Surviving a Spiritual Funk: Anchor Your Heart

Note: This is the second post in a “Surviving a Spiritual Funk” series. If you missed the first one, you can read it here.

I’ve been sitting here trying to think of a unique, semi-original metaphor for the unpredictable nature of our emotions.

I’ve got nothing.

The only picture that keeps coming to mind is a little boat trying to make its way across a vast ocean. Sometimes the waters are smooth and oh-so-beautiful. The boat glides across it and navigates with confidence toward the intended destination, which happens to be in clear site. Other times the waters are turbulent and terrifying. The boat is violently tossed up and down and survival becomes the one and only goal.  The destination is shrouded in darkness and the stormy sea becomes nearly impossible to navigate. There are, of course, the “in between” times as well when the waters aren’t smooth or turbulent, just choppy. Navigating the little boat doesn’t seem impossible, but it sure is hard. The driver of the boat longs for calmer waters. She craves a smoother ride. She looks around at others gliding so confidently toward their desired havens and wishes she wasn’t stuck riding wave after wave of wind-tossed waters.

Life provides all kinds of “weather” that both stirs and stabilizes the waves of our emotions. Our hearts are like little boats on those unpredictable waters trying so hard to stay the course, but at times wondering when and if calmer waters will ever come . . . praying desperately for it to happen NOW.

Ever been there? Ever felt that way?

If you’ve ever experienced a “spiritual funk,” you have.

One of the most agonizing things about spiritual depression is the seemingly impossible task of snapping out of it. Emotions get the better of you over and over again as the distance between what you know to be true and what you feel to be true grows wider and wider. One minute you’re riding high on a wave of spiritual desire. The next minute, you’re sucked under an emotional current with absolutely no sense of God’s presence whatsoever.   To me, nothing is more aggravating than a heart that just won’t cooperate! If only I could master my emotions once and for all! Not likely this side of heaven (at least not as long as PMS is a reality in my life), but a girl can dream, right?

Though we may never attain complete, once-and-for-all mastery of our emotions, there is great hope for unsteady, wind-tossed hearts. At the bottom of that vast and sometimes turbulent sea of human affections is a solid foundation of truth. When anchored to that truth, there is no spiritual storm that we cannot survive. We anchor ourselves by “marinating” on that foundation (you know I had to slip that word in somewhere!).

So what exactly is that foundation? What must the anchor of our hearts cling to? What truths are able to steady our faith even when our feelings lag so far behind?

Though they are vast and varied, I’ve narrowed those truths down to two unchangeable realities that can turn any spiritual funk into an opportunity for deeper faith. Here they are:

  • We must anchor our hearts in the unchanging reality of who God is.

Okay, so there’s no way I can do this point justice here. In fact, there’s no way I could do it justice anywhere! What I can do is remind you of the fact that no matter how crazy life gets, no matter how blind-sided you are by a series of difficult circumstances, no matter how many twists and turns God allows along your path, no matter how long you’ve been begging to get off the emotional rollercoaster ride, one thing never, ever changes. Your God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8).

If you’ve ever spent any time studying the Psalms of lament, you have noticed that nearly every announcement of despair and desperate cry for relief is followed by an intentional declaration of who God is and remembrance of His past faithfulness. My personal favorite is Psalm 77. Just after lamenting the fact that God seems all-but-absent from his life, the Psalmist writes,

“I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will meditate on all Your work and muse on Your deeds.  Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; You have made known Your strength among the peoples. You have by Your power redeemed Your people” (vv. 11-15).

Another favorite is in the book of Lamentations where Jeremiah follows a very vivid, heart-breaking description of his utter despair with these words:

“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him” (Lam 3:21-24, emphasis added).

In Psalm 42, after asking the question, “Why are you in despair, O my soul?” the psalmist concludes, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (v. 11)

When your soul is in anguish and your spiritual affections hang in the balance, there is no better way to steady your heart than to choose to praise God for being God. “I will yet praise Him!” must be the battle cry of every Christian fighting for joy in a spiritual desert.

The battle is won or lost based on our willingness to anchor ourselves in the solid rock of who God is. He has never once been unfaithful to His children. He has never ever forsaken His blood-bought kids. He has never ceased to be good to those who He sovereignly chose to be His own. What in the world makes you think you will be the one exception? Not a chance!

  • We must anchor our hearts in the unchanging reality of the gospel.

Sometimes we get the idea that while salvation is accomplished by grace, sanctification (the process of becoming more and more like Jesus) is accomplished through struggle. The truth is it’s all grace from beginning to end. We are saved by grace (Eph. 2:8,9), we grow by grace (2 Peter 3:18), and one day we will be fully redeemed by grace (1 Cor. 1:4, 8-9).

God is not only sovereign over my conversion to Christ. He is sovereign over my conformity to Christ. Yes, I am to “work out my salvation with fear and trembling,” but that would accomplish absolutely nothing if it weren’t for the fact that God “is at work in me, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12, 13).

To me, one of the greatest treasures in the whole of God’s Word is the benediction given at the end of the tiny New Testament book of Jude:

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (vv. 24, 25).

Who keeps us from stumbling? God does. Who makes us stand before Him blameless? God does. When all is said and done, who secures our joy? God does!

Here’s the bottom line: God’s faithfulness to sanctify us, to get us ready for heaven, is not ultimately dependent on our faithfulness to do everything we ought to do. It certainly doesn’t depend on our faithfulness to feel everything we ought to feel. First Thessalonians 5:23 and 24 says it this way:

“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass” (emphasis added).

Your growth in godliness in not just a process, it’s a promise. Jesus is both the author and the perfecter of your faith (Heb. 12:2).

Rest in that today, sweet sister. Anchor your heart in the hope of the gospel. As you fight for joy, fight knowing that the victory has already been secured for you. The battle is ultimately the Lords, and He has promised your good for the sake of His glory.

If you feel out of control, all washed up, or spiritually capsized today; if you are fed up with your wishy-washy heart; if you’re sick and tired of the emotional turbulence;   it’s time to let down your anchor and sink deep into the unfailing, unchanging,  unshakable, all-sufficient, utterly faithful, never giving up, indescribable, extravagant love of God. Love that saved you. Love that keeps you. Love that will perfect you. Regardless of how you feel today.

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