As the last student trickles out of the house Cara lingers, waiting to see if we can talk. Cara has been one of our most committed and passionate followers of Christ and I always enjoy hearing what Jesus is doing in her life. Today is different. With hot tears pouring down her face, Cara articulates her disillusionment with Jesus. “I want to know Jesus and I’ve been working so hard to spend time with him, but when I am with him my mind races with other things, my body grows restless and my soul doesn’t spark like it used too. I can feel my relationship with Jesus slipping into a lifeless routine and I don’t know what to do.”
Cara is experiencing a slow drift, once alive and overflowing in her relationship with Christ to now finding herself lonely and wandering through a spiritual desert. In reality she is not alone, she is joined by many Christ-followers who find themselves in similar spiritual deserts, thirsting for living water and longing to experience God’s presence once again.
So – how do we find bread and water to survive during these desert seasons?
Remember Your Story. In the book of Revelation, Jesus rebukes the church of Ephesus for being forgetful. “Yet I hold this against you: you have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you a fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first”.
Over and over again through the Scripture, God reminds his people to remember how he has saved them. These memories are meant to be sustenance for us when we are starving and hungry in the desert. These memories are the morsels that keep us alive when we are feeling disillusioned, distant and struggling. So remember!
- Where have you seen God at work in the past?
- When is the last time you heard his voice? What did he say?
Remembering your story will sustain you in the desert.
Pursue those who have gone before. One of the main characteristics that keeps us in the desert is apathy. You know that numbing feeling you get, when it feels as if your heart has gone cold? When we become apathetic, we are no longer hungry or thirsty and have lost motivation to seek, search and find a way out of the desert. In this space we need something to jump start our cold heart. We need to fall in love with Jesus again. In these deserts we need the stories of saints that have gone before us. Reading biographies of men and women who witnessed and experienced the transforming power of Jesus Christ can create a spark in our hearts and make us hungry and thirsty for the same in our own lives.
- Live in the mud hut with Don Richardson as he shares Christ with the indigenous in Africa.
- Take the flight with Bruce Olsen to bring peace to aboriginals in South America.
- Fight the darkness with Jackie Pullinger as she uses the gospel to transform the addicted.
- Sit down with an old saint, someone who has journeyed with Jesus for a long time, and ask them to share their story with you over coffee. (your treat!)
I pray that as we remember Jesus in the desert seasons and as we seek to find Him in other people that the Holy Spirit will use these tools to quench our thirst and fill our stomachs and sustain us for the journey ahead.
For 15 years my family and I have spent our summers travelling and speaking at various camps across our country. I thought I understood what it meant to be a “camp youth worker”. Last summer my eyes were opened in a new way. My wife became the Program Director at Green Bay Bible Camp. I have a new appreciation for full time camp workers. I never really knew what it looked like to work 60 days in a row (I do now). I never really knew what it felt like to constantly carry the weight of responsibility for the safety of 200 guests that have been placed in your care (I still don’t, but I’ve watched my wife do it). I never really knew what it was like to laugh, cry, direct, support and hold accountable, a young staff functioning on little sleep in what may the most effective/important missional environment our country currently has…but I’ve prayed for my wife as she has…and I stand amazed. Amazed at the radical Kingdom commitment my wife, and you my friends, have made for the sake of the Gospel. Thank you. I can’t imagine what the spiritual climate of our country would be, without the work you do. Thank you.
I also can’t imagine how tired you are. How overwhelmed you might feel. How difficult it is to work through evaluations. The emotional highs and lows you may be experiencing. For some of you, how you wonder if you can do it again.
I believe you can. But first, you may need to recover.
As I’ve watched my wife this fall, I’ve been reminded of the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Elijah just finished being a part of an incredible spiritual victory…and he was tired, and he was depressed, and he wondered if he could do it again…he could have been in camp ministry. I love how God responded to him. He was crazy practical.
1 Kings 19:4-9
4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” 5 And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 6 And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” 8 And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.
God’s advice to Elijah for his recovery wasn’t overtly “spiritual”, it was practical, it was physical, it was human.
Let me give you six practical ideas that may help you recover after a long summer.
1. Sleep. Get lots of sleep. Go to sleep early. Ditch your friends in the evening to crash. Take naps during the day. Give yourself permission to sleep. That’s what God did with Elijah. He put him to sleep.
2. Spend a little money on some good food. Fruits, vegetables, protein. Put away the camp food for awhile if possible…especially the junk food. I know there are leftovers in the tuck shop. Give it to your guests…or your kids (you will look like a hero). You go after the good stuff.
3. After sleep and food, start a little exercise program, something physical that you enjoy. Maybe it’s walking, running or climbing. Maybe it’s joining a rec league in your community. Do something that makes you breathe again.
4. Spend some time with friends that fill you up. You have spent the summer “giving” relationally. It’s OK to receive as well. Find some friends that understand your journey and want to invest in you…especially ones that make you laugh!
5. Get away. Go somewhere different. Many of you haven’t been off campus for 2 months. It’s time to remember that there is a world beyond camp. Sometimes taking a break from camp with your body, helps you take a break from camp with your mind.
6. Finally, spend some quiet time with the Father. Create space to hear the Father say, “This is my child, with whom I am well pleased.” Rest on His arms, knowing He loves you not because of what you have done, but because of who’s you are. You belong to the King.