What do I do about my spiritual life if nothing seems to be happening?
You’ve probably heard it before that God is with us on the mountaintops and in the valleys.
But did you know He’s also there in the in-between? God is with us in the plains!
In the high and low points of our lives, encounters with God can seem like fireworks to shake the earth. Whether we’re soaring victoriously on the wings of miracles or riding out storms with God as our comfort and refuge, these seasons mark important points of our lives.
The plains refer to those periods of life when nothing seems to be happening.
Yet, while we do not chase spiritual highs, we cannot escape the seasons where we’re in the plains of our lives.
Basically, the plains refer to those periods of life when nothing seems to be happening. Or nothing life-changing is going on. Life goes on smoothly, we’re relaxed and comfortable, and we pray general prayers of thanksgiving and protection.
Let me give you a clearer example of what “plains” might look like.
For me, even though a new semester of university is about to start, academic life for me has become all but routine as I’ve already gone through four semesters.
Yet I remember crying out to God so often during my first semester.
I would pray for guidance not to get lost on campus, for divine favour to have at least one familiar face in my new class and for boldness to speak up and earn my class participation points.
Now I rarely even have to plan my route to class. I am very open to making new friends in class and have done so many presentations that speaking up for class participation is the least of my worries.
But I’ll tell you now, that there’s a real danger in routine.
I’m talking about the danger of entering into a touch-and-go relationship with God just because I seem to be managing alright on my own at the moment.
So I believe that the main challenge of being on a plain really boils down to stewardship.
It’s about stewarding and using all you have gained and learned from past seasons of mountains and valleys – whether it’s things like faith, endurance or humility – precisely when they are seemingly unable to be used or applied.
LISTEN IN THE LULL
I have learnt that there is so much that God wants to do in our lives even when nothing significant seems to be happening.
It all depends on whether we will slow down to listen and remain open to even the tiniest areas of reflection.
For a small incident that we would otherwise brush off unthinkingly, might actually be an important lesson if we had a conversation with God.
One time I was reading about Christians being unfairly treated around the world, and I became frustrated at these real-life stories because there didn’t seem to be any justice.
I could have just left it at that and go about the rest of my day in anger. But then I felt God lead me to pray.
He revealed how I had been thinking wrongly about victory, and reminded me that Jesus’ victory didn’t come in a way people expected.
Jesus’ coming as the Messiah wasn’t a political deliverance – He did not overthrow the Roman empire and establish an earthly Kingship. It was so much greater than that.
I was glad I took the time to reflect, because I left encouraged by the fact that the victory Christians have is so much greater than what earthly eyes and minds can comprehend.
Seeing that God’s truth and revelation are being sown into my life little by little like that, I couldn’t say that nothing was happening. So for a helpful change of perspective on being in the plains – start having such conversations with God. You’ll never know what He’ll show you each day!
ABIDE IN GOD
I see mountains and valleys as more of “on-the-spot” times of training with God.
Plains, on the other hand, are like crucial preparation stages, seasons to strengthen our relationship with God by abiding in Him even more intentionally.
God wants to sharpen us in these preparation stages. Our character and values may have been refined in mountain and valley seasons, but they are like swords that must be used.
They cannot just remain in our inventories, sitting in the dust as we wait for the next battle we have to fight – they would have rusted and become ineffective for use!
As such, we abide in the plains with God where He continues to refine us through reflection and revelation. So even if I’m not at a major crossroads where I need to seek and trust God for a huge decision, I’ll still seek and trust Him for the smaller everyday ones.
Truly, as John 15:5 reminds us, the key is to abide in God. We need a sustained connection, we need utter dependence on Him.
So let us begin involving God even in the “non-spiritual” things like our hobbies, entertainment, work or school assignments (even if we think we can manage on our own!).
Personally, I spend my free time creating, writing stories and watching YouTube videos. In all these activities, I make an effort to talk to God about them.
Over the years the conversations have become so natural, as if Jesus was a friend sitting next to me and enjoying these things with me too.
God must be the centre of our life.
For instance, when it comes to creating art and videos, I often tell God all about my grand plans and how I want to go about actualising them. Some ideas are ridiculous, but I know He enjoys the time we share together anyway.
And while I’m writing, I talk with Him about the imagery I was aiming – I even brainstorm for words and angles with His help! And as we do so, He never fails to give me those “eureka” moments.
As I watch videos (often hilarious ones), I will remark to God about how funny they are or have an inside joke with Him – I’ll even talk through what I’ve learnt and what inspired me.
Ultimately, God must be the centre of our life.
So what better way than to start with the simple and little things that make up so much of our days?
Even if there’s nothing about school for me to worry about, I’ll thank God for that! I can work with Him on other areas of my life, such as how to be a better teammate in group projects or how to better love and care for my cell sisters.
Who knows, I may be faced with a difficult group project situation somewhere down the road or have the privilege to walk with a sister through a breakthrough in her life.
The fact of the matter is we don’t know when the next mountain or valley will show up in our life. Making full use of our plains to prepare would thus serve us well in claiming our victories and holding on to God when hard times come.
THINK + TALK
- Describe a memorable “mountain” season in your life.
- What was the hardest “valley” season?
- How did you see God move in those times?
- Having read the article, what is one way you can go through a “plains” season differently?