This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:
“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’
(Matthew 13:13-15 ESV)
Some days I am convinced Jesus spoke these words directly about me. I have a wonderful family, a good job, was out in the sun at a beautiful beach and yet could not rouse my heavy heart to respond to God. How to remove such heaviness and get my soul to a place of feeling ‘normal’ even?
At such times reading the Bible becomes a ritual devoid of meaning – eyes navigate the page but it is like reading some arcane academic journal which registers in syntax but carries no passion. Praying is similarly stuck – at least in this there is the reassurance of Romans 8:26 when inarticulate groanings are all I’m good for. What I need is some way of reliably moving myself from torpor to transcendence, something that does not require any existing ‘spiritualness’ as a starting point.
While I do not think it is a full answer, making note of the blessings I can notice does help. It is a nice mechanical thing to do – I can generally find one thing to note reasonably easy and then it gets incrementally easier from there as I pause with each blessing noticed and thank God for it – albeit mechanically! However, sometimes the passionless thanks slowly moves into more enthusiastic thanksgiving and praise as I stumble along looking for the gifts I already have, still asking and yearning for the normalness I most want.
Seeking to understand with my heart
My goal is not primarily to list one thousand gifts, this is merely a tool. I need healing, to get that I need to turn to God and to get that I need to understand with my heart. A part of this is to understand what God has already done for me. By counting blessings I force myself to look, see and notice what God has done and sometimes can even see what He is doing.
Another important element in understanding with my heart is to learn and trust in what God promises to do. The only reliable source of such knowledge is from God’s word, so while Bible reading may seem mechanical and ineffective it remains important. For this there are tricks and techniques which perhaps I should explore in a future post.
I have read that George Mueller said his first priority each day was to get his soul happy in God – this came before praying, otherwise his prayers were not effective. Apparently his way to do this was by reading the Bible and meditating on it.
According to my judgement the most important point to be attended to is this: above all things see to it that your souls are happy in the Lord. Other things may press upon you, the Lord’s work may even have urgent claims upon your attention, but I deliberately repeat, it is of supreme and paramount importance that you should seek above all things to have your souls truly happy in God Himself! (George Mueller’s Strategy for Showing God)
I am wondering if I need to add a preliminary step; taking note of the blessings of God to help my heart move into thanksgiving and then open the Bible and meditate upon God’s words to us and His promises in which I can trust.
Gifts I have noticed recently:
780) Safe holiday travels.
781) Lunch at the Flying Pig Café.
782) Roasting marshmallows over a bonfire.
783) Kids playing on inner tubes on the river.
784) That my daughter didn’t go all the way over the waterfall!
785) Her friend for rescuing her.
786) Dinosaur eggs.
787) Our kids winning the scavenger hunt.
788) An evening with my sister.
789) A quality wee dram.
790) Risk (the board game)
791) Excitement for children being allowed to stay up late.
792) Fitting everything into the car.
793) The familiar feel of my Bible pages.
794) Bacon, beans, french toast, fried tomato and fresh coffee for breakfast.
795) Rain on our parched garden.
796) Children in bare feet.
797) Bees on clover.
798) A relaxed, slow start to the day.
799) Another round of potty training.
800) Knowing I still have so much to learn.
801) A long walk beside the river.
802) The flash drive which accidentally went through the washing machine and still works!
803) Finding just the right birthday present for my son.
804) Making a new sandpit.
805) Daughters being invited to stay with their cousins.
806) The chatter of 3 year-old son.
807) 10 year-old daughter wanting to hang out with her Dad.
808) Afternoon sun shining through the stained glass window in our room as I count blessings.
809) The shadow of a power pole showing me a cross as I cry out to God.
810) Printer not working, forcing me to slow and write out my list by hand.
811) Lions and tigers lined up on a window sill.
812) Flavouring to add to the muddy tasting river water.
813) Corn on the cob.
814) My wife correcting our eldest daughter.
815) Quiet and solitude when my heart is heavy.
816) the snoring wheeze of my son sleeping.
817) my failure to fight for joy driving me to Christ in prayer.
Photo: nstanev (iStock)