I can plan an entire trip around a place to eat. This may sound crazy to you, but to me it’s completely normal. As a kid, I remember my grandparents eating lunch while discussing where they were going to go for dinner. Food was as important to them as the sights we saw along the way.
So whenever we take a trip down south to visit family, my mind fills with all the tasty food we’re going to consume. This happened a couple of weeks ago when we traveled to South Carolina for my niece’s bridal shower. It was a quick trip that only lasted a few days, but that didn’t stop me from planning.
When we pulled up to one of the places we hit often, I already knew what I was going to order. The problem was, they didn’t have it. Their menu was completely different, and nothing on it was close to what my mouth was watering for.
After sitting for a minute or two being aggravated, I finally ordered something. But it wasn’t the same.
Something inside each of us craves the familiar comfort of home. Food does that for us. It stirs up memories, warms our stomachs and our hearts, and connects us to places and people.
For most of us, we expect certain things when in our relationship with God too. Whether we grew up in the church or were introduced to him later in life, we know the aspects of his character that draw us to him – his love, faithfulness, steadfastness, patience, and more. No matter what chapter of life we’re in, these attributes keep us coming back to him.
But what happens when we go through a season that makes us question these characteristics? Our spiritual life feels dry, as though everything we thought we knew is shaking, and the familiar is replaced by a desert of longing.
When we feel abandoned by God, it’s like coming home only to find an empty shelter.
Warmth is replaced by the unfamiliar. It’s far worse than showing up at a favorite restaurant with a completely new menu. It’s jarring and can send us into emotional turmoil.
This happened to me a couple of years ago. After years of coming to the Word with a thirst and a fire that consumed me, my spiritual life felt dry and empty. I tried to poke the embers by listening to inspirational podcasts, purchasing a new study Bible, and doing a new online study. But nothing seemed to bring me back to that fire I once knew.
In additional to a dry spiritual life, I also faced disappointments in my ministry, writing, and relationships. It seemed as though each time one area of my life would gain momentum, the enemy would attack another. I found myself asking, “Why even bother?”
Few passages of scripture are more raw and vulnerable than the third chapter of Lamentations. Jeremiah is devastated over the state of his people, who are living in a foreign land after the destruction of Judah. The book laments the slaughter of kings, starving mothers, and the complete loss of a nation’s way of worship.
But right in the middle of Jeremiah’s lament, when it seems as though all is lost, he recalls the goodness of God. His circumstances haven’t changed, but he recognizes that God hasn’t either.
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV
Now, the above scripture is one you may have heard hundreds of times. You’ve probably seen it on the backs of t-shirts or on a pretty graphic while scrolling Instagram.
But stay with me, because while the above is a beautiful promise, the next verse is where we need to park:
“I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion, therefore I will wait for him.”” Lamentations 3:24 NIV
Jeremiah has just witnessed mass destruction, cannibalism, hunger and loss unlike what most of us have ever seen, but in the middle of all of that, he says, “The Lord is my portion.”
His mouth declares what his soul needs to remember.
Then, he makes a promise to himself. He says he will wait for God. Now, I don’t know about you, but when I’m in the middle of heavy disappointment and all-out spiritual dryness, I don’t feel much like waiting. I want it to be over. Fast-forward to the flowing rivers and streams of goodness please.
But somehow, despite the devastation around him, Jeremiah digs down deep and clings to a promise he staked his life on long ago. It is his foundation. It is everything.
Have you ever seen the remnants of a home after a fire or a massive storm? Even if everything else is destroyed, the foundation remains. The same is true of God. He is the foundation that will never be swept away by the losses of this life.
Even when everything around us feels unfamiliar, he beckons us home.
Friend, I don’t know what kind of spiritual wasteland you’re walking through right now. It may feel has though everything you thought you knew has turned into dust. But can I tell you something that may be hard to believe? God hasn’t changed. He is the security you long for.
When I walked through that season of discouragement a few years ago, I eventually realized I was trying to hide behind a fake smile and a false sense of control. Once I opened up about what was really going on inside, I took my first step toward healing.
If you need to lament like Jeremiah, God will listen to each and every cry. He isn’t scared away by our honest admissions of hopelessness. As a matter of fact, they could be the catalyst that pushes back toward the source of all hope.
If you need to shift your focus from a struggle or worry and see what God is already doing in your life, I encourage you to pick of a copy of my book, Shift: Changing Our Focus to See the Presence of God. I talk more about the ways a simple shift can change everything. Many people have sent me messages saying it impacted their life and helped them see how God was working in the midst of a hard season. This encourages my heart so much. I pray that God continues to use it to touch lives.
Here’s what one reader said:
“Shift invites us to redirect our focus from our problems, stressors, and fears of the unknown and to set our gaze upon the certainty of God’s character and his faithful word. The best part is that Abby doesn’t talk about faith from a theoretical perspective; she gives us practical tools and shows us how we can know God’s presence in the middle of the the mundane.
If you’ve ever wanted to experience Jesus outside of a Sunday worship service, this book is written just for you.” -Amy
You can pick up a copy of Shift by clicking the image below.