Spiritual Ennui and Renewal

“The natural, unplanned flow of spiritual life sinks to the lowest ebb of vitality.” John Piper made this wise assertion in an article concerning prayer. It struck a cord with me, because often in our culture we think of “natural” and “unplanned” as positive adjectives. Our western ideals and values follow the argument that the more natural something is, the better it is for you. That’s why labels in the grocery store will have “ALL NATURAL” marked in big letters across the front of products. We also appreciate people who are willing to “go with the flow…” But Piper uses these adjectives to describe a spiritual life that has become a virtual swamp.  It is an apt reminder that not all natural and unplanned flows will end up in waterfalls. All too often regarding life and spiritual growth we take a posture of passivity.

Recently I was feeling a bit disconnected spiritually, and even disenchanted with service and ministry. I was experiencing spiritual ennui–the boredom that so easily creeps when I allow my spiritual life to follow a “natural course.” It is a strange thing, at least for me personally, to sense that kind of ennui in the middle of partnering with tribal churches around the world to get the Bible translated into their languages. That kind of front lines ministry should be accompanied with edge-of-your-seat excitement and round-the-clock enthusiasm for God and his glory. But alas, sometimes even the miraculous can become routine if I wonder away from the vision of God’s design for intimate relationship.

As I prayed through this boredom, I was brought to a place of repentance, a place of renewal and refocus. God’s grace challenged me to purposefully follow after Him and not to expect the excitement of my present ministry, or the “miraculous moments” I get to be a part of to fill me up and keep me pumped. The only true source of hydraulic power in the flow of my life is the Holy Spirit. Nothing else will pump vitality into my relationship with Him. With this renewed focus, my spirit refreshed, I began to expect and see God in the little moments of each day. No longer am I passively expecting a natural flow to energize me. Instead I find myself expectantly on my knees, hands raised in anticipation of His presence and His power. For as my precious mentor and friend likes to remind me, “Grace pours from the highest places and pools at the lowest levels.” Oh, may I sit in the churning pool of His grace, rather than the stagnant cesspool lackadaisical ennui.

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