Do you find yourself getting weary in the spiritual journey? It is not uncommon to experience down times, but if the down times become the norm you have probably gotten into a rut.
Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). The Greek here might be better translated, “might keep on having life, and keep on having it abundantly.” If this life isn’t manifesting, here are some suggestions…
Ways to Break the Rut
The first step in breaking out of a rut is to recognize that there is a rut. This requires humility, because pride can blind many eyes to the fact that their Christian experience has become stale. Pride can cling to traditions and routines and cite those as evidence of life. It will hide behind works and words. It takes humility to hunger and thirst. But God lifts up the humble, and they that hunger and thirst shall be filled.
The next step in breaking out of a rut is to turn from any known sin. Sin keeps us from enjoying God’s fullness. God’s love is like the finest of wines, poured into the cup of our hearts. Because Jesus paid it all, you can still enjoy His love, even with the presence of sin, but that stain or blemish in the cup inhibits the full enjoyment of its flavor. Through Christ, God loves the sincere believer just the same, but turning away from sin will remove that which hinders our enjoyment of Him.
Sin gives satan an inroad into your life, and he is the thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Satan also will dull your heart to the things of God. Sin just isn’t in our best interest. Romans 6:16 says, Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
Repentance is an easy way out of sin’s strongholds. Repentance simply means turning away from sin and toward God. If you feel you have blown it in major proportions, just repent like you did when you first came to God. Remember the prodigal son. All it took was a turn in the right direction and his father accepted him. Maybe you haven’t blown it big time, but you just know that there are little compromises and failures in your life. Just turn to the Father. The devil would rather you mope and beat yourself up. Instead, turn, knowing that we are already accepted in the Beloved (Eph.1:6). God loves us no less when we are in the mud with the pigs. But we can’t experience His love until we get up and GO TO HIM. Remember, the father ran to embrace His returning son (Luke 15:20).
As each day brings with it a new morning, it is good to go to the Lord with a renewed devotion. Think again on God’s love for you.
Along the same lines as repentance, a valuable step in breaking out of a rut is to return to the place of life. Think back on the times that you were spiritually excited. Think back on your conversion or awakening to the things of God. I find it helpful to keep a journal and go back and remind myself of how God has worked in my life. If you cannot find any great works to be reminded of, go back and study the lives and works of other great men and women of God.
Set apart time to enjoy God’s presence. We all can enter that special sense of His presence if we are patient. But it is not necessary to always have a good feeling. We can rejoice that He is here even if we cannot feel it. Go back to the Word and start believing the promises and taking them personally. When it says He shall never leave you nor forsake you (Heb.13:5), read it as and receive it as “He shall never leave ME nor forsake ME.” He is here! It doesn’t matter what I feel. Feelings are important, but they come and go. God’s word remains consistent and true whether the feelings are there or not. Believing this keeps me from falling apart whenever it seems that “God has left.” I know He hasn’t.
Another way to come out of the rut is to read the book of Acts and aspire to the same power and gifts that the early church had. When a prophet lost the borrowed ax head, Elisha instructed him to go back to the place where it fell (2 Kings 6:6). He recovered it there. I heard a preacher use this example to exhort us to go back to Pentecost and seek the promise of the Holy Spirit. If we would be an effective church, we need that same ‘power from on high.’
Get baptized in the Holy Spirit. We see so little of ‘Acts type of power’ today because of extreme unbelief and a very materialistic culture. Don’t be prejudiced or afraid of the gifts of the Spirit. Our pride keeps us from submitting to His power. Our pride keeps us worrying more about how we might be branded “a fanatic”. This is ‘rut’ worry. To get out of a rut it may be best to follow David’s example and say, “I will be even more undignified than this” (2Sam.6:22; NKJV). I’m not saying to make a show of yourself, but you can at least in private throw out all inhibitions and worship the Lord.
In coming out of the rut, it is helpful to turn away from the things of our society that hamper faith or hinder hope. Stop reading books that foster doubt. Don’t be so glued to the news and all the doomsday reports. The Lord is your God, and He will see you through the times. Turn away from the music that sends a negative or ungodly message. I had some friends that loved ‘Christian music’ that contained nothing but griping and complaining. “It’s real life, man!” We could all appreciate the honesty of the artists’ struggles. We might wallow with them! But I am suggesting we reject that and find a message that helps pull us out.
I was really feeling down one time before leaving the States back for China. We went to a church service and sang, “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” At that time, the truth in that hymn just rushed over me and strengthened my heart. Misery loves company, but it is the truth that sets us free!
“But I’ve sang that a hundred times!” Maybe, but next time think about what you are singing. It is easy to just sing words, and the more familiar they are, the easier it is to go about it mindlessly. High and lofty truths may be expressed in worship without ever giving thought to what they really mean. The key to worshiping God in song is to sing ye praises with understanding (Ps.47:7).
Another way to get out of the rut is to call a friend. If there is someone you can relate to on a spiritual level, the fellowship will do you good. Often, however, it is quite tempting to never call during the down times. There is no motivation, and the devil wants to keep you away. He knows there is reviving power in good fellowship, so he places doubts about whether you should call or not. Or, it may be PRIDE that keeps you away. Nobody likes to confess that they need some help or support.
Maybe you are down because you have no such friends. Jesus knows what it is like to be lonely. He was so often misunderstood. His friends slept as He desired them to pray. They also left Him as the soldiers came to take Him away.
Cling to the truth that God cares for you (1Peter 5:7). Situations are temporary, and change is always ahead. The devil would try to blind you and cause you to lapse into hopelessness. But God is a God of hope (Rom.15:13). Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and then “all these things” shall be added unto you (Matthew 6:33).
Maybe there is weariness because there has been more of a relationship with teachings and traditions than with the Lord Himself. Seminaries will make their students read thousands of pages within a limited time frame. How can they be spiritually fed when they are rushing and skimming through just to meet a requirement? It all gets into the head, but it is soon forgotten.
Many blogs and websites argue and debate theology and call anyone who disagrees, “a heretic.” People are so tied to their systems and theological affiliations that they hardly reflect any witness of a relationship that loves God Himself and their neighbor. It is all about exposing error and being right!
I’m so glad that God is not grading us on our theological accuracy. I’m not saying we shouldn’t care about doctrine, though. I’m just trying to suggest we focus more on the PERSON and exhibit Christ’s love to the world. That is more important than proving that I am right and you are wrong about something.
So how about going out and working to be a blessing to someone? This will get you out of a rut. Get involved with a good ministry, or do something nice for your neighbor. Visit someone in the hospital, or in jail.
Coming out of a rut requires commitment. Sometimes it is not a quick fix. If you are going to mine for gold, you are going to have to work hard to get it. The American fast food mentality will not do for spiritual growth. But as a believer who wants the best, a serious investment of your time and focus will pay off.
Look at the serious businessman of the world. See how he works overtime to make his money. See how he studies his Wall Street Journal so that he can stay informed and on top of everything. See him calling his stockbroker and reading books that will teach him how to earn more money. Many spend their lives in the office, working overtime just to get ahead. And it is all for that which is temporary. What we have is of much greater and lasting value. We could learn from the businessman’s diligence.
And so, here is an important step for breaking out of the rut: to get excited! Look to the joy set before those who are diligent, and anticipate the heavenly embrace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the promotion into higher realms.
It may be useful to begin pushing your excitement. You may not feel excited, but the sticks must be rubbed together if there is to be any flame. The heavenly fire might catch the small offering up of your sparks. Get excited about the Lord, though the ‘Michal’ spirit may oppress and brandish you for being undignified (2 Sam. 6:16). Come against that in prayer, worship, and perseverance. Stand firm against the enemy who would rob you of joy. All things are new, and even this moment is new. Step out of the rut, starting…NOW!