This is a subject and season that I am now experiencing, that I feel as though I have read little Christian writing on, or heard many sermons about.
As some of you have kept up with our life in Chicago, I have experienced such deep despair and anxiety and valleys here. But those times are passing like the grey clouds of spring. I no longer dread each day and what it could, or will, bring. I cry less often now, though I am still emotional and choose to start arguments at 2 a.m. And I am somehow beginning to notice that I am in a season where things are bland.
I can understand well the times in Christian life when the lions are near and the sound of their growls keeps us awake at night. When we can barely pray, hoping that we don’t smell fresh enough to eat; that we will be passed over. These are the valleys, the depths. And if we are at all interested in walking through this life with Jesus, which is already painfully plagued by sin mind you, we will in fact experience many valleys. We will experience death and betrayal and struggle and pain.
There are other seasons, the mountains so called, where we can almost physically feel the very touch of the Holy Spirit, as He tugs on our hand to run in the field of grace. We feel as though no matter the weather, every day is full of light and warmth and joy, and when even the to-do’s and the hard work are not so daunting. We sense we are loved in these times.
But there is another season, not to even be characterized as a drought. But it is the flatness, the cement sidewalk, the blandness. It is the grey middle.
It seems to me that in my own Christian life, this bland season wasn’t talked about nearly as much as the other two, leaving me to feel confused as it is now occurring. “Am I doing something wrong? Why don’t I feel God in the same ways? How can I make my life feel better and fuller and more fun?” and multiple other questions have come and gone through my mind the past few weeks. In the darkness, we see our deep need for the Lord. In the light, we rejoice in knowing we are His and rest in His care. But in the grey, what do we do?
After a stirring and enriching conversation with my best friend, who is facing this same season in her own life, I wanted to share some thoughts that we discussed that left us encouraged and hopeful.
One would be this: Our neediness for the Lord has not changed- we have changed. We, as bedraggled, dirty, sin-filled creatures, have always needed the Lord. Seasons do not determine how much we need Him, only how much we feel we need Him. We have always, and will always, need Him, whether hidden by good circumstances or highlighted by bad. Therefore, the grey is not indicative of a lack or need for Him, but reveals that we have always needed Him. It shows us that in a time where we are tempted to manufacture joy and light-heartedness and a general sense of delight for ourselves, that we need Him even when we think we can make it work.
I find that I struggle to address this season with God because it isn’t terrible and it isn’t particularly lovely. It’s just…there. And I feel as though I need to come and present some pitch to Him as to why I must speak with Him. And just feeling ‘blah’ isn’t enough reason to pester Him, in my mind. So I don’t, not really, not with this. In this season of my life, I don’t sit and journal really at all, but I talk conversationally with God throughout the days. And I feel trained to think that if I am not sitting down and writing daily to Him, then I am not being faithful in my relationship with the Father. But really, that’s bullshit. God does not tell me that I need to be reading a devotional book, or journaling, or whatever to be close to Him. I already am close, I am closer to Him than His own heart. We, collectively as His children, are this close to Him. Do not be fooled into believing in false distance. This is the truth we must let our bones slump down into, tired and glassy-eyed from the grey days.
Another piece for thought: Living life abundant isn’t because the things around me are perfect. And we believe this more easily when hell is wreaked in our lives, but not so much in the drab. Because I think the drab of life can make us feel like it is our fault, and so we stop our souls from accessing life. We see the grey monotony as sin and we can’t bear to face the Father because we have no idea what we did to cause it. We can’t apologize because we have no answer, no recording of the things we did to set this season in motion. But the reality is this: God the Father is Lord of the seasons, and we certainly are not.
If we are in a season of grey days and boredom and struggle to find joy and feel refreshed, that is on the shoulders of our Savior. He takes responsibility, one hundred percent. It is not for us to punish ourselves into thinking, “I’m obviously not seeing all of the blessings and gifts God has already given, so I suck for not availing myself of these things. I have to figure this out so I can tell God that I see what He’s doing and I’m onboard.” That thinking is from Hell, so trash it. That will keep you from addressing life, day in and day out, monotony and all things, with Him. He is in it with us, friends! Do not be deceived into believing that God has no interest in our drab days. We are the object of His affection, how could He not care?
Another (perhaps final) thought: The Lord does not make bland things. So because we see Creation and know this to be true, we see our season of flatness and potential for greatness (with nothing happening) as an eye sore to the Lord. What an ugly lie. God makes all things beautiful, but if He is in charge of our seasons of growth, pain, joy, and grey, then how could He not see even this season as good and wonderful? We cannot see that the seasons that are plain and not extravagantly emotional are sweet to the Lord. We have been programmed for glitz and performance by our culture, so this blandness simply will not do. But the more I write, the more I think that these seasons of perceived dullness make up the bulk of Christian life, and that is where we learn to walk steadfastly.
God is not about a sprint as much as He is about endurance. He is training us to be marathoners, and these grey seasons play a vital role. These seasons that are bland and not how we would like them to be, but “we can’t complain,” are fertile soil for God to grow us up into people who love Him through it all, and learn in the long stretches. These seasons teach us to love Him as He is, not the things He gives. They teach us that God is contented to sit and watch TV with us, and doesn’t need to go out every night. They teach us that we must be completely satisfactory to God, because we have absolutely nothing to offer right now, today.
There is so much to soak up in the grey. God, let me learn to be loved by you, when I can’t offer anything, because you have known that all along and loved me still. It’s who you are.