I've been feeling a little blue for the last 5 days or so. It makes one wonder: Is it that seasonal February thing? Is it something else? Do I need to make a change in my life?
This weekend at our church's winter retreat, a lady was reading a book called Made to Crave. It's a curious title, so I was compelled to inquire about the book. She explained that so often people crave things, such as food, and go to that thing to fulfill certain cravings or desires that they have, but that the nature to crave isn't a bad thing, we just need to direct it in healthy ways. The idea, and hope, is that we can redirect unhealthy cravings and desires towards God -- that we were made to desire God, and we can uncover and live into that nature, rather than searching for it in other places.
As I was pondering my lower mood today, I made some interesting connections to that line of thinking. Every person lives their life in a certain context, where encouragements and discouragements come in certain forms. For me, I might feel uplifted when the house is neat and tidy, or when I get home from an invigorating bike ride, or when I go for a beautiful morning walk. I might feel discouraged when I say something to someone and later wonder whether what I said was a bit off color, or when I discover food that has gone bad in the fridge. All of these things flow into our soul and can lift us up or push us down. As we go through our lives, we seek to learn how to go about it in ways that bring us into contact with uplifting forces.
So what happens when the natural variation in life doesn't serve up enough encouragement? Well, sometimes what can result is that we feel off -- we lose some of our sparkle, we can feel a bit low. The solution then is to move back into more encouraging circumstances, right?
And while I think the answer is "yes", I wonder if there is an important connection to be made along the lines of "Made to Crave". And that's this: We're made to be in relationship with our Creator. We shouldn't simply seek joy and encouragement from our family, friends, and work, but also from a loving God who dearly loves us and wants to fill us up. It brings to mind the concept of "Living Water". The story is in John chapter 4:
A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)[b] 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
One perspective on this story is that when we seek God and spend time with God, we can be filled up and encouraged. It is like God is this inexhaustible source of encouragement, and he's just waiting for us to come to him and be uplifted.
From there my curiosity is this: What forms of prayer, reflection, and simply "being" with God effectively tap into this reservoir of uplifting encouragement?
One thing that comes to mind is the prayer of examen. The way I've heard it described is that one should start by focusing on the things in one's day that have gone well, things to be grateful for, things to be encouraged by.
So that's one thought, but I sense this is a fairly deep subject matter. How have Christians over the ages walked with God in ways that have allowed God to flow encouragement and joy into their souls without relying too heavily on earthly encouragement which can be someone inconsistent in our lives?