Once again, the deep joy was followed by a pronounced drop in hope... a slump. (while looking for a picture to put in this post, I was surprised to find that a 'slump' is actually a geological phenomenon tru to how it feels... like I was undercut and a piece of me broke off and slid down the hill.)
This cycle, although not unfamiliar, always catches me off guard, and it takes me some time to recognize the spiritual battle that it is. To expect it would feel pessimistic... to have all celebrations of His work be tinged with the expectation of impending discouragement seems decidedly unfaithful... and yet, the cycle has proven to be real and I never seem to be prepared for it.
And so, this past Sunday, I was challenged to proclaim the gospel out of a slump. I certainly would not have chosen to, if I were not scheduled to preach. If I was not forced to stand up and offer a picture of the reality of the kingdom among us, I would have been content to continue to wrestle and struggle in the slump...
But God is the One who calls... and, in His attentiveness and grace, He always calls me at just the right time. At just the right time, He called me to stand in the middle of discouragement and exhaustion and, out of that place, to declare His Name and His faithfulness.
"The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children's children, to the third and fourth generation." (Ex. 34: 6b-7)
And the slump slunk away... defeated. And isn't this the way faith works? We are challenged to proclaim His character, even when we don't feel like it... even when it doesn't feel as real as it sometimes does... even when we feel hollow and empty... but in the act of proclaiming the reality of who He is, no matter how convinced we are in the moment, He works miracles - in us, and through us.
"I will perform marvels, such as have not been performed in all the earth or in any nation; and all the people among whom you live shall see the work of the Lord; for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you." (Ex. 34:10b)
And so I ask you... have you seen this cycle in your own lives? When you declare His faithfulness, even when you're not feeling it, does the slump begin to slink?
(A friend who is immersed in the study of Semitic languages shared with me afterward that this talk of generations is yet another sign of God's mercy and grace. He explained that 'thousandth generation' is interpreted by some to mean 25,000 years (a generation is 2500 years, times 1000 of them). This is the length of time that God keeps His steadfast love... of which, we have not come close to exhausting yet. The third & fourth generation is only a fraction of time when considered in comparison)