Help! I’m Feeling Spiritually Listless

This article is part of the Help! series.

A Common Problem

What do we do when we feel spiritually listless? First of all, don’t be surprised. It happens to every Christian. There are times when we all feel unenergetic in our walk with Christ or when we sense a disconnect with the Lord.

At such times, it’s easy to think the Lord has withdrawn—he is not making himself known to me. Recently, a friend said to me, “I’m struggling to sense God’s presence. For some reason, he feels cold and indifferent.”

This Is “Stupid”

But well-known Christians of history took a different approach. When they felt spiritually list-less, they examined themselves. For instance, David Brainerd and Jonathan Edwards, an eighteenth-century evangelist and pastor, respectively, were self-critical in journal entries. This appeared in one of Brainerd’s personal writings:

Here, in a mournful, melancholy state, I was attempting to pray; but found no heart to engage in that or any other duty; my former concern, exercise, and religious affections were now gone. I thought that the Spirit of God had quite left me; but still was not distressed, yet disconsolate, as if nothing in heaven or earth could make me happy. Having been thus endeavoring to pray—though, as I thought, very stupid and senseless—for nearly half an hour.1

To be “stupid” is to lack intelligence and common sense. It’s a well-chosen word: to be spiritually listless in the presence of the soaring majesty of God is certainly to lack something—perhaps understanding, awareness, or focus.

Discovering the Good Life

Discovering the Good Life

Tim Savage

Tim Savage sets forth a distinctly Christian vision of “the good life,” explaining how being “in Christ” leads to the most liberating, fulfilling life any human could experience.

God Is Gracious

Thankfully, God never condemns the “stupidity” of his children. He is a merciful and loving heavenly Father. “He knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). He graciously provides an antidote to spiritual listlessness, a remedy so extraordinary that no human mind could have conceived it.

Raised Up High

In a word, he raises us up with Christ, elevating us so high that we can actually look into heaven itself. This is how the apostle Paul describes it: “If then you have been raised up with Christ, seek the things that are above” (Colossians 3:1).

Seeing the things of heaven is a powerful cure to spiritual listlessness.

Gazing at the Heavenly Christ

When we look into heaven, what do we see? First of all, we see Christ. “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is” (Colossians 3:1). And the Christ we see is distinguished by two features: his posture and his position.

Paul notes Christ’s posture. “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated” (Colossians 3:1). Apparently, in heaven Christ is no longer standing, no longer on his feet and moving about. He is no longer healing the sick, teaching the disciples, multiplying the bread and the fish, rebuking the region’s authorities, dying on a cross, or rising from the dead. Instead, Christ is seated.

The reason why Christ is seated is evident by his position. He is seated “at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). It is the highest position of all, reserved for the ranking dignitary of the universe, an honor conferred to Christ by virtue of having fulfilled the commission given to him by God, that of putting right the wrongs of earth.

Having quashed human sin and rebellion and reaffirmed the undisputed reign of his heavenly Father, the crucified and resurrected Jesus rightly sits at the right hand of the Almighty, surrounded by “myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands” of angels, who fall down at his feet and cry out, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Revelation 5:11–12).

Paul bids us to gaze at this glorious spectacle—to hone in on the exalted Christ, not as he was in the past, dying on a cross and rising from the dead (important as each of those works was), but as he is right now (as a consequence of each of those works), occupying the highest seat of all in a place untainted by sin and decked out with divine glory.

Seeing the things of heaven is a powerful cure to spiritual listlessness.

So Different from the Things of Earth

To seek the things that are above is thus to behold a sight not just different from the things of earth, but precisely the opposite.

Nothing that bothered you when you woke up this morning or troubled you in your dreams last night or irritates you right now as you move through the day is present in heaven. The criticisms of colleagues, the guilt of past mistakes, the insecurity of finances, the despair of loneliness, the trials of illness—such things are nowhere to be found in heaven. Neither is the politics of fear and division or international terrorism or sexual confusion or substance abuse or mental depression or domestic violence.

The Most Practical Advice

In heaven, everything resounds with the splendor of the life of the triumphant Christ. And it is grounds for perhaps the most practical piece of counsel ever given by the apostle Paul: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2).

Lock into the Christ of heaven. See him for who he is presently. He is presiding over a new reality. And it can become your reality. No longer controlled by the things of earth, you can be conformed to the things of heaven. With one foot planted on earth, you can actually lift the other foot and stride into the Celestial City.

The Ultimate Reality

Indeed, it is just a matter of time—very little time in the scope of eternity—before the harsh realities of earth are swallowed up by the perfect realities of heaven. So why not live today in the light of what is coming tomorrow? Why not let the ultimate reality of the things above dictate your present outlook and moods?

The next time you lose spiritual momentum in your walk with Christ, remember this: you’ve been raised up with Christ, raised so high that you can look into heaven itself and see there the one who has reclaimed all things for God’s glory, the Lord Jesus Christ, who has finished his work and ushered in a new reality, the ultimate reality of the perfection we see in heaven.

When we luxuriate in this reality, when we breathe in the glory of the things that are above, we will not be overwhelmed by the troubles and disappointments of earth. Rather, notwithstanding the trials of the world, we will become more than conquerors through Christ who loves us (Rom. 8:37).

Focusing on the Heavenly Christ

Lock into the Christ of heaven. Set your mind on the things above—daily, hourly, minute-by-minute. Live regularly into the fullness of the life that is Christ’s in heaven. This is the exciting remedy for spiritual listlessness.

Notes:
1. http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2007/10/david-brainerd-part-2.php

This article is written by Tim Savage, author of Discovering the Good Life: The Surprising Riches Available in Christ.



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