personally? Do you know yet, in experience, how deeply you’re loved by Him?
©2012, David C Alves
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