What does it look like to address an issue of the affections by exposure to the attractiveness of our Lord, rather than by effort of the flesh?
Perhaps the marriage analogy can help here. If I am growing cold in my affections toward my wife (which, if she reads this, I am not!), then the solution is not to “do the right thing.” I can go and buy flowers and give them to her and even say “I love you” through clenched teeth. That doesn’t do much for me, and does even less for her. I am much better off simply being with her, allowing her attractiveness to draw my affections to her again. That is what I’m suggesting spiritually – allow the love of God to draw you to Him.
One last suggestion that has helped me was given to me by a good friend several years ago. I pass it on to you gladly. If I don’t feel like reading the Bible and being exposed to the attractive beauty of God’s grace, I don’t pretend otherwise and force myself, I tell him so. “Lord, I don’t feel like reading your Word today. Other things are far more interesting and attractive to me…” Praying honestly (and out loud!) tends to bring conviction and brokenness as the Spirit of God works in my heart. Before long I am broken at the foot of the cross, overwhelmed by the grace of God to a sinner like me. Before long I want to be in His Word, not as an external duty, but with a captured heart, strangely warmed, but never proud of my own effort!
Is it me, or is motivation cyclical? I’ll use the term motivation, but it overlaps with issues of spiritual dryness, struggles with temptation, seasons of spiritual attack and so on.
The One-Week Cycle – Most of us recognize this one. We build toward Sunday and then crash on Monday. Some take Monday off. Others use Monday for brain-dead admin catch-up. Few preachers I know are at their best emotionally or spiritually on a Monday.
The One-Year Cycle – This is easy to spot too. Something about January seems to reinvigorate and stir resolutions. Perhaps December is so busy for you that it takes until February before the new year energy kicks in for you. Nonetheless, there seems to be an injection of energy at the start of the new year for many of us.
The Six-Week Cycle – This is the one that is perhaps most significant for me. Perhaps its just me, but I’ve noticed a roughly six-week cycle in my own motivation. It could be 4-8 weeks, but I’ll call it 6 (I won’t call it 40 days in case it sounds like I have, or am making up, a biblical case for it). It seems like I can trace a dip in motivation, or an increase in temptation, or a dip into dryness, roughly every six weeks.
You may be perpetually up, or unceasingly low, or you may notice some cyclical nature to your spiritual, emotional, ministerial motivation. I think it is good to know our own patterns, to be aware of our own weaknesses, and to seek to deal with these things not through the effort of the flesh, but in an appropriate spiritual manner. I’ll give my thoughts on that tomorrow.