A few weeks back, our brother Chris Dulude sent me an essay he’d written about a recent spiritual struggle. He’d noticed some distance creeping in between him and his Lord.
I found the piece so insightful that I thought it would help others as well. I approached him about sharing it as a blog and he was more than happy to do so.
Part testimony, part spiritual introspection, part telling on himself, Chris’ essay cuts to the very heart of a struggle we all encounter from time to time on our spiritual journey. I trust it will bless you as much as it did me! As always, I’ve developed a few questions for reflection.
In the Victorious One,
by Chris Dulude
I noticed a strange but not unfamiliar event today. A relapse. But this relapse was not one that an alcoholic like myself is intimately familiar with.
This relapse was a ‘spiritual’ relapse.
I’ve been sober from alcohol for approximately nine years. Prior to these nine years I had many attempts at sobriety and each attempt ended with a relapse. I’d be sober some period of time, could be a few days in a detox, a month or more in a rehab, or for some period of time after a detox or rehab. Then one day, bam, I’d pick up a drink and who knows how long it would be before I stopped again.
I did learn over the years that relapse didn’t happen at the instant I picked up a drink. It typically was growing within me over a period of time leading up to picking up that drink. It sat semi-dormant while my mind allowed it to fester.
Reading the Signs
There are acronyms helping to identify when it is happening. For example, HALT: hungry, angry, lonely and tired, when you notice these symptoms you must react fast because a relapse is around the corner.
It takes some time to get good at noticing these signs.
But these learning experiences get you to be a recovering alcoholic with time under your belt. I should note that my recovery as it stands today is due to believing in God as the One who could relieve me of my alcoholic obsession, a surrender. Therefore, it is a spiritual recovery.
A Growing Distance
The spiritual relapse I experienced today though is not related to alcohol. Today I became aware that the same pattern had developed as did in my early recovery many years ago.
You see, about a week or so ago I noticed a slight separation from my “good feeling” of being with God. I still prayed, read the Bible in the morning and evening, and read Bible commentaries in the evening also. I listened intently to Pastor Gene speaking on Sunday and cherished all the knowledge I was gaining.
But something had created a rift and as the days went on, I became aware that I was progressively not feeling right about something spiritually. I was easily irritable, quick to anger, judgy and just plain miserable.
But today was the lash out day. I argued with anyone who crossed my path, willing to fight if need be.
What had happened? A spiritual relapse.
How it happened? I am not sure, but I am willing to take a shot at it.
A Refusal to Surrender
Surrender didn’t happen. My total surrender to Jesus, my Savior, has been a battle for a year and a half. I’m willing to go only so far in following Jesus.
Because I go to bed early, I won’t commit to anything after 6:00 pm.
For the past few months, I’ve been bowling on Sundays after church, destroying my reflection time on the Word of God.
I’ve questioned God’s sovereignty ten minutes after He’s revealed something amazing to me. This is to name a few.
I am aware that God’s will for me is no mystery. In order to mature in faith, I must pass over the threshold that separates me from a deeper relationship with Him.
He’s been telling me for a long time to go to Pastor Dave’s group on Wednesdays.
He’s been telling me for a long time to become part of the church community at a higher level.
He’s been telling me that my intellectual journey into faith has reached a point where it’s time for works – either that, or face stagnation.
Or even worse, a spiritual relapse!
- Have you ever experienced what Chris calls a ‘spiritual relapse’?
What did this look like for you?
How did you manage it?
Were you able to recover? How long did it take?
Did it have any lingering effects?
- Are you able to read the telltale signs that trouble may be ahead in your walk with God?
What do they look like for you?
How are you able to act upon them before they act upon you?
- Chris writes, “I should note that my recovery as it stands today is due to believing in God as the One who could relieve me of my alcoholic obsession, a surrender.”
How has Jesus given you the victory over sinful patterns or obsessions that had enslaved you?
Are you careful to give Him the glory for every victory? (Remember Paul’s exaltation in 1 Corinthians 15:57: “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”)
- Have you ever sensed your “good feeling” with God slip away, even though you were going through the motions – reading the Bible, praying, listening attentively to the preaching of God’s Word?
- What do you think of Chris’ conclusion that, “Surrender didn’t happen”?
Has it happened in you?
In what areas has God been speaking, but you’ve been resisting.
Where do you need to surrender?
What leaven is standing between you and a vibrant walk with Jesus?
- Chris writes that “God’s will for me is no mystery. In order to mature in faith, I must pass over the threshold that separates me from a deeper relationship with Him.”
What a great word picture! What threshold must you pass through in order to experience a deeper life in Jesus?
What’s keeping you from doing so?
- Is there something you need to talk with Jesus about today?
Colossians 3:9-10 “… you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator.”
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