In a Spiritual Rut? Here's a Remarkable Way Out

“It’s strange and wonderful to see what the Lord reveals to us when we quiet our chatter and let him in, let him be who he is.”

By Amber VanVickle

Rarely is the spiritual life a continuous road of upward progression. And though we will never “make it” on this side of eternity, it can be quite frustrating to find ourselves in the same old rut, facing the same fears, doubts, questions we had thought previously conquered.

I recently found myself once again in such a rut. Facing the same doubts, questions, bitterness, and distrust that had plagued me before, I stood before the Lord brokenhearted and weary. Perhaps the one difference I noticed, however, was that I knew the change had to come from me: it wasn’t God who was absent from me, but I who had grown absent from God. I had a suspicion that my weariness and frustration were coming from a place of self-centeredness, that for too long, once again, I was placing before the Lord far too many requests and questions and little else.

Determined to leave that place, I made God a promise: Lord, for thirty days I will ask nothing of you, not the simplest thing. For thirty days I will only surrender my cares into your hands, praise you and thank you. My prayer was to find my way back to the heart of Jesus.

Week One

The first week was mostly a battle against habit, and it was striking to find how many times I had to stifle the words, “Please Lord,” from exiting my mouth in a single day. This provided some humble revelations of my prayer life: first, that prayer had ceased to be a conversation with the Lord; and second, that the language of my prayer had diminished the greatness of God in my mind and heart. Petitioning for me had become a form of control to micromanage the ways of God and bespoke of a lack of trust of who he is, how great and good he is, and the providence of his plan.

I began to find it freeing to put away my anxiety-ridden petitions and replace them with a simple, “Lord, I put this in your hands.” It took practice to be sure, and many times I found it stifling to not utter all I had to say, but soon the physical, spiritual and even mental effects of this prayer grew fruit.

Week Two

The second week was filled with a profound admission that what we say and think matters. Though many times I didn’t feel like saying, “I surrender this,” and “I entrust this to you,” by saying those very words, my soul recognized an outpouring of confidence and an untethering of God and my control. I was actually trusting in his greatness, in his capability to know more than I, that he indeed had a plan of which I was certainly not the author.  

The words, though many times half-hearted, became reality, and I found myself musing, “So this is what it feels like, sounds like, to have confidence in God…to relinquish all…to know that he will order all things to the good.”

I began to feel a stillness and lightness where frenetic anxiety had once lodged. As more and more of my control was handed over to God I became more docile. Even my husband remarked that I seemed more peaceful, confirming all I was beginning to feel.

Week Three

As week three unfolded, I noticed my language became more spousal and intimate. And instead of the micromanaging, controlling, stifling language of my complaints and petitions, I found myself saying, “I know you will provide…I trust you…You will give us all we need…You will take care of this…You know all…You know what is best…”

God grew and grew, as he was finally untethered and unleashed from the small box to which I had confined him. In my heart and mind, he became who he is: master, creator, king, and I became who I am: creature, beloved. I found myself asking, “Am I finally allowing Him to come to me?” as I realized my distrust had kept him at arms length.  

Week Four

In  the beginning of my experiment, I decided to memorize Psalm 63 to quite frankly fill up the space that would be lacking from my loquacious petitioning, but also so that the psalm would reinforce and teach me again the language of love, trust and worship. By week four, I had the psalm mostly memorized and prayer had become an intimate time of praise, thanksgiving, and entrusting.

The relief I felt of no longer feeling that I had to explain things to God, to tell him what was happening so he could really understand is hard to put into words. The name of Jesus was also always on my lips, not in petitioning as before, but in desire for closeness. And there was an intimacy that followed me throughout my day, a lightheartedness in the knowledge that God is who he says he is.

Happily, though I shouldn’t be surprised, I found that surrendering all to God affected my whole life, not just my “prayer life.” The chaos of living in distrust had fed noise, distraction, aggravation and a general frantic feeling. 

It may seem silly, but I used to rush around speeding in my car, always, getting where I was going in a mad rush, not late, just always in a hurry, a frenzied haste to just “get there.” I began to slow down. It was quite a surprise as I noticed myself, window down, hand out the window, enjoying the ride, instead of being white-knuckled at the wheel. And yet, I don’t think it is surprising that when we relinquish more and more of ourselves, God infiltrates all those spaces and brings order and peace.

Without intentionally trying, I got almost completely off of social media, and was surprised to see that at the end of the day I had not checked Facebook or any other outlet once. My desire for it was gone. 

I only made one change in my life for thirty days: to not ask God for anything. To say I got out of my “rut” is an understatement. To say I felt like a different person is, too.

It’s strange and wonderful to see what the Lord reveals to us when we quiet our chatter and let him in, let him be who he is.