In part 2 of this “Dear St. John” letter, I want to address all of the ways you will be tempted to respond to this confusing season. It’s important to realize that just because God isn’t seeming to pick up the phone, leaving him 200 voicemails a day isn’t the solution (metaphorically speaking).
During this new time you are going to experience a lot of different temptations. The first: the temptation to feel guilty. You feel guilty because you still think you are capable of controlling your spiritual growth. You feel responsible for whether or not God chooses to give you the pleasure of His presence. The second temptation is related to the first. You will be tempted to jump back into your old disciplines with more intensity than ever before. When we have been habituated into a spirituality of “cause and effect” it is hard to get out of that mind set. For instance, when I engage in a particular spiritual exercise and as a result feel loved by God, and then a week later engage in that exact same spiritual exercise and don’t feel loved by God, it is easier to believe I am doing the activity wrong, instead of believing the formula was flawed to begin with.
The third temptation is to get weary of doing the disciplines all together. Your reasoning might sound similar to something like this, “Because reading the Bible doesn’t bring pleasure anymore and since every time I read the Bible I just feel guilty about not getting anything out of it, I’ll just stop reading the Bible in general.” Now, when you do spiritual disciplines you no longer feel God, but you only feel yourself, which might not feel good, but doesn’t mean it’s bad. Your time in the Scriptures might reveal more about who you are and what you love and less about who God is. These are things God already knows about, and now wants you to know too.
Also, you might be tempted to despair the spiritual life altogether. This doesn’t mean that you will necessarily turn away from God, but you will be tempted towards a deep resignation that God is not present in your life as He used to be. This will be confusing and frustrating if you still believe you are in control of making God show up…
[Part 3: How to Respond to God’s Silent Treatment]
Potential Next Steps for you: Learn More About Personal Spiritual Direction