When the Covid-19 crisis rolled across Europe in March, everything changed. Maybe you found the experience overwhelming, or challenging, or perhaps even invigorating. Somehow, when crisis hits and our adrenaline surges, we tend to lean on the Lord and find ways through the situation. But after adrenaline there is always a settling period, when it is the most normal thing in the world to feel emotionally flat. Maybe by now you have arrived there too?
Two Types of Feeling Flat
When we feel flat we tend to have lowered motivation and energy. We may be doing less, but somehow feeling more tired. We feel a loss of creativity and initiative. Flatness is not a new feeling, but having so many of us experience it at the same time is slightly unusual.
“I’m feeling flat” is something I’ve heard a lot recently. But there is another type of flatness that is perhaps more concerning. It is the unconscious flatness that we don’t tend to recognize in ourselves – we don’t spot it in the mirror.
Unconscious flatness could be called spiritual coasting. Coasting is where you disengage the motor of the car you are driving and allow past momentum and present circumstances to roll the car forwards. This kind of driving is dangerous. It changes the braking and steering in the car, but perhaps most concerning is that it can give a false sense of security. After all, the engine noise reduces and the car keeps moving forwards.
We need to respond when we are feeling flat, especially when we become aware of this unconscious flatness, or spiritual coasting.
Responding to Feeling Flat
The typical human response to feeling flat will not be spiritually healthy. We may default to distraction, to self-recrimination, or to laziness. That is, we can fill the void with busy work, new pursuits, or entertainment. We can beat ourselves up with the “I need to try harder!” kind of self-coaching. Or we can settle into our flat state and get comfortable. Typical human responses will tend to be self-oriented and spiritually unhealthy.
What should we do when we understandably feel flat or discover we have drifted into a state of flatness? Our emotions are great indicators of deeper realities in our hearts, and they should be prompts to connect relationally – with others, and with God.
When we feel flat, we tend to pull back from others. Living through a pandemic only reinforces that possibility – it is a government-mandated withdrawal! But spiritually we need to connect and fellowship with our brothers and sisters in whatever way we can (even if that means using Zoom!)
Most of all, we need to re-connect with Christ. We need to spend time with Him, because only Christ can invigorate our hearts and stir life in us. And yet our default fleshly response will be to pull in the opposite direction.
Let me share one thing about Christ that may encourage you to bring your tired and emotionally flat heart to Him in these days. I want to point to two passages and focus particularly on what they teach about how Christ cares for the weak and vulnerable. Does going to Christ mean accessing the ultimate personal trainer who can shout the loudest? Not at all.
Motivation for Connection
Isaiah 42:1-4 is the first of Isaiah’s famous “Servant songs.” At first glance it could look intimidating. After all, three times it declares that this servant of the LORD will establish justice on the earth. Surely one who is tough on crime will be overwhelmingly powerful and intimidating? But not so. Verse 2 tells us that he is not full of himself, nor does he demand everyone’s attention. And verse 3 describes his way of dealing with the weak:
“a bruised reed he will not break,
And a faintly burning wick he will not quench.”
That is the kind of God that motivates me to lift a bruised and tired heart up toward him. Feeling flat? Connect with the only one who can be fully trusted with your heart.
That truth is painted in narrative colour in John 21. The adrenaline of the first Easter has faded and seven of the disciples are back in Galilee, heading out to fish for the night. Whatever their motivation, I am sure that part of the issue was that they felt flat. Read the chapter and watch Jesus care for them. He could have criticized, shouted, corrected, berated, or chastised them. He didn’t.
Instead, Jesus gently reminds them of their calling to ministry by miraculously filling their nets with fish, again. He gently reminds them that he will continue to provide for them by lovingly preparing a barbecued breakfast, a God-given meal of fish and bread, again. He gently re-established Peter’s position within the group by re-affirming his shepherding role. In this chapter he reminds them of their calling to evangelism and edification ministries, he reminds them of his ability to continue to provide for them, and he even grants Peter his desire to die for Jesus – only this time with a 30+ year warning. The content of his teaching is powerful and challenging, but his manner is gentle and tender.
This is the kind of God that can motivate us to lift our flattened hearts up toward him. Dare to connect with the only one who can be fully trusted with your heart.
I have recently been adding highlights from John’s Gospel to my YouTube channel: