My Love For Jesus Stinks

CandleIt’s time for a little heart-to-heart, Stephen to [insert your name, address, and credit card #] confession: my love for Jesus stinks. Honestly, that’s how it feels right now. For the past month-and-a-half my devotional times have stunk. I sit down to read my Bible, and within minutes I’m distracted. I’m thinking about March Madness (my bracket is a mess), about this blog, about projects at work, and about my little girl Charis, who I can hear stirring in her crib. I look up to the ceiling and I can actually see my prayers bouncing back at me. At least that’s what it feels like. It’s really frustrating. Can you relate to me?

But honestly, I’m not discouraged. Why? Because I see desire in my heart. I really do want to love Jesus. I really do want to treasure his word, and delight in prayer, and love the Lord with all my heart. And that brings me great comfort. Sure my love for Jesus stinks right now, but there’s a spark of love, and that’s not from me. Sparks come from God.

Jesus doesn’t blow out sparks of love. That’s sweet news to this smoldering heart. Matthew 12:20 says:

a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench…

Right now it feels like my love for Jesus is nothing more than a smoldering wick. Jesus is the one who breathes new flame into a smoldering wick. He was the one who lit the flame of love in my heart, and he’s the one who will keep it alive. Sweet news for faint-hearted folks like me.

So here’s my prayer: Jesus set my heart aflame with love for You! I want to love you with all my heart, but right now I’m cold. Change me, cleanse me, and renew me. Renew again the joy of my salvation. Thank you that you promise to do this.

Help me out here. What encouragement do you have for me? What encourages you when your love for Jesus is nothing more than a smoldering wick?

Comments

  1. says

    Rev 2:5 “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.”
    When I am that smoldering wick, I look back on what God has done in sanctifying me and thank Him for doing that and try and get back into those “habits”

  2. Stephen Altrogge says

    Jason,

    Excellent. It is so good to remember that God has brought me this far, and will continue to sanctify me. By God’s grace I’m still having a quiet time, it’s just really distracted. What would you suggest if I’m still doing the right things, but they seem lackluster?

  3. NM says

    When I’m getting easily distracted and find less affection for God in my heart, I often find it helpful to stick in my earphones and listen to gospel songs while I’m reading. I know not everyone can read & listen to music :) But I find it really helpful to warm my affections while I’m reading (and it conveniently blocks out noise around that might distract!)

    • Steve Malone says

      Love it NM! That's what I've just started to do, really effective.

      Stephen, thankyou so much for your blog post. Really encouraging! I think serving in one's local church is one of the most effective means by which one's smoldering wick can be given fuel. That's what I found this morning – my quiet time was dodgey – seriously. It stank. I was all over the place. BUT, God in His grace allowed me to connect with a bunch of godly believers this morning as I served in my local church, Sovereign Grace Church Sydney Australia. Coming back from that, I was afreshly reminded that although my Quiet Times may frequently 'stink', His Church doesn't…and brother you can KNOW that no matter how odorous your quiet time may seem, the fragrance evident in His Church will continue to bring you joy I'm sure…all because of the Cross.
      -Steve

  4. Diana says

    Thank you for this encouragement, Stephen. I definitely needed to hear about God being happy about the desire in our heart, even when we are not as satisfied with how the desire is manifested.
    I have struggled with being distracted through devotions a lot. I feel that one way that I can focus is to write (my prayers, my thoughts, verses I like.) It directs my energy to one place- you have to concentrate on words when writing them down.
    Also, if I have someone who I am accountable to sharing with, I am less distracted. Sometimes my fiance and I try to share one piece wisdom or encouragement we have gained from our devotions every day, and when you have that goal, you are more apt to be looking for what to share.

    This blog has encouraged me so much over the past few weeks. Praise God for speaking through you.

  5. FreedbyJC says

    I had a SBC Music minister friend who had a plaque on his desk that read, “To Sing is To Pray Twice.”

    Peter said that to him it refers to ‘what’s in the heart comes out of the mouth.’ Pete heard the music, formed the words in his head, pushed them down through his heart and sang them to God and to His Glory…

    Sometimes my prayers seem to bounce back too but if I’ll sing and make those songs my prayers [and my prayers a song] then if feel that God will receive the offering of my praise as my prayer to Him and to His Glory.

  6. says

    I am certainly no expert in this but had a couple of thoughts.

    You are being obedient. Your prayer sounds like a Psalm which is obviously a good thing.

    Although it doesn’t sound like you’re going through great darkness, He allows us to go through the Dark Night of the Soul or the dark valley (Ps 23) to strengthen us. Knowing that His power is at work within us is comforting to me. We can know that He will finish what He started as He sees fit. (Phil 1:6, Jude 1:24-25, 2 Tim 1:2, 1 Thess 5:24)

  7. Leslie says

    I once heard a conference speaker say that if you feel like your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling, it’s okay because God’s in the room with you! And even better, He’s IN me and I’m IN Him! What a thought! Reminding myself of the FACT that He is near really helps me, even when I FEEL He’s far away.

    Also, if possible, would changing the physical place you sit for your devotional time help?

    This blog has been a real encouragement to me! Thank you to both Mark and Stephen for your willingness to be real :).

  8. says

    Yeah.

    What helps me:
    1) Getting some place where I won’t be interrupted and:
    a) praying out loud – just talking with God
    b) read my Bible out loud
    c) sing out loud – from a collection of songs that warm my heart. Some are on my mp3 player, some are youtube vids.

    2) Reading (out loud) the last part of Romans 8 and stopping to think about two things:
    a) no thing and no one can separate me from the love of God in Christ
    b) what if Christ’s love for me could be as weak for Him? It isn’t and for that I give thanks and praise!

    3) Removing those things that come between me and God. This might mean taking a 24-hour break from TV or the internet or [insert YOUR distractor here].

    Stephen, let us know when you get this one figured out.

  9. Stephen Altrogge says

    NM – Thanks for the reminder about worship songs. That’s something I’ve done from time to time, but I think I need to get back into it. I find that gospel centered songs really help me.

    Diana – Right on with the writing. That really helps me concentrate as well. Sometimes I find that when I go from writing to prayer, that’s when I get distracted. But writing is a big help.

    FreedbyJC – Singing prayers, interesting. I never thought of that one.

    ScriptureZealot – Yeah, it doesn’t feel like a dark night of the soul, but you’re right, God lets us go through these things to make us more aware of our need for him. Thanks for the encouragement.

    TimK – I love the out loud stuff. I think I need to incorporate that more into my devotions. It seems that reading/praying out loud does help eliminate distractions.

    Thanks for all the suggestions. Keep them coming!

  10. says

    Stephen: I try to picture that it is God holding me, not me holding God. I can picture myself kicking and screaming, but God holding me from behind, where I can’t see Him, but I feel His presence.

    And I tend to turn to the Psalms (Psalm 71, Psalm 42, and Psalm 130 come to mind as appropriate heart cries!)

  11. Peter says

    Stephen,
    I don’t really have any suggestions for you. There are times that I just get pulled out of that funk, realizing that it’s just feelings and not what’s actually true.
    However, I appreciate the post because I’ve been feeling the same way lately – going through the motions, “doing” stuff, not really feeling like it’s right.

    Thanks to the other posters as well for some ideas on getting out of this rut. I know these things intellectually, but at times it is really hard to “know” them in the experience meaning of the word.

  12. says

    Stephen . . . I know exactly how you feel, buddy. I was there this morning.

    TimK mentioned this, but I highly recommend praying out loud. And constantly telling God you need him. Because you do, and you know it.

    Another thing is to pray that God would open the eyes of your heart to see wonderful things in his word. The message your Dad preached from that passage in Psalm 119 is the message I remember most from him, and it has served me well over the years.

  13. Stephen Altrogge says

    Chris – I’ve thought about going to the Psalms. It seems like that would be a fitting place given where I am right now.

    Peter – Good point that in reality things just feel different. The truth is, God still accepts me, delights in me, and loves me because of Christ, not the quality of my devotions.

    Brando – You suggestion reminds me of Piper’s IOUS. Did you ever hear him talk about those? Very helpful.

  14. says

    I may not have much of value to add here, but when I struggle with times like this (and it seems often), it helps to remind myself of the object love of God in Christ towards me, and not focus so much on my perceived lack of love for Him. After reminding myself of the Gospel and all that Christ done on my behalf, my heart always seem to stir again and affections for the Saviour seem fresh and anew.

  15. Stephen Altrogge says

    DJ – Great point. I always want to start with gospel. God’s love for me is objective, my feelings of love for him are subjective. I want to start with objective truth.

  16. says

    Stephen, don’t forget the song “Whatever my God ordains is right.” Funny as it may seem, God has ordained this season of your life. He’s not surprised by your dryness and “lackluster” approach to your times with Him.

    I think that often, He allows nothing to change those times so that in our desperation, we cry to Him as the only answer to our cold, weak hearts. Let your heart cry “and I’m desperate for you, I’m lost without you.”

    God does promise to draw near to us as we draw to Him, but don’t forget that its only by His mercy we can even draw near in the first place.

    He is truly the only One that can breathe life into your current deadness. Let that truth cause gratefulness. That gratefulness takes you out of your current situation and focuses your mind back to the cross.

    God commands brokenness. He doesn’t want sacrifices. He desires a broken and needy heart that is desperate for His healing hand. Cry out for that. He is the only One that can warm your cold heart. But He is more than powerful to bring the dead to life. He has started working in you – He won’t quit now. Rest there.

  17. says

    Stephen, I can totally relate. Since becoming a dad (my little girl is nearly two), carving out that time to get in the Word has been harder and harder. Recently, I literally had to be knocked down through a health issue to actually spend quality time with the Lord through prayer and the Bible. I’ve found that I have to find time whenever and wherever I can, because the odds of having a set time are pretty long now. But like you, I’m encouraged that the desire to spend time with Jesus, that tiny spark, will not be extinguished. My prayer is that it becomes a flame.

  18. Stephen Altrogge says

    Emily – Thanks for your encouraging words. You’re right, I really do need God to breathe life back into me.

    TreeNewt – May our sparks be made into flames…

  19. says

    I?ve thought about going to the Psalms. It seems like that would be a fitting place given where I am right now.

    I would highly recommend it. I’ve been reading a Psalm a day since November 1 (using the date to keep track) except for dividing up Psalm 119. I’ve never been a big Psalm reader except for a few of my favorites and I wanted to let that model of worship and communication with God to seep in.

    I believe in praying 3x a day (the more formal concentrated type) and reading the Psalm is what I do for the second one in the middle of the day. There is always something to pray about related to each Psalm.
    Jeff

  20. Stephen Altrogge says

    Jeff,

    What do your three prayers a day look like? When you say that they’re more formal, I’m interested to know what that means.

  21. says

    By more formal I’m not meaning written out prayers or liturgical, just a more concentrated time of prayer as opposed to the little bits (hopefully) throughout the day.

    I’m not a morning person so the prayers in the morning are usually short and pertaining to the day ahead, usually before I’m even out of bed. The third time is late afternoon when the bulk of the praying is done like the A-C-T-S example. I try to pray briefly before bed too.

    For a change of pace, at least once or twice a week I pray through a Valley of Vision prayer (and now have the Sovereign Grace Valley of Vision songs on my MP3 player) or other prayers I’ve printed out.

    I did a short post on it here:
    Praying Three Times a Day

  22. Stephen Altrogge says

    Thanks to everybody for their suggestions. They are very helpful. If you have any more please post them.

  23. says

    This entry comforts me because, even though the desire is there, I still get discouraged because nothing seems to be ‘happening’ with it. Although it is not the ideal place to me, it does encourage me to know that this is common to man… and your perspective is a blessing (Sure my love for Jesus stinks right now, but there?s a spark of love, and that?s not from me. Sparks come from God).

  24. M Hickman says

    I need to get more positive about Jesus. Going through a dry spell myself with my faith and beliefs. I keep on my computer these words and read them often. "Faith is a battle between belief and doubt. When you experience doubt, you may be tempted to think you have lost your faith. But take heart, If you did not have any faith, doubt would have nothing to fight against." !! We all are tempted at times in our Christian walk and God knows this, if this is happening to you just get up and take your next step God will meet us where ever we want to walk too.

  25. Eden says

    To all here — and to myself above all — STAY IN THE WORD!!!!

    Bernard, what you said … yeah, I've been there, too … too many times, for too long a time. I've come to learn, no matter how "dry" I feel or how long it lasts, staying in the Word keeps me where I WILL WANT to be when the dry spell is over.

  26. MissyH316 says

    Hi Stephen,

    One thing I've been told and continually have to keep in mind is it's in faith, not feelings, that we believe God hears our prayers. Whether or not we think He's listening is irrelevant. :)

    Also, if you're wondering if you're praying the "correct way" or not, remember this: "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom 5:8). Remember, it's nothing we did in the first place that caused Him to reconcile us with Him through our Lord Jesus Christ. He knows you better than you do; He knows your heart. Plus Your faith rests in God's strength – not your weakness (through which His strength is made manifest).

    So just keep praying to Him in faith – better you pray "imperfectly" than insincerely! As 1 Thes. 5:17 says, "Pray without ceasing"! :-)

    Best wishes and may God bless you,
    Missy

  27. says

    Siempre y en toda circunstancia es bueno buscar gente que tenga los mismos intereses que
    uno. Es por esta raz?n que llegu? a tu lugar y me
    semeja que tus art?culos son excelentes. No quiero sonar halagador
    mas la verdad creo que posees potencial al escribir.

    Me gustar?a que tuvieras entonces la oportunidad
    de comprobar algunos art?culos que he escrito por mi cuenta.
    La verdad es que no se si son tan buenos como los tuyos mas intento hacer algo a
    este respecto. Que bien es encontrarte en la red y espero que sigas
    escribiendo que por ac? ya posees un fan.

  28. says

    ?

    Como habr?s notado, me he quedado leyendo hasta el ?ltimo
    de los art?culos que escribiste. Espero que esto te
    sirva como motivaci?n de que est?s haciendo un trabajo muy bueno.
    En lo personal, soy amante de los buenos textos y me gusta continuar a las personas que
    poseen las habilidades de hacer llegar experiencias a trav?s de las
    palabras. Por esta raz?n te dejo este comentario y para cerrar
    quisiera decirte que me ha encantado poder llegar a tu lugar.
    En hora buena!

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