Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I had a good talk with my sister Carol today. One of the things that came up was the ease with which we can get gloomy about heavy stuff and our tendency to stay in the gloom...and how counter-productive that can be for ourselves and the people around us. She suggested I write a post about it and lo! I already had one! I searched my drafts and there it was...the very first post I ever wrote, written back in July of 2009 - for some reason, I've never actually posted it. Just waiting for the 'right' time, I guess...hope that means now...

Anyway, here it is:

I was running nice and early one morning back in April. I'd had to drag myself out of bed to make it happen. Not the usual for me - I'm an early riser (note: that's 'early riser,' not 'morning person,' There is a difference....). But today I
really would rather have rolled over for the half hour it would take to run.

I'd chosen Chris Tomlin on the ipod: "Holy is the Lord" and he's singing with all his usual gusto, but today I am just not feeling it. Janie & I had been through yet another 'rough patch' with several health issues and I am physically (lack of sleep) and emotionally (worry) exhausted. Chris is singing, "We stand and lift up our hands, for the joy of the Lord is our strength..." and I am having just no reaction to his words at all. Neutral. Not quite numb, just...neutral. I am aware of only three things: my breathing, the music and the pavement. Otherwise, nothing. Neutral.

Finally, a question emerges into my consciousness: do you suppose God is unhappy with my neutral reaction to the words, "Holy is the Lord God Almighty. The earth is filled with His glory?" I mean, shouldn't there be something, anything, when a Christian is exhorted to exult in the meaning of the words, "the joy of the Lord is our strength?"

But sometimes the joy just isn't there.

Which made me ask myself: Is that sin?

So I got home and sat and read my bible for a while. And mulled the question. I definitely, absolutely, conclusively concluded that it may-or-may-not-be sinful to have no reaction to a call for joy. But seriously, recalling past conversations with my friend Doug Aldrich about worshiping God when one is not 'feeling it,' I came to another conclusion as well. I think, (or at least I hope) that perhaps I might have actually pleased God that joyless morning. Let me explain.

God knows we are sinners and He knows that we face tough circumstances that pound the stuffing out of us. Beyond that, I believe He also designs that we go through some tough stuff for our betterment. Romans 5:3-4 says, "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." (Also check out 1 Peter 1:6-7, James 1:2-4 and 5:10-11, Philippians 1:29, 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 and 16-17.)

So how might I have pleased God that numb April morning?

I just wonder if it might please God when His people, in the face of the tough stuff, get up anyway and get out of bed, put on the Nikes, put on the music and try to get on with things. Kind of like how Rocky Balboa - when he's had the stuffing beaten out of him in the boxing ring - gets up one...more...time. He's all bloody and bruised, but still he gets up again. And again. And again.

Isn't God pleased when we get up and get going, even when we're not 'feeling it?'

I have a naturally melancholy disposition, so introversion and introspective feelings are home base for me. But I have been learning that wallowing in a depressive funk and glooming on the couch of depression is actually pretty self-centered (even narcissistic?). In my gut I feel like it's probably closely related to the sin of pride. Like Janie & I have told our kids countless times: what's in the middle of "sin?" "i!" And we were created for GOD-centeredness. There is no "i" in "God-centered."

God doesn't leave us alone to sort this stuff out; He's working on changing me and that's so great. He's so faithful to me and insists on giving me His Presence, even when I get dull and lifeless. So yeah, I may not have been on the mountain top that morning as I jogged with Chris Tomlin. But I was out there. And that's half the battle.

You don't get out of the valley by standing still.


  1. Thanks, Chris. This was one of those mornings for me right now. I haven't gone "running" yet (for me - a step aerobics video) and was seriously contemplating skipping it as it was a rough night sleep-wise.
    Your perspective, from our Lord, has once again given me hope and a good kick in the pants. Sometimes the joy "feels" different, but the joy of the Lord is our strength to the core.

  2. I think you're absolutely right. There is something to be said for trudging forward when life is soooooo difficult and all around is some kind of novacaine cloud. That's when Truth and the facts about God matter most - when the feeling is all gone. :)

  3. Wow, I'm glad I took some time this morning before the day for some blog reading... similarly, though maybe on the other extreme of a neutral or depressive funk, I've been experiencing some intense passion about right and wrong in the church and personal spiritual disciplines. My fleshly bent is to lose a proper context for that degree of passion. Similar, I guess, in the sense that "I" become my center point and I'm no longer responding to Truth as a 'true worshipper'. Similar too, is God's faithfulness to love me well by bringing me to the Word and to others who can 'hold up a mirror' in a sense. Where would we be if God didn't 'insist' on giving us His Presence, when we're not in it. thx brother.

  4. Dude! (May I call you Dude?)

    I had this conversation twice this week. Once via texting and the other live and in living colour (note: English spelling for no apparent reason).

    Anyway, I came to the half-hearted conclusion that simply being aware of my "neutralness" and recognizing an obligation to praise God no matter how un-feely it is was a minor victory of worship. (If that made any sense, then you are either genius material or certifiable...in Swahili, that is.) Feeling, whether it is a good feeling, or a bad feeling seems to be the bane of my existence. So often, I just don't know what to do with the feeling. And when it's neutral, it seems surreal because I expect to have some sort of feeling. Awareness, or acknowledgment, of God must count for something whether your emotions are revving or idling. Perhaps, I'm still in the milk phase of my spiritual growth, but it's good to see that I'm not the only one who feels "neutral" from time to time.