A few years ago I was in a season where I was struggling to figure out my purpose, so I took a spiritual gifts assessment. These assessments require answering a series of questions, much like how you would take a Myers-Briggs test. As with any of these assessments, the outcome depends on how you answer the questions—which is to say they can depend on your mood. This particular time, my results lined up with what people in my life had been telling me all along—that I was creative and should be using those gifts. I got excited and filled up on “with God nothing is impossible” spirit. A few weeks went by. I woke up one day not quite as excited, not feeling that same level of invincibility. Pretty soon that became the rule more than the exception, and I wondered how I was ever so on fire in the first place.
In America, we pride ourselves on our “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality. We have self-help books and courses and motivational speakers whose job is to pump us up and convince us we can do anything we put our minds to. The problem is, there are some of us for whom this type of pep rally does not work past the initial flood of emotion. Once those resources have been exhausted, we are exhausted. It’s at about this point I begin to give up. I start believing I’ve chosen the wrong course of action and I switch to something else. Another thing I’ve been told often is that I don’t stick with things long enough.
I needed more than a pep talk, more than a self-help book, more than a swift kick in the pants. I needed to run to a well that never runs dry.
Consistency does not come naturally to me. I tend to go by how I’m feeling on a certain day, rather than setting up healthy routines. I wasn’t born with the same kind of intrinsic self-motivation that so many others seem to have. I don’t know about you, but for me, it can be grueling to get back to healthy rhythms once I have fallen away from them. There have been times where it has taken weeks, months, even years for me to return. It feels much safer to give in to the lies that I will never feel better, that I’m bored with my work, or whatever. Why? Because it requires zero effort and zero risk. What happens if I exert this effort and run into a brick wall? Who wants that? It’s much easier to do nothing.
I’ve been reading the book “Boundaries” by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend. In Chapter 5, under the heading “Law 9: The Law of Activity” it reads: “We know that God is not mean to people who are afraid; the Scripture is full of examples of his compassion. But he will not enable passivity. The ‘wicked and lazy’ servant was passive. He did not try. God’s grace covers failure, but it cannot make up for passivity. We need to do our part.” I’ve come to realize that “our part” involves spending time with our Creator.
My word for this year is “abide,” taken in the context of John 15:5 where Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” I find that my motivation begins to wane if I haven’t been spending quality time with God. It’s the spiritual equivalent of feeling sluggish because you’ve eaten too many things you know aren’t good for you.
Of course, the solution was simple. I knew what I should be doing, but I wasn’t doing it. If I really believed that I couldn’t do anything apart from God, I needed to get serious about spending time with Him. I still believed that I was supposed to be using my creative gifts in some way, but I needed the motivation to do it. I needed more than a pep talk, more than a self-help book, more than a swift kick in the pants. I needed to run to a well that never runs dry.
There is another verse in the bible that says: “God is the one who enables you both to want and to actually live out his good purposes.” (Philippians 2:13) How can I want what God wants and live it out if I don’t spend time with Him? I find that I rely far too much on my own strength and it ends up getting me nowhere. It can be frustrating at times, feeling like you don’t have the motivation or the energy to do what you feel God is calling you to do. But for those of us who feel this way, perhaps it is more of a blessing than we realize. It means we must go to God to get what we need and accomplish what He’s purposed. It means allowing His glory to be seen in us because we clearly can’t do this on our own. It means when I am weak and in need of help, I can go to the One with unlimited resources. My motivation may not always be what it should, but if I am abiding in Christ, He will enable me to press on.