Let’s Talk About Spiritual Shrinking As Well As Spiritual Growth

spiritshrink.jpgSpiritual growth is one thing, but what about when we feel more like we’re just plain shrinking? I recently was inspired to write on my blog about spiritual growth because I believe that growth in our relationship with God in Christ Jesus is truly important. I love seeing God transform people’s lives so they can be a greater blessing to the world around them!

That post took inspiration from some “grow animals” that my son had submerged in water and I cautioned that spiritual growth is not just a simple matter of “Just Add Water.” Then something happened that took this idea to a new low–once the “grow animals” were taken out of the water and set out to dry, they shrunk considerably (see photo).

I knew then that I had to write about “spiritual shrinking” because our growth in faith is not always as linear as we’d like. And ultimately, being willing to talk with each other about the shrinking can increase our growth potential in Christ.

What do I mean?

I’m playing with this idea because when those little animals dried out it reminded me of other terms we use to speak of such things in our spiritual lives:

  • wilderness times,
  • dry spells,
  • and feeling drained.

Spiritual growth is not magical and “spiritual shrinking” happens more than we discuss.

I think part of why we don’t discuss the shrinking is because even if we don’t expect growth over night we do expect that we at least keep growing. We impose on ourselves some kind of expectation that each day we have to become a better and better version of ourselves. So when something occurs in our spiritual lives that causes us to shrivel up, we also find ourselves feeling like we need to suck it up and not talk about it.

When life happens

Of course, we want to remain in Christ and keep trying to live more fully into who God has called us each to be! But sometimes, life happens. Circumstances come along that seem to suck the life out of us:

  • We lose loved ones, then well-intentioned friends add to our pain by telling us to just “get over it.”
  • We struggle with a physical or mental health condition that is flaring out of control.
  • We experience strife with a friend or colleague and the relationship seems irreparable.
  • We can’t gain ground on our goals no matter how hard we try.
  • We learn just enough about God and Jesus to find we have a whole new set of questions that lead us to a crisis of faith.

These and many other predicaments can leave us feeling parched and shrunken in faith and life.

While we are drying out

I think it is important to name the reality of “spiritual shrinking” because we all have times in which growth does not appear to be happening. At some point we all have challenges in our spiritual lives. We don’t need to let these waning times prevent us from talking about our faith.

In fact, finding safe people with whom to discuss our spiritual wilderness can provide:

  • their presence in the midst of the struggle.
  • a sounding board to allow us to find meaning about the difficulty.
  • comfort rather than critique.
  • hope that God cares in both right-now and forever ways.
  • prayer with &/or for us.
  • and more.

Exactly how to find safe people like that is a little harder to define. Sometimes testing a person’s reaction with a small piece of your story can give an indication of their trustworthiness. Many times formal Christian support groups form around shared problem areas.

Most of all…

One thing I know most of all is that I want to be the kind of person, the kind of Christian, with whom other believers can share their struggles. I don’t ever want people to think they have to put on a pretense with me. I don’t expect my friends to be spiritual giants. I want them to be real with me and I want to be real with them. If I can be that kind of friend, then that itself is huge.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by kristenburkholder on July 20, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    Rather than flooding us with unbelievable tales of incredible spiritual magnificence, you meet us readers where we are and encourage us, even and especially as we muck around in the truth of our lives. Thanks for being a friend, a soulmate: to me, and to so many others. God bless you and keep writing Jen

  2. I read this when you first posted it, and I’ve been meaning to ask since then: how much/little would you compare this to St. John of the Cross’s Dark Night of the Soul? Full disclosure: it’s still on my want-to-read list, and I know the work by reputation/summary only.

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