As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God? (Psalm 42:1-2)

Of late I’ve not been maintaining a regular and fruitful communion with my Lord. I could use more socially acceptable terms like “struggling,” but the truth is my lazy flesh has won more mornings than my willing spirit. I’ve found myself–once again–in a dry and weary land. And I haven’t fought as I should. Does anybody know what I’m talking about?

Emerging from this period of dullness, I’ve been reflecting on some tensions in my approach to communion with the Lord. There are things that push me toward the Lord, and there are things that pull me away. It’s been good for my soul to see something of these tensions. I’m hoping I’ll be more familiar with my heart and more watchful of those things that erode my conscious communion with Christ. What follows are three positive motivations to communion with Christ and three enemies that war against them. Perhaps this will be helpful for someone else, too.

Desperation

I’ve noticed that my time with the Lord is full and rich when I’m desperate–desperate for Him, desperate for wisdom, desperate for joy, desperate to escape the world, the flesh and the devil. Whenever a godly desperation leads me to conclude as I ought, “Apart from you I can do nothing!” then I’m gladly inclined to sit at my Savior’s feet. Little can deter me.

Until I start to feel self-sufficient. Invariably, at some point, I find myself feeling more confident, more able. I’ll have a day wherein my devotions were lacking but the day was fruitful. And rather than be humbled by the kindness of the Lord, I walk away like one of the nine lepers failing to return in praise and thanksgiving. That growing self-sufficiency cannibalizes desperation and communion.

Delight

I love the Lord. I love His word. I love the way He speaks to me through His word, the way He opens my eyes onto a world unseen, turning my gaze upon my own heart and then His. I primarily feel happy when I’m talking with Jesus in Bible reading, study, and prayer. That delight for some time drives me back again to the Savior’s arms.

Then, at some point, I’m prone to feel satiated. I’d never say, “I’ve had enough time with Jesus.” But I am prone to turn that full, joyful, satisfied experience of worshiping at his feet into unspoken permission to seek something else. As Lewis contends, I’m too easily pleased. I’m easily enthralled with the gifts rather than the Giver, with the fading warmth of God’s love rather than the crackling fire itself, with the memory of communion instead of the continuing enjoyment of it. There’s a strange tendency to taste God’s satisfying delights in Christ and then want to taste something else. That wandering taste bud takes me away from active communion with the Master.

Duty

Then there are time when I’m driven to the feet of my Lord with a renewed sense of duty. Duty isn’t a dirty word for me. Duty belongs to honor, obedience, and service. Doing one’s duty is part and parcel to maturity, manhood/womanhood, and warfare. Sometimes this sense of duty awakens fresh desire, desperation and delight in Christ. I’m made more zealous in communion with the Lord and more zealous in the other privileges and responsibilities of the Christian life.

Yet, duty gives way to formalism and formalism leads to drudgery. I notice that if duty alone motivates me, then in time I’m not actually communing with Christ. I’m communing with words on a page or paying homage to self-imposed routines. The proverbial box gets checked, but not my heart. Pretty soon drudgery creeps in, a harbinger of dry things to come. It’s a kind of despondency that undermines a more noble view of duty and leaves me non-communicative.

I assume these temptations are not unique since nothing has befallen me that’s not common to man. I’m certain there are other motivations and inhibitors to communion with Christ. I’m simply noting some tensions in my own heart and walk with the Lord.

I’m guessing also that there are not solutions that are not common to man. The way out involves, in so many ways, putting the flesh to death and walking in the Spirit. It involves returning to my First Love and forsaking the world, the flesh and the Devil. It involves doing the thing that gives life even when–especially when–you don’t feel alive. Praise God He has not left us unaware of the enemy’s devices or unaware of where to find Him. His word is life and He inhabits the praises of His people!

Feeling dry and spiritually ineffective? Praise Jesus anyway! Seek Him while He may be found! Praise Him until you praise Him! He stands always ready to receive His own and to renew them again!

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18 thoughts on “Motivations and Hindrances in Communion with Jesus, My Lord”

  1. Well spoken and written and honest. I, too, find those times of great movement and increase in what I call my Quiet Time with God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit and then the droughts. I often find that when I have overly much on my plate, I let exhaustion win over finding renewal. I have to agree with all you wrote, because so many times that’s me as well. NIce to know I’m not alone, and incredible to know that God still loves these humans with our frailities so much. Thank you for honesty and sharing.

  2. Rachael Starke says:

    Thank you so much for this, Thabiti. I also have been in a very long period of spiritual dryness and discouragement. What has helped ties in with what you say about doing what gives life when you don’t even feel alive. In a class I took recently on microbiology, one of the first lesson we learned is that eating is a primary evidence of life. Most life forms don’t even “enjoy” eating. They just do it. And in doing it, they demonstrate that they’re alive. I’ve applied that to my spiritual life and found that in simply dragging my body and my Bible to a quiet place to read and try to pray, as an affirmation of what I know to be true (that I am alive in Christ, no matter what my present feelings currently are), I begin to be drawn to passages like Ephesians 1, which reminds me of what a miracle that life really is, and what it entails, and my spirit is revived.

    Thanks for the encouragement today – it was needed.

  3. Ronnie says:

    I’ll add one of my own: Adding up what counts to make it seem complete. E.g. A moment of calling on the Lord, devotion with the kids, a prayer said at lunch. Surely they all add up to devotion? Doesn’t that mean I’ve done it? Nope. Get on your knees silly child and beg for a heart that craves the Lord day and night, until you pray always and hunger for the word so bad you almost want to eat the words off the page.

  4. Dan Rolfe says:

    I needed to read this. Thank you!

  5. Zeb H. says:

    Thank you so much for being honest. It is not hard to get the impression sometimes that the men in the pulpit have arrived at that place of perfect fellowship. It’s good to know we are all in the same battle!

  6. Jeannette says:

    I love what you have said about duty: “Duty isn’t a dirty word for me. Duty belongs to honor, obedience, and service. Doing one’s duty is part and parcel to maturity, manhood/womanhood, and warfare. Sometimes this sense of duty awakens fresh desire, desperation and delight in Christ.” I believe this is a needed emphasis in our day.
    Thank you for helping us to think through this further.

  7. Paul M says:

    You are in good company with this “struggle”…many a person has been in a spiritual funk. Mother Teresa struggled every day with her faith…unbeknownst to those around her. The fact is we are all human…God knows this (of course) and [thankfully] offers deference to our “condition” through His grace. In every journey there are moments of exhaustion. Usually this comes because of overwork, and does not mean we do not love the Lord any less or are lacking when we do not keep our activity revved up each day. It simply means once in a while a spiritual reset and refreshing is needed…some time away will afford a new perspective and battery recharge. God bless you for the honesty…you are not alone in this.

  8. Phil Morgan says:

    This ministered to me. Thank you Thabiti.

  9. Catherine Stevenson says:

    Thank you for the words of encouragement. Duty and responsibility have become negative concepts rather than the privilege and opportunity they provide.

  10. Walt Heisenberg says:

    thank you for your candor. You are always very encouraging to me.

  11. Rebecca Adam says:

    Very encouraging. Thank you.

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Thabiti Anyabwile


Thabiti Anyabwile is assistant pastor for church planting at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC and a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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