By Hope Bolinger, Crosswalk.com
It seems that every Christian encounters one of these. No matter how much they spend time in the Word or going to church, sometimes, we hit a slump.
God seems far away. Being a Christian feels abstract and a bit purposeless. As much as we try to connect and pursue God, it feels like we're getting nowhere.
The recent events sweeping the world have exasperated this for many Christians. So how do we get out of a spiritual slump while in the middle of it? And what does the Bible have to say about it?
We’ll dive into these questions and more and help you as you navigate your way out of the slump.
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What Causes Spiritual Slumps?
As one may guess, not all causes of spiritual slumps are the same. Someone dealing with a mental health-related illness such as depression or anxiety may medically enter a spiritual slump along with a physical slump that tends to accompany these two diseases.
Others may have recently encountered a difficult trial in their lives. Perhaps they have lost a loved one dear to them or they have been let go at a job they have worked at for several years.
During these moments, we often can question the nature of God and why he allows for tragedies or bad things to happen.
A Christian may enter a spiritual slump after observing the events on the news or by watching fellow believers fall away. They may wonder when God will truly Maranatha. And why he hasn’t chosen to do so yet.
And others may have entered a spiritual slump for a variety of other means. Perhaps they have chosen to live in sin and they feel the effects of the divide between their actions and God’s holiness. Maybe they have not had a chance to plug into a church community during the pandemic, and they have felt the loss of community with godly people that often spurs us to grow closer to God.
The list can go on and on.
As we can discover from our brief inventory above, no Christian has a one-size-fits all reason for entering a slump. But we do know that we do not face these morose times alone.
Related: Listen to Episode 5 of How to Study the Bible: What to Do When You Get Stuck:
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What Does the Bible Say about Spiritual Slumps?
One can easily point to many examples of people in the Bible who cried out to God in desperation because they had reached a spiritual slump. David frequently, in the Psalms, asks God where he is and why he has allowed for evil to take place.
Job, after taking a battering from Satan, wishes God would take his own life and rid him of his misery (Job 7:16).
Even the prophets grew weary from feeling so alone and without friends who also followed the Lord. Elijah, so fed up with having to run and flee from King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, begs God to take his own life (1 Kings 19).
Patriarchs, prophets, judges, and kings all reached spiritual lows. And as we stated in our previous section, these spiritual slumps happened for a variety of reasons. In addition to these examples, let’s explore some Bible verses, in particular, Psalm 13:1-6:
“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, "I have overcome him," and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.”
The Bible doesn’t have a specific definition for spiritual slump. We don’t ever see the wording for that. But we can see David wrestling with it in these verses.
David also gives us some hints on how to emerge from these difficult times.
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1. Exercise Gratitude
1 Thessalonians 5:18 calls for us to give thanks in all circumstances.
As a person who personally struggles with severe clinical depression and has done so for many years, I know precisely how much of a task this can be for some readers. When you reach a mental and spiritual slump, your brain has entered a pea soup fog. It takes everything just to get out of bed.
But regularly coming up with things to thank God for, even the most minute things, can scientifically rewire our brain. Furthermore, gratitude helps us to remember that even when life appears to be falling apart that God has given us so many blessings.
While enduring persecution, prison, and death, the apostles found ways to exercise thanksgiving and praise.
Gratitude allows for us to open our eyes to the many ways God has shaped our lives. We begin to see his fingerprints in everything. A spiritual slump convinces us that our Lord has abandoned us. That he has left us to fight against the very forces of nature.
A thankful heart does the opposite. It shows that God is not only here with us, but he carries us through the difficult times.
Gratitude also tends to lift the spirits. Once we realize just how much God has given to us, we cannot help but experience joy. We cannot help but go to him in prayer and praise to thank him for everything he has done for us.
For more verses on gratitude, check out this article here.
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2. Serve Others
Spiritual slumps have a nasty habit of giving Christians a sense of entitlement. After all, during these moments, we often feel as if God has blessed everyone around us and deserted us or forgotten us.
It may seem counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to beat a spiritual slump is to give of ourselves until others in service.
Acts 20:35 says, “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Kingdom math works a little differently than worldly math does. The worldly idea of service operates under a quid pro quo model. I scratched your back, therefore, you gotta return the favor, sort of mentality. I gave 50 percent of my time to you, now you have to give fifty percent of your time to me, and we’ll even out.
But the Bible tells us to do the opposite.
If we give one hundred percent of ourselves to others, God blesses us significantly (Proverbs 19:17).
Serving others also reminds us about the real reason we follow Jesus: to spread the good news and to imitate Jesus. Spiritual slumps have a tendency to distort our original purpose to the point where we forget why we’re here, and we go through the motions instead.
When we serve others, we kickstart our brains. We remember why God has called us to be the hands and feet of the church, and we see changed lives because of it.
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3. Plug into Christian Community
As one might guess, this pandemic has done a great deal of harm when it comes to the idea of spiritual slumps. Many churches require masks, limited seating. And many Bible studies, services, youth groups, and other church gatherings have been put on hold.
Many of us have experienced Zoom fatigue, and for those wanting to stray away from screens, streaming in services may not be an option. And even if it is, it doesn’t always have the same tight-knit feel of an in-person community.
Pandemic aside, even during times of regular gathering, many Christians may find they haven’t attended a church service in months.
During the days of college, I had a hard time finding a community which aligned with my beliefs. I would go weeks on end without having attended a service, and I felt the spiritual strain in the community I lacked.
Although we don’t have a perfect solution or the pandemic, here are some ways to fight the spiritual slump by plugging into a Christian community.
First, if able and if you exercise proper precautions, attend church locally. Many hold services outside, practice social distancing, take temperatures, and require masks. Several Christians have foregone church for the sole purpose of not wanting to wear a mask. But if you can bear wearing one for an hour, the best solution is to go where you can physically gather.
For those who cannot:
Second, attend virtual Bible studies. If you church has not created one, try to help spearhead one yourself. Worst case, ask some members of your congregation to gather on Zoom once or twice a month to discuss a devotional or a book of the Bible.
Finally, if you cannot do any of these things, find a Christian mentor or mentee and find ways to pour into them (see our second point of serving others for the latter). You can hold one another accountable for Bible readings and ask about each other’s spiritual journeys.
Most Christians experience spiritual slumps. But we do have many ways to emerge from them. In the meantime, lean into God and trust he has a plan for your life, even when it doesn’t feel like it. Find ways to serve others, exercise gratitude, and plug into a Christian community.
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