05 Jul Beat The Dread! (For Those Numb In Spirit)
How has these few months shaped your faith? We have been through some times of wait, stagnancy and new terrains we have yet tread upon. Of course, many of us in Singapore may have returned to a “new normal” with more liberty to socialise, to go back to church meetings, work or school and gather with our loved ones again. But the after effects of the Circuit Breaker and restrictions caused by the pandemic may have continued to leave its trail behind. Many of us, with the lack of church living, meetings, cell groups or fellowship over the past weeks, and those bogged down by the new challenges of working from home or child-caring may have grown in this spirit of indifference or numbness in faith. To be honest, even before all these has happened, I myself have wrestled with spiritual numbness on my own terms. Have you experienced it? Or are you in it right now? Like an inertia towards going down to church, towards servings or interacting with brethren?
One of the most common numbness is when it comes to prayers. Sometimes, we are unsure of what to pray for, or we pray very briefly. And after praying, we do not seem to get any answers and thus, feel that praying is no different from not praying at all. Another example is when we listen to God’s word or to the sermons in church, and we do not get anything from it, thus going to church feels more and more like a drag. All these signs and symptoms are, in fact, alerting us of a spiritual emergency. We are entering the wilderness, where we cannot feel God’s presence or seek out His perfect will. We will gradually turn cold towards God and all matters of God’s kingdom. For me, it was a season where my church servings became very task-oriented, instead of seeing the value of doing it for God’s people. Those are dark times, because you know you do not feel right about it, yet you are not sure where to go and you just go on living each day as is, without the strength and healing that faith gives you. Now, brothers and sisters, do not be disheartened if you feel numb and indifferent in spirit now, because in God, there is always hope. As it is said in Psalm 51: 10-12 “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”
The common root of spiritual numbness: Sin
Let us first understand what is the common root of spiritual numbness so that we may stand in the right battle and deal with the core of the issue. The truth is, when we start to envy sins, our heart will naturally lose interest in God. Envying sins means when our hearts are inclined to gain or enjoy certain things of the world: like indulging in dramas, online games, hanging out with our friends during the weekends, or gaining a high status in life and earning big bucks. When all these colourful and seemingly enticing baits of the world come along and our thoughts or emotions get hooked on it, the steadfast and pure word of God or the servings in church will seem bland and boring to us. Spiritual numbness stems from a desire to satisfy our wants, our flesh and not wanting to “cross check” with our Holy Spirit, knowing we might not get the answer we want. The flesh and spirit is always at war, so when we let our flesh take over as master of our hearts, our spirits will definitely be weakened in the process. Now, brethren, we have to remember, numbness in itself is not the worse problem. What is worse is if we let the numbness stop us from wanting to draw near to God. That is what is serious because Satan will have a greater foothold on us, causing us to think, say and do things that harm our spirits more and more. Thus, we must be wary and alert to the state of our spirits and where it is taking us.
The other side of spiritual numbness
However, not all numbness has its bad effects. There is also another possible side to numbness. Sometimes, God could also use it as means to refine us and prepare us. How? Well, in most cases, when spiritual numbness comes, people will tend to feel that God is distant or the progress of what we have prayed for is slow and we do not see any outcome, thus feeling even more numb. However, in this seemingly dreadful process, God is giving us precious lessons. Just as Moses and Elijah have went through their own versions of spiritual valleys, indifference and disappointments, God has also used them to nurture their perseverance, training them to be strong in their faith, blessing them with a heart to continually rely on God and pulling them closer to God. Eventually, they do walk out of their numbness and serve God greatly in their own fields. Men tend to look at results, miracles, strengths or successes to feel good and have the drive to follow God. However, what God values is even when things are repetitive or seemingly stagnant, a person still relies and look to God. Such a person builds his faith not on what is seen but on who God is, and thus, will not be easily disheartened, but have a fixed perspective and a refined faith.
It requires effort to drive our spiritual numbness
Now, spiritual numbness is not a hopeless disease. It can be dealt with but our first step is not to ignore it or leave it for another day. King David has taught us great lessons on this: to pray to God, repent before Him, choose God over our desires and as we have read previously, he said: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” How may we do so? We have to reflect back on all the grace that God has given us in the past to seek back the joy of our salvation. From an unbelieving heart to a believing one. To being entrenched in weaknesses but seeing God’s help and protection. From struggling with sins but experiencing God’s sustenance. Even as we are wrestling, let us keep going back in prayers, going back to God’s word, going back to God’s church. Do not wait to pray or have quiet time only when we have the right mood, but do it anyway so that the spirit will gradually move your hearts, giving you new found joy in God. Also, take note of what God is putting before you right now and seek out reasons to rely on God through it. When we need God more, the spiritual numbness will get less. Especially when we are in seasons of stagnancy and nothing seems special, we have to be even more vigil in spirit because that is where we need to guard our hearts more lest Satan uses it to plant unnecessary thoughts and feelings in us.
Brothers and sisters, even as you have listened to this message and still feel numb, there is one thing you must remember. Our currently unresolved numbness will never waver God’s determination to love us and He will surely and progressively bring you through your numb season if you continue to hang on in reliance to Him. We may be indifferent to God, but God will never be indifferent to us, His children. May we all regain our perspective in our spiritual numbness, be rid of our indifference to God and restore our relationship with God once again.