I know I'm not alone in this: my spirit has always had a rhythm. Like the tide that is sometimes high and sometimes low, I have times when God seems close and other times when He seems farther away. Like the seasons, there are 'summer' times when I am alive and awake. Then I have 'winter' times of discontent, sadness, anxiety.
For a long time it really bothered me that I allowed myself to fall back into a slow, wintry period. I would beat myself up for being more vulnerable to temptation, more prone to anger, less consistent in reading and praying. But I've more recently come to appreciate that this is part of the God-given rhythm of our spiritual life.
In his book, The Life You've Always Wanted, John Ortberg describes this rhythm as times of consolation and times of desolation.  "In times of consolation," he says, "we pray because God seems close, the Bible seems alive, sin looks bad, and stoplights all seem green. Times of desolation are just the opposite: the Bible seems dry, prayer grows hard, and God is far away."
C.S. Lewis, in his fictional book The Screwtape Letters, describes how God will at times send us a strong sense of His presence and desire to be with Him. "But He never allows this state of affairs to last long. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs--to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be."
There's something to this! Think about it: when we have success, our tendency is to forget. Forget that it's God's Spirit and not our strength that has given us success. So, if we were always on a spiritual high ... we would fall into the trap of self-righteousness and pride. But by withdrawing, God keeps us from becoming conceited ...... and makes us hunger for Him. And that, more than anything else, is what God wants from us: that we would hunger and thirst for Him.
I hope, like me, you're growing in your appreciation for the rhythm ... because God is using both seasons for unique growth. Question: If consolation is the peak and desolation the valley, where would you say you are today in your walk? For me ... I'd have to say I'm on the upswing. Certainly out of the valley, but not yet at the peak.

Messy Spirituality

One of my favorite books is called Messy Spirituality. Here's what the author, Michael Yaconelli, wrote:

"I often dream that I am tagging along begind Jesus, longing for him to choose me as one of his disciples. Without warning, he turns around, looks straight into my eyes, and says, 'Follow me!' My heart races, and I begin to run toward him when he interrupts with, 'Oh, not you; the guy behind you. Sorry.'
"I have been trying to follow Christ most of my life, and the best I can do is a stumbling, bumbling, clumsy kind of following. I wake up most days with the humiliating awareness that I have no clue where Jesus is. Even though I am a minister, even though I think about Jesus every day, my following is ... uh ... meandering."

Wow! How often I feel like that. I am a pastor--entrusted with telling people about Jesus and offering spiritual advice and direction. But sometimes ... okay, often! ... I feel more like the spiritual equivalent of Charlie Brown than a spiritual guide and mentor. More of a spiritual clutz than a hero of the faith.

BUT ... from everything I know about Jesus ... He chooses messed up people ALL THE TIME! It seems to be a prerequisite for following him. You have to be a wreck. No perfect people allowed. You get the occasional saintly person, like Mother Theresa. But everyone else is a clutz. So ... I'm in good company. And so are you!

I think Jesus set it up that way so that we would trust HIM and not ourselves. In fact, I believe that's the whole point. Read 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 sometime. He's chosen us in spite of our foolishness. He's chosen us in spite of our weakness. He gives us heaven as a free gift ... and then says: "Follow me!" Not just the guy behind you, but YOU!

Are you utterly amazed by that?! I am. And that's why I follow him ... mostly because I know I don't deserve to ... and he's called me anyway.