I’m there. Actually, I’ve been there a while. You know that place I’m talking about–the one where ideas are few and far between, where God seems so far away, where the old tricks aren’t working, where what you’re trying feels like much less than what’s necessary, where your spiritual journey seems to be lacking heart. I’m in a place where I’ve dug a hole so deep that I cannot climb out, and it seems like my efforts to get out only make the hole deeper.
I know you’ve been there. We all have dealt with the very real spiritual rut that leaves us feeling like we’re the LAST person who can effectively minister to anyone! The funny thing is that that’s exactly when God uses us the most. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'” When I am down and feeling defeated, it seems like even the smallest victory is that much bigger. When I am broken, he is able to use me in ways that I never thought possible. When I am at my lowest, God’s power is revealed that much more fully!
It’s amazing to me that even the most well planned ministry triumphs in failure! God uses each of us, whether spiritually dry or spiritually high, to share his love with others. We can be so idealistic when we’re new to ministry. We think everything will be perfect and that we’ll touch the lives of every student in our youth programs. Then, we see the reality of the world today, and the true hurt of our students becomes obvious. We find that our best ideas don’t work out quite like we anticipated. It’s easy to get sidetracked when we realize that real ministry is with real people. It’s then that we realize that God is in control, not us. It’s then that ministry points to God instead of to the person He’s working through.
One of my favorite authors, Ray Blackston, penned this statement which I think sums up ministry very well:
We spend vast amounts of time and energy crafting a thesis in our heads of how life [ministry] should play out, then Almighty God spends an incredibly brief amount of time blowing our thesis to bits!
Now, I’m not encouraging the lack of planning by any means, but somehow, what we want our students to learn is rarely what they actually learn. It seems that when I’m stuck in my hole, God finds a way to show me that He is doing the real work and that I am not alone. When we plan everything concisely, God likes to show us that His dreams for our ministry are vastly different than ours. It’s incredible to see how God uses us when we step aside and let Him through.
I love how my longing for a better relationship with Christ is just a tool for him to not only make me into who He wants me to be, but that He chooses to use my “dryness” to teach my youth that He can work through anyone. I love how when I plan a retreat, a devotion, a chapel or a lesson, He uses it in a way that I never expected! It’s amazing that all my ideals and expectations for ministry are blown out the window when God is really in control.
My expectations of ministry are still a bit idealistic. And, I still find myself in a spiritual rut at times, but how comforting it is to know that He uses my smallest efforts for His glory. It’s wonderful to know that as I dig deeper and deeper, God is up above putting dirt below my feet so that I might rise up and get closer to Him. And, all the while, He’s demonstrating His love to the people around me.
Believe me, knowing that God is using you while you’re in that hole does not make it that much easier. But next time you find yourself there, watch out, because God’s got something up His sleeve. He will be using you in someone’s life, even if you can’t see it.