One of the things that God has been laying on my heart lately (I think… I’ve never been quite good at this listening thing) is that I’m in a bit of a rut spiritually. I’m going through and trying all the right stuff, but just don’t feel like I’m getting much of anywhere. My relationship with God doesn’t feel like it’s moving forward as much as I’d like to believe or admit. I don’t know about anyone else, but I can generally get a pulse on where I’m at spiritually in my prayer life. When prayer feels like a chore or just feels dry, I know I’m in one of those seasons.
No one loves it, but sometimes you just get in seasons where you feel like you’re in a rut spiritually. It happens to all of us. Whether you are a self-proclaimed pastor or pagan, it happens. And that shouldn’t surprise us. Even the best relationships in life aren’t 100% ecstasy all of the time. There are seasons of give and take. While you certainly don’t want to live in a rut for an extended period of time, it shouldn’t feel super condemning either. It’s a natural part of being a sinful person trying to relate to a holy God. We miss it sometimes.
So how do you break out of the rut? I can only offer my own personal opinion based on my experience, but here are some things that help me:
- I try to connect with God through the “normal stuff.”
- Nothing happens.
- Nothing happens for a while.
- I get frustrated.
- I quit trying because I’m frustrated nothing’s happening.
- I end up journeying farther from God than I would have in the first place because I’m spending no time on the “basics.”
I get that it’s super frustrating when you feel like you’re in a rut or disconnected from God and you don’t know why. But in my experience, I generally let that frustration drive me away from God instead of to him. If the words of Jesus in John 15:4-5 are really true, then it follows that the dumbest thing we can do in a time of spiritual dryness is disconnect from him. Yet, isn’t that what we so often do? We quit investing time into spiritual practices like God’s Word and prayer. We disconnect from time with other followers of Jesus by not attending church or a community group. So whatever you do, stay connected. While staying connected isn’t a guarantee to getting out of a rut spiritually, I can guarantee you that disconnecting will almost never lead you where you want to go.
2. Try something new. I like routine. I like the expected. And a lot of times, that’s why I get in a rut spiritually. While routine is great, relationships (even our relationship with God) need some times where we explore or do something new. Think of a marriage – you have a creative date, go on a vacation, or do something else that’s new, fun, or exciting and inject some more life into the relationship. Maybe it’s time to try the same with God. If you’re not in a community group, join one. Maybe you’re not serving somewhere. Give that a shot (or maybe try a new area if you’ve been serving in the same way for years). Schedule some time (whether it’s an afternoon or maybe a whole weekend) to do a retreat with just you and your Bible and a journal. Maybe you could try fasting. Last night, I tried something new by taking my drive home from the St. John Campus to pray, but I forced myself to only express thanks to God for things in my life or qualities and characteristics about him that I love. Maybe a switch like that could be helpful for you.
3. Confess sin. This is the one I hate, mostly because it’s so uncomfortable. But the Bible clearly teaches in several places that sin separates us from God. In 1 Peter 3:7, Peter is talking to a group of Christians, and tells husbands to deal gently with their wives and actually implies that failure to do so (and thus, sin against God and their spouses) could actually hinder their prayers. I don’t want to read too much into this, but I think it’s pretty clear that a lot of built up, unconfessed, and especially undealt-with sin can cause a huge barrier in my relationship with Christ.
I’ve seen ruts in my own life be exceedingly painful times, but also exceedingly helpful ones because they force me to look at my life. And oftentimes, a rut can be the tool God uses to get our attention and force us to face up to some sin issues in our lives he wants us to deal with. When I’m really stuck, I’ll often find myself saying a simple prayer of, “God, if there’s something that’s getting in between me and you, would you show me what it is?” Getting those words out of my mouth are the scariest thing in the world to me. But sure enough, God will always direct me to something. It may be at that very moment. It might be a new awareness of sin as I live my life. But it’s a prayer he always answers. And generally, I discover that as I confess my sins and shortcomings, God’s grace strengthens, sustains, and ushers me in to a new life in my relationship with him.
So there’s a start for me. Hopefully those are helpful if you’ve found yourself in a rut lately?
How about you? Anything that you’d add to the list?