I hesitate to write this because, invariably, when I speak to others about this subject, they worry. I appreciate the concern, but I want to assure everyone that I’m okay. Having said that, let me just share something that maybe you can connect with. I’m dry. What I mean is that I am having a very hard time hearing from the Lord right now. My wife tells me that every time for a month or so preceding our vacation time, I get like this and I start to voice what one might call “ministerial despair.” To be clear, I’m not speaking of depression…but something different…
The reason I feel the need to write about this is that I believe that there is a mask that we wear in relation to faith. This wearing of masks is especially prevalent among people in professional ministerial positions. As spiritual leaders we have very hard time admitting that we have doubts, questions, or even moments where we just don’t have it together at all. However…none of us should ever feel this way…none of us should ever put on masks…or feel like we have to. Don’t get me wrong…nobody wants to hear our whining. I’m not saying that we should participate in our cultures favorite pastime of “drama-queenery” (yes I made that word up…don’t judge me). What I am saying is that we need to be able to truly connect with each other and realize that we are not alone in these struggles. All of us have them and when any of us put on these masks in order to make others think we have it all together, we alienate them from being truly transparent with us due to the perception that we won’t understand.
Having said all of that, let me tell you where I am right now. I’m tired. I’m battling some discouragement. I’m struggling more than ever against sin. I’ve had many, MANY days and moments in which I’m not even sure what I believe. In my heart of hearts, I know the truth and I know what I believe, but I guess my heart and my mind don’t communicate very well during these seasons. Can you relate? If you’re a pastor, have you had seasons in which you stare at the pages of your Bible and it doesn’t seem to be coming to life? If you’re not a pastor but are a believer, do you go through times when it seems as though you’re staring at blank pages…and when a sermon is preached you totally check out…and when a song is sung it almost is difficult for you to even hear? Many of you encourage me to post more articles on this blog than I do, but I refuse to post something without inspiration…or at least I hope that’s the case. I only want to write something that is really stirring in my soul…hence the name of the blog. But many times as of late…I’ve sat down with something on my heart…and the words won’t come…and I just stare at the blinking cursor…and then I write…and then I delete…and finally I close out the page and walk away…once again…confused. The same holds true for my preaching…which is somewhat nebulous at times anyway. I sit down to read and pray and it seems like whatever is supposed to happen next simply doesn’t happen…there’s no blood going to that area of my being…and I simply stare at an empty page…and then my congregation gets to endure the product of that the following Sunday (pray for them ;-)).
In all of this…maybe you can relate…or maybe you’ve never had this kind of thing happen. But if you have had it occur, then here’s something I was reminded of this morning….Ezekiel 1. This is one of the most challenging chapters in the Bible, with all of its visions and creatures and so on. We can easily get lost in the incredible imagery used in Ezekiel’s description of the vision and in so doing totally miss something vital. In the first few verses of the book, he says something critical. He mentions that he was among the exiles and he was by the Chebar Canal when he had this vision. Being among exiles isn’t a place that is particularly encouraging…and the Chebar Canal was thought to be the royal canal for Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon…who is the one that put them into exile. In other words, all around him he sees reminders of his lowly, discouraging, seemingly hopeless position…and it is there that he, “saw visions of God.” I don’t want to imply that when we get down we should look for visions of God. I want to say that God is always there, and I think that when Ezekiel got to a low point, God showed Him what no one else could see in order that he might know that even though his mind may well be discouraged or confused or what-have-you, God is very much there…very much present…very, VERY real.
Thank God that no matter if we are feeling particularly nourished and strong, or dry and weakened, He stays the same. Our hope is static even when our thoughts are erratic. The desert does come to an end. There WILL be an oasis…when we are in true need…and we will again walk in a garden…all in due time.
Until then, as we enjoy the good days and trudge through the seemingly hopeless days, know this: I do pray for you. I pray every time I publish. I pray that somewhere…someone…may get some water from this vessel. Let’s pray together and we can know that we have a God that totally understands our position. He knows and He has not forgotten, nor will He ever.