Last week I shared 5 Things You Should Know About Listening Prayer, because I really desire to break the stigma surrounding listening prayer. This week I hope to leave you with some practical tips to overcome discouragement that leaves us apathetic towards God and prey to the lies of the enemy.
I’ve been the one to sit in a room and hear teaching on listening prayer, only to feel instantly discouraged because I know in the depths of my soul that I am distant from God, my heart hardened.
I’ve been the wife driving to an evangelism event with her husband crying in the passenger seat, because I’m believing the enemies lie that I’m unusable by God. Plagued by thoughts like, “I’ve chosen my own way too many times”, and, “maybe I’m not really a child of God after all, because clearly I no longer have a heart for the things He cares about.”
When you are in that place of apathy toward God, and overwhelmed by hopelessness in the spiritual growth space, it can be hard to be anything but discouraged when someone who is filled to overflowing with the joy of Christ gets up and shares about what God has been teaching them. The voice in your head says, “if you were really saved you would have that much joy too,” or, “you’ll never love Jesus that much.” I’ve been there friend. Today I want to speak some encouragement over those of you who have found yourself in that place.
I shared back when I first started this blog about how God finally got my attention and brought me out of the apathy, you can read more about that here. As I’ve looked back and thought about the events leading up to that moment there are a few distinct choices I made and actions God took that I now recognize played a major role in getting me there.
1. God opened my eyes to what I was missing by choosing my own way again and again. I sat in a room where a very fired up and enthusiastic person shared about how God was moving in the Muslim community here in Houston. What struck me most about his presentation was his unwavering faith and the freedom and joy He had clearly found in Jesus. Sitting in that room, I remember the lies coming at me full throttle, but for once I pushed them away and made a decision instead. I wanted that joy and freedom too. Then I prayed and asked God go give it to me.
2. I took a step towards God, with transparency about where I was at and bold expectancy of where I wanted to be. Looking at my husband as we walked out of our Sunday School Class that morning I said, “We need to attend that man’s class. It makes me uncomfortable and I’m scared but I want what he has and I’m never going to get there if I keep choosing my own comfort, so lets do it anyway.” To which my husband probably inwardly sighed, “finally Lord!” Ha!
3. God continued to pursue me, and I persevered. By God’s grace when the going got tough and I slipped back into old habits, I once again chose to repent and step back out of my comfort zone into whatever God had for me. He continued to pursue me and wouldn’t let me quit. Ultimately God is the one responsible for growth, for drawing us nearer to Him and changing our hearts. He continues to work in me each and every day, making me more into His likeness. I’ve come to recognize that being committed and surrendered to that process (and repenting and returning when I waver) is key to Him working in and through me.
4. I clung to like-minded people. Friends challenged and encouraged me even as I wavered in my faith and commitment to follow through with what I felt God calling me to. The support of the community was crucial. I intentionally started spending time
with people who were further along the road than me, and with others who were working through similar things with the Lord alongside me.
I want to be clear about why I’m sharing these things with you. I am in no way intending to toot my own horn. I truly believe God alone is responsible for bringing me where I am today. This is in no way a perfect formula for accomplishing spiritual growth in your life. In fact, if you try to follow this like a formula I feel fairly certain it will do nothing for you.
What I pray that you’ll gain from this post is that the heart change I experienced wasn’t easy, it didn’t happen overnight, and it took a lot of work on Gods part slowly etching away at the barriers I’d built between us.
Two in a half years ago someone spoke over me that God just wanted me to be content exactly where he Had me spiritually. He wanted me to stop trying to “grow” in my own strength and experience the fullness of what He had to teach me in my current stage. I found so much freedom in that word from God. It took another year and a half of the Lord easing me into the next big step He had for me. He knows me best of all, and was well aware of the steps necessary to bring me to where I am today.
The process may look different for you. It may be quicker. It may be slower. But whether you are a believer in Christ already or still unsure about Christianity and all it requires of those who choose it, I believe that God wants to do something big in your heart and through your life. The fact that you are reading this tells me so. Nothing happens by chance with our God.
So feel His love in these words. Sense the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit calling you to more. I promise you will never experience more fullness of joy than you will when you are fully surrendered to the One who made you and desires to lead you into the role He has set aside specifically for you.
With love and prayers,