My Life with God

Spiritual Sludge

Have you ever felt as if you’re in a spiritual sludge?

If so, you’re not alone.

It feels as if some sort of sticky, heavy goop gathers around your feet. Sometimes it feels ankle deep and sometimes waist deep. It clings to you and weighs you down. It feels as if forward motion is impossible. However, the tension you feel indicates your attempt to move forward. If you feel nothing, no resistance, you’ve likely given in to the weight.

Spiritual sludge doesn’t have to stop you. It will slow you down, for sure, but it’s not concrete. It doesn’t stop time. It’s not insurmountable. But let’s be honest: it’s annoying. It’s exhausting, discouraging, and oppressive—especially for people who have experience the sweet spot of spiritual growth and discipline. We’re hard on ourselves when we know the progress resulting in perseverance, and we can’t maximize the pace we’ve experience before.

Spiritual life isn’t about the pace. We often don’t see it that way, because we like results. We want to be able to check off accomplishments and benchmarks. We don’t want to slow down or loop back, but that’s not up to us. Well, part of it is. We have choices every day, which impact our spiritual journey. God invites us to engage with him through the process. But when we slow down, we might blame ourselves or question God. We might want to give up or be able to excuse and explain, when our energy and focus is better spent in the effort of humility.

When we humble ourselves spiritually, we don’t quit: we engage. Humility is not meekness. It is bold, courageous, patient, hopeful, disciplined. When we are spiritually humble, we fervently pursue God and vehemently commit to his instruction—not as we assume it is but in the purest form of what he’s conveying to us each moment of the day.

True humility is relational, and it is only healthy (unlike the unhealthy versions of humility we tie to abuse, laziness, and deception).

With humility, spiritual sludge is still cake with awfulness, but it has purpose and hope. We can’t see ourselves escaping it, because that’s not how we typically get out of it. We pursue God through it. He gives us the strength we know we don’t have. And his progress has different timing and direction than ours.

Sometimes we don’t fully appreciate his provision through the sludge until we have collapsed beyond it and sense his assurance.

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