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You know that feeling — the lull? That sense that most of the marrow has been sucked dry from life? That you’ve somehow been lulled into a spiritual coma and can’t seem to snap out of it? Rather than seeing the world as infused with God-given purpose and beauty, you just see the world as a series of things you use to pass time. It’s not uncommon. We all deal with it sometimes.
Communicative Malnourishment: Definition and Diagnosis
The lull is a result of what I call communicative malnourishment (CM). It’s a spiritual ailment that plagues many people in our time. And the diagnosis is quite simple. Just answer these questions. If you answer “no” to at least half of them, you may be suffering from CM, and there’s only one treatment: communion with God through speech.
- Do you regularly hear the voice of God?
- Do you regularly speak with God?
- Do you commonly search for answers to prayer?
- Do you often pause to worship?
What the Questions Reveal
These four little questions reveal a lot about your spiritual health. The first question isn’t some search for mystical union with the divine; it’s a matter of opening a book. Dust off the cover of that old Bible on your bookshelf (or buried somewhere in your night stand), crack open the binding, and start reading. The words you’re reading are the words of God. The voice you hear is the voice of God. Regularly hearing the voice of God is a matter of regularly reading Scripture. In the divine-human dialogue, that’s God’s piece.
The other piece of the dialogue is what the second question addresses. God speaks to you in Scripture. Do you speak back? That’s prayer. Prayer is nothing more than your speech to God. Vibrate your vocal chords. Open the rusty box that encloses your heart, and pour yourself out before God. He’s listening. Always. And he wants to hear from you.
But part of having a dialogue with God means that you search for implications of the dialogue. In other words, you search for ways in which God might be answering your prayers. (I recommend Paul Miller’s The Praying Life if you haven’t already read it.) Don’t ask or plead or rejoice or lament and then walk away. Be intentional about searching for the ways God is working in your life. Because he is working. We’re just too ignorant or apathetic to notice.
And noticing God is something you can’t do in isolation. The communal worship of God draws you into a people with shared desires and motives, with shared debts and diseases, looking for help and healing from the same God. In an assembly of God-seekers, lifting up your voice to worship God for who he is will do wonders for your soul. It will refresh your spirit by calling to remembrance the great things that God is doing in countless lives, lives that are standing right next to you.
The four questions above reveal that CM is a communicative problem. It’s a problem that we’re bound to run into because we live in a broken world. And yet the God who created and sustains the world is a God who speaks. He’s also a God who created us in his speaking image? So, when we have communicative problems, they profoundly affect our spiritual health because they strike at the core of who we are. And if we disregard or ignore those problems, we end up in the lull, a spiritual coma.
What Can You Do?
So, what can you do right now to start treating your CM? Before you do anything, talk to your pastor. If you don’t have one, find one. Every one of us needs a shepherd, someone to show us when our eyes are closed and our ears stopped up.
You might also start learning more about CM and developing a plan of treatment that works for you (i.e., regularly communing with the God who speaks). Full disclosure: the treatment is the same for everyone.
Why not start here, with a little ebook?
And since CM impairs our ability to notice God all around us, you might next go on explore how you can use Scripture to find God in the ordinary:
Lastly, as should be plain by now, language is central to treating CM. Language is central to who God is, who we are, and what the world is like. It’s a key that unlocks so many doors all around us. Ready to dive in? I promise, the water’s not as cold as it looks.