Tag Archives: faith

Spiritually Dry: When you’re doing All The Spiritual Things… and He still feels far away.

Do you ever feel like you're in a spiritual desert even when you're actively pursuing God? Me too. Then I found a beautiful (and surprising) encouragement tucked away in the Scriptures. It has changed everything. Find strength for your faith in this quick read.I recently read the account in Joshua where the Lord stops the flow of the Jordan River so the Israelites (and the Ark of the Covenant) can cross.

And my brain exploded a little.

Before we get to the brain explosion, let me bring you up to speed. After they crossed the river, the Lord instructed them to set up a memorial using stones taken from the bottom of the Jordan riverbed (where the Ark was held on dry ground as the people crossed). Here’s a quick excerpt from the account:

[Joshua] said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what He had done to the Red Sea when He dried it up before us until we had crossed over.” – Joshua 4:21-23

Did you see it?

He dried it up.

The Lord dried up a path through the Red Sea until they had crossed over.

And He dried up a path through the Jordan River until they had crossed over.

Okay, okay, so the Lord did the same thing in two places. Big deal, right? But, oh man, I relate to the two places in very different ways — and it’s rocking my world (cue brain explosion). Think about it with me:

Start with the Red Sea. We often associate the sea with “the wind and the waves.” You know, life’s struggles. Spiritually speaking, drying a path through the sea evokes images of the Lord making a way through trials, hardship, or distractions. That makes sense. (Also sounds insane and miraculous. But it makes sense because it sounds like something our loving, powerful God would do.)

But now come to the Jordan River. Unlike the sea, we usually associate a river with life and joy. Let the river flow. Streams of mercy. The river of life. But here, God stopped the flow of the river. He dried it up before them. And a dried up river is pretty much exactly how I feel when I say, “I feel spiritually dry,” or “I’m in a dry season.”

Now, sometimes that dry season comes because I’ve been disobedient or stopped investing in spiritual disciplines (reading my Bible, prayer, and worship to name a few) that draw me near to the source of abundant life, God Himself.

But sometimes I’m doing all these things and I still feel spiritually dry.

Today, I see a new possibility. Perhaps the Lord Himself has dried it up before me until I cross over. Cross over what? I don’t know. Not yet, anyway. But, being dried up because I walked away from God, and being dried up because God’s hand is holding back the flow even while I walk toward Him, are two entirely different things.

You see, the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years because of disobedience. I’ve known that kind of dried up ground. (Not 40 years’ worth, thank goodness.) Crossing the Jordan River was different. There, they were exactly where they were supposed to be, doing exactly what they were supposed to do. They weren’t in sin. They weren’t walking away from God. The Israelites were walking in obedience. AND BECAUSE OF THAT, the Lord dried up the river until they had crossed over.

I must walk through some circumstances or seasons with Jesus WITHOUT THE FLOW OF THE RIVER, but on DRIED UP GROUND, simply in obedience; simply in pursuit of God Himself.

Why?

“He did this so all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.” Joshua 4:24

So I’ll know Him, love Him, revere Him more.

It’s lovely to know and love God when the river is flowing. It is something more to also know Him on dried up ground — and through to the other side.

I wonder if anyone else, like me, has found themselves on dried up ground EVEN WHILE pursuing Jesus, serving Him, practicing spiritual disciplines that normally would lead to a rich experience of feeling connected to God — a river of “spiritual flow.” And perhaps when it began to feel instead like dried up ground, we let go of some spiritual practices. I mean, they stopped being “effective” anyway, right?

Well, I guess that depends on how we define effective.

If effective means I FEEL close to God (river flowing), then no. I guess spiritual disciplines aren’t always effective.

But if effective means I AM close to God (whether I feel like it or not), then like the Israelites, I can be on dried up ground right in the middle of His presence and His will.

Okay, okay — dried up ground, flowing river.. who even cares!? Does it really even matter!?

Well, maybe not. But, do I worship HIM or the flow? Do I know and trust Him in the flow and on dried up ground?

Because THAT MATTERS.

I invite you to return to the riverbed. And if you find it all dried up, don’t be discouraged. He is waiting for you there.

You can only carry yourself so far, Warrior.

I went to a women’s conference this weekend. It was the Belong Tour, and to be honest I only bought a ticket because I was SO. EXCITED. TO SEE JEN HATMAKER! There were other amazing women there as well, and Glennon from Momastery even made a guest appearance! The whole weekend was funny and touching; I laughed, I cried… you know the drill.

But, can I be really honest here? I didn’t come away feeling the way I expected. On the surface, I should’ve come away feeling inspired, challenged, pepped up. Instead, I was left wanting. Maybe even let down

I stewed over my feelings. Was I just being overly critical?

The weekend was full of incredible women telling me inspiring things. Honestly, it felt like a big warm bath of positivity. We can do hard things! You belong! You have what it takes! God won’t ever give you more than you can handle! All the love you’re looking for is right there inside of you! But you guys. As wonderful as it feels, if I sit too long in a warm bath of positivity, I will gradually be lulled to sleep.

And drown.

What I realized is quite simple: I really don’t need another pep talk. I don’t need someone to keep telling me how awesome I am. I know it’s weird – what woman doesn’t want to keep hearing she is strong, she is brave, she is capable, she is a world changer? But that’s where my “let-down” feeling came in: I believe it is a great disservice to promise courage, strength, and belonging without a clear and formal introduction to the One who can deliver on those promises. I AM NOT MY OWN DELIVERER.

I heard Glennon Doyle Melton from Momastery & Jen Hatmaker speak this weekend at the Belong Tour! So much encouragement! So much empowerment! Inspiration and quotes galore. But there was also something else important. And I didn't even see it coming. Ladies, we don’t just need more pep rallies and positive self-talk. We need our foundation strengthened. We need to know how to study the Bible – God’s Word – so we may recognize in other’s words what is true – and what is not. We need to know WHO MAKES US STRONG. We need to know that actually, God quite often DOES give me more than I can handle, but that He is there to offer His strength to walk me through it.

Christian women, I am speaking to you (myself included) here. I think some of us have become so enamored with these beautiful, good-willed, funny, inspirational women – who even talk about God!!! – that we have gradually, imperceptibly, begun to seek – and even find, although temporarily – life in their words.

You are loved. Yes, you are. God loves you – so much that He sacrificed His Son Jesus for you to have access to that love. THAT is the key. God loves you – and the access point for you to RECEIVE and EXPERIENCE the FULLNESS of that love is Jesus.

You can do hard things. Yes, you can. But where does your strength come from? I can do a lot in my own strength. You bet I can.  But by the strength of Jesus Christ in me, I can bear all things. If you have not experienced what it means to find your strength in Jesus, if you have gone from pep talk to pep talk, devouring book after book, blog post after blog post, inhaling every breath of earthly encouragement you can find, I invite you: Taste and see that the Lord is good! HE is the hero in this story!

You can only carry yourself so far, warrior. And hear me loud and clear: there is no shame in that. We can ALL only carry ourselves so far. THAT IS THE POINT. The victory isn’t in carrying yourself through the battle; the victory is in knowing the Victor: He who has already won the battle on your behalf.

You are strong, capable, and smart. Through a relationship with Jesus, you have access to the very Holy Spirit of God who breathed the Word of God onto the page. Are you studying His Word as devotedly as hers?

If your biggest dream is to be part of Glennon’s momastery or Jen’s tribe, go for it! But, if deep down what you long for is strength that can endure all things, peace that passes all understanding, a courageous heart that does not fear, and a source of active compassion that WILL NOT RUN DRY: then Jesus is who you’re looking for.

A Letter to Myself About Glennon’s Divorce

 

Glennon Doyle Melton announced earlier this month that she is leaving her husband.

I admire her vulnerability in sharing about her marriage and her decision to leave. I thought about making this “A Letter to Glennon About Her Divorce.” But I’m not. Because this post isn’t about her.

It’s about me.Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery has been a source of much marriage advice, humor, and more. When she announced her decision to leave her husband, it rocked me. It felt like something came loose in my heart - and what bubbled to the surface could not be ignored.

You see, Glennon closed her announcement with a very wise request: “Sometimes, when people make decisions about marriage, it evokes strong feelings in others. If my news does that to you today, please look inside and get curious about whether those feelings have more to do with you and your life than they do about me and mine.”

You could say her announcement “evoked strong feelings in me.” (I mean, if a full blown panic attack counts as “strong feelings.”) I realize I do not know every detail of Glennon’s journey, and I also know I shouldn’t project my life and marriage experience onto hers.

But likewise, I must be careful to not project her experience (and subsequent conclusions) onto mine.

My marriage isn’t an easy one. I see couples who appear to LOVE BEING MARRIED. I just don’t feel like that. Perfect example: one year, on her 10th wedding anniversary, a friend posted a picture online from their wedding and wrote, “If I had known then what I know now, I would’ve run down that aisle!”

I thought, “Holy crap, what a horrible thing to say.”

Then I realized she meant she would’ve run down the aisle TOWARD HIM.

In that moment, my mind instinctively pictured the bride running down the aisle and OUT OF THE CHURCH.

See what I’m saying here?

You guys, my husband is a GOOD MAN. But, if I had known 13+ years ago how hard this would be, how much ongoing work it would require – I wouldn’t have done it. I understand I may be the only one who feels like this. But I suspect I’m not.

Has it been ALL hard work and ZERO enjoyment? Of course not. (Although that’s what the voice in my head will try to tell me.) But do I always feel like, “I LOVE BEING MARRIED!”?  I’m sorry, but no. I LOVE reading books. I LOVE taking naps. I LOVE eating brownies.

I don’t always LOVE being married. I AM married. And the two don’t always go together. I don’t always feel like I fit here. And being married certainly doesn’t always foster my own peace. Glennon describes a still, small voice that guides her. Well, mine regularly says, “It’s not supposed to be this hard.” It whispers promises of freedom and escape. It beckons to me in the name of self-trust and self-peace and self-love.

If you read her announcement, then perhaps you understand how Glennon’s words resonated so deeply with me. Why her words evoked strong feelings in me. She said so many things I feel on a regular basis.

I was completely undone.

That still, small voice continued ringing in my ear long after I finished reading Glennon’s post. All evening, my head and my heart drummed, “God loves you more than He loves marriage. You have Jesus. Nothing can separate you from God’s love. Even divorce.

And you guys, I had a full blown panic attack. Because I very sincerely believe each of those statements are TRUE. Those statements do not contradict Scripture.

But I also very sincerely believe that the enemy was using that truth AGAINST ME.

Because do you know what ELSE can never separate me from God’s love?

My marriage.

When my marriage feels like such hard work, riddled with misunderstandings, unmet expectations, and hurt feelings (“It’s not supposed to be this hard!”), I can often feel overlooked by God. I tried to follow Him and His ways, and I still ended up in a marriage that seems to require more than I have to offer. SO NOW WHAT.

And then I feel alone. Like I’m completely on my own in this thing. Distanced from my husband in any meaningful way, and separated from the God who was supposed to keep it from being this hard.

But who in the world said it’s not supposed to be this hard? And just because I feel isolated from God doesn’t mean I am. And YES my marriage requires more than I have to offer. Because I wasn’t meant to come into this thing in my own strength. And neither was my husband.

“God loves us far more than any institution God made for us [marriage].”

This is a true statement.

And so dangerous out of the greater context of God’s love for me.

Because YES He loves me more than my marriage. But He can so greatly live His love out, to, and in me by walking me THROUGH my marriage.

And when I don’t feel like I fit here? You guys, God is reminding me that He made marriage big enough to HANDLE THAT. You don’t get smaller. Your marriage gets bigger. Marriage stretches. It grows. And you stretch. And you grow. And YES IT’S PAINFUL. But some of life’s most glorious gifts are borne through pain and stretching.

So, indeed, NOW WHAT.

My first “now what” is to refuse to trust the “still, small voice” outside of the context of what else is true. Fear is not the boss of me. And that little voice in my head? ALSO NOT THE BOSS OF ME. It may not be popular, but GOD is the boss of me. (And in Him, also TRUTH and LOVE.) So, I will seek to recognize God’s voice through prayer and His Word. Because He is trustworthy. And because He loves me even more than I am capable of loving myself.

Now what #2: Back to marriage counseling for Matt and me. Because it’s worth it. WE are worth it.

Now what #3: Let’s address that issue of “if I had known 13 years ago… I wouldn’t have gotten married.” Here’s the thing. Thirteen years ago I had NO IDEA what marriage would actually require of me. And I THANK GOD I DIDN’T. Because I would’ve missed the GIFT of the tears turned to laughter, the stretching and breaking and growing and healing. The miracle of making it through – over and over again. NOW WHAT I KNOW: marriage requires more than I can give because marriage is BIGGER THAN ME. It’s bigger than us. It’s bigger than always loving being in it. It’s bigger than sometimes wishing you weren’t.