There have been a number of occasions where I have had the opportunity to sit down and speak with someone who desperately wants to grow in her faith but who feels like she is going backward instead of forward. It is such a common experience that I believe it merits our pausing to consider this feeling. There is an image that I believe is helpful here: warmth.
Unlike those of you who have seen more than your fair share of cold this winter, we were thrilled when Searcy received not only freezing temperatures but the most snow we have seen in some time. Along with our neighbors, our family trekked up across snow-packed roads to our favorite sledding hill. Children and parents alike sled until their hearts were content, only leaving when their toes were tingling from the cold. Once everyone had changed into dry clothes and warmed themselves with fresh, hot soup, I was surprised to see that the children did not return outside again. When I asked them why, they said it was too cold. Once they had experienced warmth, they refused to return to the winter wonderland.
This weekend I read Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation by Ruth Haley Barton. I thought this book was a great primer on how to develop spiritual disciplines, and some of what she had to say could be especially helpful as people are trying to develop and improve their quiet time at the beginning of the year.
One of the issues she addresses is dissatisfaction with prayer life. She believes coldness in one’s prayer life might signify a major transition: It could indicate a need for greater intimacy. It’s the point when external signs (words, images, structured prayer) no longer satisfy, and our desire is simply to be with God. When we have reached this place, we no longer get caught up on “getting it right” and our own human activity. Rather, we focus solely on Him.
I thought her ideas were a helpful reframe. When we feel that coldness, or when our current spiritual practices no longer satisfy, it can be scary. However, taking what she has said, perhaps we have gotten a hint of the warmth radiating from God as we have drawn closer to Him—and we cannot get enough. If you are in this place, try out new things and continue to develop your faith—fill your hunger for God rather than worrying about if you are doing it right or if it’s normal to feel this way. Do not forget the promise in Matthew 7:8, “For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”