There are times when we are so worn down, so tired, so demoralized, that we have no idea what to say to God. At these times, we may not even be sure that God is there. If we had the energy we would shout. If we had the energy we might cry out with the Psalmist “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.”
If we had the energy, that is.
But when we are drained even of energy to rage, then we just withdraw into our closet. We turn off the lights. We pull the covers up to our chins and curl in the fetal position.
You might call it depression. Withdrawal. The Slough of Despond.
In Japan, that hotbed of cultural extremity, has perfected this condition. Young men withdraw into their rooms and refuse to come out for months, sometimes years. Secluded from society’s arena, these tortured souls exist, but they can hardly be described as “living.” They survive only by the enabling help of baffled and concerned family members. The Japanese call this condition Hikikomori. By some estimates, there are over 1 million sufferers.
1 million young men withdrawn, unable to shout out. Unable to leave their rooms. Unable to do much of anything at all.
Perhaps, at some point, you’ve felt like you could empathize with them.
Like your world was shrinking.
Like you were caught in slow moving emotional quicksand, sucking you down, choking off your ability to feel, to act, to will.
Like you were a prisoner in your own head.
Let’s set the platitudes aside. Christians get there. People who have given their lives to Christ and love the lord and have the Holy Spirit dwelling within. It’s usually a sign that there’s something deeply wrong, but you can’t figure out what it is. In fact, ruminating on your inability to figure out what it is often fuels the condition.
There, in the mist of that bog, you want to pray. But you have no words.
Hear, then, this word of comfort:
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Sprit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” (Romans 8:26-7)
You are unable to pray. The Holy Spirit prays for you. You have no words. The Holy Spirit speaks a word on your behalf. You don’t even know what’s going on inside you. The Holy Spirit searches you and asks the Father for just the help you need.
All you have your heavy-laden heart, groaning in a God-ward direction. That is enough. Truly, it is.
God is in the business of lifting people out of the bog:
“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.” (Psalm 40:2)
It does get better. God hears your wordless groan. The time will come that He will pull you from the quicksand and give you stability again. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” says Jesus (Matthew 11:28).
But Jesus gives more than rest. The time will come when God himself will give you words to a new song. He will give you a renewed sense of meaning, purpose, and contribution.
May that hope sustain you, and give you strength.
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