Recognising Weak Spiritual Health and Returning to God’s Love

How do we recognise when our hearts are wandering from enjoying union with Christ and put to death the things that threaten our spiritual health?

Why do godly people have to fight for their spiritual health? Throughout the Bible and even today, gospel-confessing, Scripture-trusting Christians wrestle with the world, the flesh, and the adversary. Our devotion and dependence on God is tested daily. Even people who ardently love God navigate periods of spiritual challenge, where abiding in intimacy with God feels like an uphill battle.

In my walk with God, there were times I neglected to pray and my excitement for private worship dwindled. I was tempted to trust in worldly achievements or material possessions at the cost of my spiritual health. Though I am a pastor, I wanted to isolate myself from the Christian community. My heart was weakening in its compassion for others, quenching the Spirit, and downplaying sin. I felt parched, disconnected, empty, and dry.

Drifting from God does not happen suddenly. It is a gradual process. You start walking down a path and inch by inch, you veer off course without realising it. Unless we are alert and keep watch over ourselves we can easily go astray and quickly lose the joy of our salvation (Acts 20:28-29, 1 Pet. 5:8-9, Heb. 3:12-15, Ps. 51:12).

During the pandemic, it was common for people to use an Oximeter to check their oxygen levels. But how can we keep a check on the spiritual health of our hearts?

Loss of Appetite

The first clear sign of a heart losing its strength is a loss of appetite for God’s Word. When I struggle to make a habit of reading the Bible and engaging with the Scriptures every day, something is not right. In such times, I find quick, easy-to-access, pointless information more intriguing than committing to the deeper, prolonged experience of meditating on Scripture. So I seek joy and refreshment in binge eating, binge-watching, and doom scrolling on social media platforms.

I cannot break free until God draws me to see that meditating on Scripture is not just a task. Like water to the body, it is a source of joy and nourishment (Jer. 15:16, Ps. 119:92).

An unhealthy heart can turn a meaningful experience into an empty routine. It will either neglect Scripture altogether or approach it as a time-bound task, reducing it to something on a spiritual checklist like a moral deliverable.

But a healthy heart treasures God’s Word and is hungry for it. In Psalm 19, David celebrates the wonders of God’s Word. He says they revive the soul, make wise the simple, rejoice the heart, enlighten the eyes, endure forever, are altogether righteous, and more worthy of desire than gold, and much than the drippings of the honeycomb (Ps. 19:7-11).

Weakening Impulse for Testifying to Christ

Expressing my faith in Christ is closely tied to my love and joy in Jesus Christ. When I feel a lack of inspiration from the gospel and an increasing distance from God’s mercy and love through the gift of sonship and adoption, I start to see my witness to Christ as a burden. If we are not hungry for God’s Word, naturally we will hesitate to testify to God’s Son.

A healthy heart is a joyful heart that enjoys Jesus so much, that it wants to talk about him with anyone who will listen. When my desire to testify to Christ weakens, it gives way to indifference, apathy, fear, or laziness. This is a clear sign of spiritual dryness. Something inside has shifted away from God’s peace and love to a hardness of heart and self-absorption.

Recognising spiritual dryness is vital but how do we put to death the things that threaten our spiritual health?

Humbly, Face Your Limitations

“But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults” (Ps. 19:12).

In these questions, David is acknowledging it is difficult for anyone to fully recognise their faults. In the post-resurrection era of the gospel, we have some advantages over him. The Holy Spirit dwells in us to testify to Christ and keep us in him. Through him, we can put to death the deeds of the body (Rom. 8:13, Eph. 4:30).

Personally, through his ministry, I have enjoyed the peace and joy of admitting my faults. It is freeing to realise I cannot rely solely on my strength but in Christ, I have the power of the Holy Spirit to recognise, overcome sin, and grow in spiritual health.

Recognise the Danger of Sin

“Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me!” (Ps. 19:13)

Straying from God’s sins once in a way may seem trivial but David does not see it that way. He recognises the danger of the presumptuous, willful desire to sin. He does not want intentional wrongdoing to gain control over him.

Deliberate patterns of sin can exert dominance our lives. Without such introspection and self-examination, a little deviation from God’s ways can lead to devastating consequences down the line. If we start to take charge of our ways, sin begins to take charge of our lives (Gen. 4:7).

Enjoy the Gift of Redemption

“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Ps. 19:14)

David faces his limitations, acknowledges the deceitfulness of sin, and wants to turn to God with a heart that is pleasing to him. He describes the Lord as his Rock and his Redeemer.

David’s view of God’s redemption is not as clear as ours. He cannot fully see what is ahead of him. But we can clearly see what is behind us. On this side of the cross, the redemptive work of God is fully revealed in Christ. He nails our sins to the cross and clothes us with the righteousness of Christ (Col. 1:13-14, 2:13-15).

God’s gracious gift to us in Christ is our best hope in seasons of spiritual wandering.

Pressing into Gospel Community

On this side of the cross, we also enjoy the gift of God’s people, the church. In Galatians 6:2, the apostle Paul encourages believers by saying, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfil the law of Christ.”

He gives this instruction in the context of helping another believer who may have fallen into sin. He wants them to guide each other towards restoration in the power of the Spirit of God.

In my experience, I have enjoyed many benefits of being genuine, authentic, and open with a trustworthy, Gospel-informed, and committed community.

At the core of community life lies the beautiful responsibility of assisting disengaged or straying believers. It involves inspiring people to recognise and remember the finished work of Christ, which leads to repentance and a return to love for Christ. Though we are prone to stray and wander, our faithful Shepherd uses his Word, his Spirit, and his people to pursue us and leads us back into the joy of our salvation (Ps. 51:12).