I sat down in front of an open journal. Blank pages welcoming me. Pen in hand. Hours of time and plenty of space to relax and breathe before work. I was so excited because I’ve been craving this uninterrupted time with God – I’ve been needing it.
But when I finally sat down to write…to talk to God and just be with Him…I didn’t know what to say. I held the pen over that first line, wanting so badly to lightly touch the page and let the ink flow as freely as my thoughts. But nothing was coming. I felt blank. Empty. Unsure where to start or how to approach the Father I’ve been “too busy” for lately.
But when I took a deep breath and let my heart speak, the words that came out at the top of the page were, “Father, I need You.”
I think I took myself by surprise. I haven’t said those words in a while. I haven’t needed God. (At least I haven’t thought so.)
In the wilderness, where we often feel so alone anyway, I think we tend to go into survival mode and take on the responsibility of fending for ourselves. God seems distant and we feel like we’re wandering all alone. We convince ourselves that independence is the only way we’ll make it out alive.
So we fight our own battles.
We plan our own steps.
We blaze our own trails.
We dry our own tears.
We pick ourselves up when we stumble.
And we do this life thing all on our own.
But after a while, we get tired. So tired. It feels like we’ve tried everything to get through the wilderness…but we’ve only been going in circles, and now we just can’t go any further. We’re exhausted. We’re hungry. We’re thirsty. And we need God more than we were willing to admit.
I think I’ve been trying to carry my world on my back, refusing to let God carry it for me because something in me doesn’t fully believe that He can handle it. It doesn’t feel safe to “need” Him anymore. I’m not sure why. But somewhere along the line, I stopped trusting Him.
And I kind of forgot how to.
Saying that feels really sad. Where did I lose that beautifully deep belief I once had that God could do anything? And how do I get it back to that place of intimacy where needing Him isn’t scary and trusting Him comes naturally?
When we find ourselves here, it seems we always get the same advice.
Read your Bible.
Make “quiet time” a priority.
Sometimes I just want to say, “Don’t you think I’ve tried that already??”
In these lost, dry seasons, we look for God in all of the normal places. We exhaust all of our options and get frustrated when we still just can’t get into the Bible and our prayer lives look less like a conversation and more like a moment of obligatory silence. These things don’t excite us the way they used to. We reach a point where we’re tired of “trying more” and “working harder” and “doing enough” and we just feel like giving up.
But why is that the only “effective” way to draw closer to God? God is not limited to meeting us only in the words of Scripture. He’s not restricted to speaking to us and teaching us and growing us in our blocked out quiet times. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying those are bad practices or that that advice isn’t coming from the right place. Reading the Bible and praying are important. But there are times when we’re just not feeling it…and that’s ok.
That doesn’t mean we throw our hands up and stop making an effort altogether. And that doesn’t mean that we abandon solid traditions and never look back. No…we’ll make our way back there eventually. When we’re able to fully love and embrace it for the gift that it is again.
But for now…that just means that maybe it’s time we allow God to meet us here, exactly where we are and how we are, in our weariness and imperfection, because we still believe that He is good.
What would it look like if we just took a step back? If we stopped trying the next Bible reading plan or devotional or sermon series or book about how to pray better, only to find we’re no more connected or engaged than when we started?
What if we started to look outside the norm and find Jesus in the places we don’t often pay attention to?
For me it’s stepping outside at the tail end of summer and feeling a slight chill in the air, the first sign that fall (my favorite season) must be right around the corner. There in the sound of rustling leaves I hear my Father reminding me that seasons do eventually change, and the one I’m in now won’t last forever.
Maybe it’s a hug from a friend that God uses to tell you He’s still there.
Maybe you feel more refreshed and close to Him when you catch a beautiful view of the sunset outside your bedroom window, or when you get to sleep in on a Saturday morning and find rest after a long week.
Sweet friends, you are not any less loved by the Father if your Bible is collecting dust or if your prayer life is only five minutes in the car because that’s all you feel you have to give today. Don’t believe that you’re not trying hard enough. Give yourself the grace to take a break. Open your eyes to the treasures and movements of God that may have always been right in front of you.
Let God show you that He exists in the wilderness, too. And believe that He will meet you there.