Counsel for Christians in Crisis: I Feel Spiritually Stagnant

My spiritual life seems cold and stagnant. Please help! It seems like weeks or months since I’ve gotten a fresh thought from my daily reading or been able to stay awake for more than three minutes when praying. Is my condition serious?”

Coldness is usually caused by your environment. If you live in the Yukon, unless you bundle up against it when you are out in the elements (proper separation) and take every opportunity to be warmed (fellowship with other believers) coldness and resulting sluggishness will become the accepted norm. You can function for a while with cold hands and feet, but once your heart drops below 95°F, hypothermia sets in and will become fatal if not treated. The best way to fight spiritual hypothermia is the way the two on the Emmaus road did in Luke 24. Close communion with the Lord over the Scriptures will provide for a “good fever” that the world will not be able to take away.

Stagnancy is usually caused by a low ebb or inaction. We have a creek running through our property, and during late summer, it often ceases to flow resulting in murky, foul-smelling water. Any aquatic life there soon dies. Fountains, rivers, and creeks need an outlet as well as an inlet to be a blessing. Are you engaged in the proper activity for your age and stage of life? If you are saved, have you been baptized? If baptized, have you taken your place in the local assembly? For example, young brothers, are you taking part in worship and prayer? Young sisters, are you taking the opportunity to invite children to Sunday school and visiting the widows in your assembly? Have you spoken a word to your classmates or fellow employees about your Savior or told them how you were saved?

Some of us timid folks might slip them a Seed Sower text or an appropriate tract. Busyness without a burden is not the answer to stagnancy. However, James gave the principle, “To him that knows to do good and does not do, to him it is sin” (James 4:17, NKJV). Complete spiritual inaction will only produce dryness of spirit and a moribund outlook.

How serious is my condition?

About two years ago I began to realize something wasn’t right in my life. It affected my thoughts, my habits, and especially my speech. At first I brushed it off, attributing it to circumstances and stress, but as things progressed, I began to realize it was something serious that needed to be faced and fixed if at all possible.

Recognition of something being wrong is a giant step towards diagnosis and correction. Like physical health, the onset of most spiritual illnesses is gradual. In matters of physical health, it is unwise to do internet self-diagnosis, but in spiritual things it is the best place to start, not on the internet, but with an open Bible!

We cannot expect to be without valleys of adversity, drumbeat of monotony, or even the bed of weariness, but there comes a time when we know something is wrong. We must submit to the searchlight of God, the knife of the Divine Surgeon, and ultimately the Balm of Gilead.

David had come to this point in Psalm 139. He knew it was serious. You can never err in going directly to the Great Physician. He first acknowledged the qualifications of the Lord to know and to deal with his situation. He admitted (v6) he didn’t have either the knowledge or the skills. You should not trust just any doctor on the internet, or others who claim to have the answers. In my case I consulted with those who I knew would have my best interest in view. Have you asked the elders of your local assembly for some insights or help with your spiritual stagnancy? You might be surprised to learn that they have experienced your exact symptoms … and also the cure.

In Psalm 139, David realizes his cold and stagnant condition is caused by both actions and thoughts (v2). He understands that the Lord knows his past, his future, and is actively concerned in his present circumstances (v5). Later in the psalm, he recognizes that the root problem is his enemies: Satan, the world, and the wickedness of his own flesh. Most of the rest of the psalm is taken up with how to think rightly, that is, to think God’s thoughts.

If you acknowledge your condition is serious, a good self-exam will include questions such as:

What have I been feeding on lately?

No food? e.g. dusty Bible

Junk food? e.g. questionable movies, You-tube videos, etc.

Where have I been that I was exposed to a virus or some poison?

Bad doctrine about Christ or the assembly

Evolution and other postmodern influences

Whom have I been around recently from whom I picked up some contagion?

Charismatic friends who seem to have daily miracles

Materialist friends who have a lot more stuff than me

What have I done (or not done) that could have caused lethargy?

Secret or unconfessed sin

Hard thoughts toward other believers

Similar to David’s spiritual experience, I submitted to the searchlight of an MRI which revealed that a tumor had been growing in me, likely for years, and needed to be removed. One year ago, I laid down on the operating table and trusted the neurosurgeon to do what I could never do on my own (and this time it was brain surgery!)

Could my spiritual condition be even more serious?

David comes to God again in Psalm 51 with a more desperate cry because he knows the reason for his coldness and stagnancy is his own willful and blatant sin. If you have not read this psalm lately, do it. See if it doesn’t find an echo in your own soul and lead you to consider the cross where every sin was paid and, thank God, your heart can be cleansed and the joy of your salvation can be restored.