There was nothing different about this routine visit to family in another state, but the drive home was becoming difficult. I had driven this route dozens of times, and resisted stopping. As I drove and the hour neared midnight, traffic thinned and exits seemed further apart. As I locked my eyes on the straight, black road ahead, I was needing to shake my head to stay alert. I was only a half hour away from home, but I knew I was driving in a danger zone. I pulled off at the next exit.
We can fall asleep at the wheel spiritually, too. We have our eyes set on a destination, but as we drive on, neglecting warning signs, we can be oblivious to the fact that our emotions have checked out and we’re just going through the motions. There are moments when we realize that we need to step it up: our Bible is under a pile of books, we’ve begun favoring secular pursuits over spiritual, or we just don’t have the patience with other people like we once did. We feel dry, but we let our time, and our relationship, with God slip away.
Sometimes our distance from God is a result of losing heart, of disappointment, or discouragement. Other times it’s because we’ve been hurt at church, or by a brother or sister in Christ. Other times, though, it’s because we just got busy and your relationship with God fell to the bottom of the priority list . Whatever your situation is, here are some things you can do when you realize that your heart is growing cold to the things of God.
1. Spend time alone with God. Recognize that you’re far from where you want to be and ask God to help get you back on track. James 4:8 promises, “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
Another way to say double-minded is doubting.
James doesn’t say, “Get your act together, then come to God.” He says the opposite; Come to God. He’ll meet you there and then you both can deal with your heart issues. If you doubt, come to God and He’ll faithfully respond. This is a wonderful promise.
It’s then that we can be honest with God. We can repent, which means turn around, to change direction. Ask God to show you why you have doubted His goodness. Confess your disappointment and lack of trust. Tear down any idols. Trace what led you to “fall asleep” in your walk with Him. Draw up a plan with Him to get you back on track.
When we don’t know what prayer to pray, pray in tongues and the Holy Spirit will pray the exact prayer that you need to be praying, for you.
I Corinthians 14:2 says, “For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit.” Sometimes we don’t understand what is going wrong in our heart. The Holy Spirit will show you what you need to get things right in your heart with God.
You may need to start light, maybe praying a few minutes a day at first, but determine to pray in the Spirit each day. You may feel awkward and clinical about this, but persevere. This will begin to “break the ice” as you seek God’s help. It will become easier, until one day soon it flows readily and you feel peace emerge in your heart.
3. Worship. It’s nice to play worship music in your home and car, and that is certainly encouraged when you are going through a dry season. It’s even better, though, to set aside a few minutes to focus on worship. You may have some mental sorting to do, especially if your heart has begun to harden because you feel let down by life, or by God.
As in all relationships, love sometimes is a choice. Worship can start in your mind, as a choice. That’s ok.
Worship changes circumstances. As you focus on God, His power flows into your life and mountains begin to move. When we worship, despite circumstances, our devotion is rewarded. God rains on those who love Him. Psalm 91:14 says, “‘Because he loves me,’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.’” Showing our love for God brings His help and protection, the very things we may have stopped seeking. Worship is a powerful weapon against the enemy because worshipping declares just who you are trusting.
4. Fast. When you are facing obstacles, fasting is extremely effective in achieving breakthrough. While the results are not predictable, you can be sure there will be breakthrough of some sort in your life. Joel 2:12-14 says;
“‘Even now,’ declares the Lord,
‘return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.’
Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.”
It’s not necessary to go into the desert for weeks. God wants us to deny ourselves in some way and to set ourselves apart to seek Him. We can be in a very dry place spiritually, and, when led by God to do so, we can see a shift in our hearts when we fast. It’s expected by God and Jesus. Jesus simply told his disciples, “when you fast,” (Matthew 6:17) implying that they all would.
Fasting causes the Lord to relent from sending calamity. When we rend, or tear (or expose or open) our hearts to Him, we return to Him and he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Even a simple and short fast begins the process of turning back to God. It shows you mean business.
The Holy Spirit will nudge us, but He usually won’t stop the car and hoist us out of it.
All of these disciplines run on a continuum. You can spend 5 minutes with God, or a weekend away. You can pray in tongues for 5 minutes, or you can pray longer while you go about your morning routine. You can worship for one song on the radio, or for hours each day. You can fast for a meal, a day or for weeks. The important thing is to do all these things, even a little at first, and add to them as you see things change and begin to feel your heart come alive again.
Soon you will desire to do these things with God, as part of your time together, rather than out of obedience and commitment. You will long for more of Him, and you will see how effective these disciplines are. Push through, even the bad days that may happen. Remember that the enemy is rendered much more ineffective when you employ these tools against him.
If you notice you are drifting away from God, pull over. Don’t fall asleep at the wheel! So many of us have let the world and our hurts and cares crowd out God. If God isn’t in your thoughts as the days progress, step back, shake the sleep out of your eyes and go to Him. He’s waiting for you. You’ve forgotten, or have yet to see, what you’re missing.