Spiritual ruts are common to every believer. Having been a pastor for more than 60 years, I’ve discovered it’s easy to fall into spiritual slumps—times when even as pastors we don’t feel close to God.
David experienced this in his walk with God. He wrote about it in multiple places in the Psalms, including Psalm 71:
“O God, do not be so distant from me” (v. 12 GW).
We don’t lose our salvation when we go through these dry spells, but we do lose the joy God wants us to have in our relationship with him.
How do you know if you are in a spiritually dry season?
First, you’re no longer focused on loving others. Your heart grows cold. You preach the Bible week after week, yet Jesus isn’t warming your heart. Ministry becomes a duty, not a delight.
Second, you stop taking steps of faith. Your vision shrinks.
Does that sound like you? There’s hope. God provides some important insights from 2 Kings 6 about what to do when you’ve lost your “cutting edge.”
In this surprising story, Elisha goes with a group of prophets to the Jordan River to get some wood to build a place for them to live. They take with them a borrowed ax head, which they lose. And so, in a sense, they lost their “cutting edge,” just like we sometimes do in our spiritual lives.
The story teaches us four spiritual truths about what we can do when we’re in a spiritual slump.
1. Admit you lost it.
You need to face reality. Start by admitting you’re not as close to God as you used to be. In 2 Kings 6:5, the man who lost the ax head admitted what he lost:
“As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water. ‘Oh no, my lord!’ he cried out. ‘It was borrowed!’” (NIV).
Note that the man had a couple of options when he realized he lost the ax head. He could have quit and let someone else do the work. I’ve met Christians who do that. When they lose their spiritual vitality, they back off and let someone with more passion do the work.
The man could have pretended he still had it. Like a Christian who goes through the motions, he could have kept working furiously and frantically, pretending nothing was wrong. For many of us in ministry, this is often what we choose to do.
But that’s not what this man does in 2 Kings 6. He admits he lost the borrowed ax head.
It’s not easy to admit that your relationship with God has grown distant. Don’t settle for a mediocre walk with Christ. The most difficult, yet important, step is to humbly pray, “Lord, I’ve lost the joy. I’ve lost the enthusiasm I once had. I’ve lost my cutting edge, and I need it back.”
2. Acknowledge where you lost it.
Notice in 2 Kings 6 that Elisha wanted to know exactly where the man lost the ax head. He asked,
“Where did it fall?” (v. 6 NIV).
If we want to regain our cutting edge, we need to be able to point out where we lost our close relationship with God. We can lose our spiritual edge for many reasons:
- Distractions and busyness – Life gets busy and we forget about God.
- Disobedience – We’re not doing something God wants us to do, or we are doing something God doesn’t want us to do.
- Pride – We stop depending on God and try living the Christian life (and do ministry) without his power.
- Laziness – We stop doing the things that keep us close to God.
We need to be honest and specific about how we lost our spiritual vitality. Maybe it’s one of the reasons listed above. Maybe it’s something different. The good news is that when we confess our sin to God, he is faithful to forgive us, cleanse us, and restore our relationship with him.
3. Expect God to restore your relationship with him.
One of the strangest parts of this story is what Elisha did when the man told him where he lost the ax head.
“When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float” (2 Kings 6:6 NIV).
The stick didn’t have any spiritual power. It was just a stick. But Elisha used it as a visual representation of his faith in God. He publicly demonstrated that he believed God would restore what this guy lost. Making an ax head float looks impossible, but God specializes in the impossible.
You might think—after all this time—that it’s impossible for God to give you back your cutting edge. But God is ready to do the impossible in your life. You just need to believe that he will.
4. Reach out and receive God’s help.
Notice what Elisha said next:
“‘Grab it,’ Elisha said. And the man reached out and grabbed it” (2 Kings 6:7 NLT).
God could have easily taken the ax head directly out of the water, placing it in the man’s hand. But he didn’t do that. He brought it to the top of the water and let him grab it.
You must do your part in coming back to God. Your part is to reach out and receive God’s help.
You are as close to God as you choose to be. The distance between you and God isn’t the fault of your congregation, your spouse, or the surrounding culture. It’s up to you. The Bible says,
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8 NKJV).
The God of the Universe loves you and wants to have a relationship with you. But getting close to him is your choice. You can stay in a spiritual slump (leave the ax head floating on top of the water). Or you can draw near to God (grab the ax) and experience his joy, because his Word promises that in his “presence there is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11 ESV).