In his book, “If You Want to Walk on the Water You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat,” author John Ortberg asked a compelling question, He wrote,
” Some time ago, I asked a spiritual mentor of mine, “How do you assess the well-being of your soul? How do you gauge your spiritual condition?”
It’s a great question to consider. It’s easy to gauge the condition of our bodies. I can tell when I’m getting the flu or a cold. I can feel a headache. I can tell when I need to get out and exercise. And I can tell when I need to rest. These easier to gauge condition. Why? They are more physical. I can feel where my body is turning on dashboard warning lights and allowing me an opportunity to respond. I’m getting sick – go to the doctor. Getting a headache – rest for a little while. Feeling restless – go for a swim. They are physical conditions that alert me to take action.
Believe it or not, our spiritual condition can be gauged in much the same way. We don’t feel it like we do when coming down with the flu, or I need to take a break and rest for a while. So our spiritual condition is not as easy to recognize when it’s trying to get our attention.
Enter the Holy Spirit.
He has been assigned to come alongside us, guiding us into truth and revealing where we need to adjust. Often we cannot recognize what’s happening on our own. We need help. And so, He turns on the warning lights on the dashboard of our souls, alerting us to something we need to address. But if our walk isn’t close, it makes it difficult to recognize those warning lights. Or, if we ignore the warning lights long enough, we grow more unaware of their alarm.
John Ortberg’s mentor responded remarkably. He writes,
” My friend said that the first question he asks himself is this: Am I growing more easily discouraged these days? “Because,” he told me, “if I’m walking closely with God, if I have the sense of God being with me, I find that problems lose their ability to damage my spirit.”
Discouragement is a lowness within. It’s being disheartened and lacking courage. It makes responses to others short, sometimes hurtful. Most generally, others around us can recognize it before we ever do.
And I think that is where John’s mentor offers a remarkable insight. Simple. But remarkable. The Holy Spirit knows before anyone else when something is amiss within. We languish when time spent with Him has been neglected. We travel down the road of discouragement.
The road of discouragement leads to an improper view. Problems (big or small) affect us in ways they shouldn’t. Life becomes a bit harder. Not all at once, but gradually. The road also leads to uneasiness in relationships. Things don’t seem smooth between you and those closest to you. Stuff that would never bother you begins to wear on you like sandpaper, irritating. Responses become sharp, conversation decreases, and we withdraw.
If you are here or have been here in the past, there’s hope. If you’ve not been here, you will be at some point. Again, there’s hope. It’s right there in the quote.
Walking closely with God.
The closer we’re walking with God, the less life seems to wear on us. I can’t explain it, and I don’t fully understand it. Experience testifies to that truth. Life is lighter when walking closer and listening intently to the Holy Spirit through time in prayer and Scripture. Problems don’t burden me; they don’t affect me like they would if I’d neglected my walk (relationship) with God.
Relationships are fueled by two things; time and conversation. Don’t talk to your spouse for a few weeks and report back to me how things are going? I know what you’ll say. And it won’t be good. Relationships grow in response to time invested that creates space for conversation.
It’s no different with our God. Believe it or not, He desires a relationship with you more than you do. But you need it more! Desperately. It takes time and conversation. Time is easy to understand. Not so easy to do unless we are intentional.
Conversation, however, can be more ambiguous. But it doesn’t have to be. I will give you a church answer here but will quickly wrap this up with a different perspective on that answer. And they’re Paul’s words, not mine.
Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying Romans 12:12 NLT.
Keep on praying. That’s the conversation piece. But it’s not us trying to get God to change our circumstances. It’s giving God permission to change us. Prayer is so much more than asking. It is that, don’t get me wrong. But with a proper perspective, prayer becomes the same conduit the Holy Spirit uses to do His best work in you, changing you from within so that your perspective changes.
It’s transformative. Prayer, with this perspective, transforms us, our relationships, and how we respond to circumstances (big or small) and the troubles of life. Prayer creates the space we desperately need to recognize the warning lights on the dashboard of our hearts, allowing us to respond.
Don’t ignore the warning signs. I did that with a car once. It didn’t work out so well. It’s even worse when we do that with our inner self. Get alone with God. Admit the struggle. Listen. And then respond. You’ll find that just as a car needs regular maintenance, so does your inner self.
You are loved.