JOHANNES 10:27-28 | FILIPPENSE 1:6
To extend the sailing metaphor we’ve drawn through these two chapters, there is also a nautical term known as the doldrums. The doldrums are an area near the equator where the water is especially warm and so the wind can die down suddenly, leaving a ship stranded for an extended period of time.
The word doldrums has carried over into common usage to mean a period of listlessness, depression or stagnation. Just as experienced sailors know to expect the doldrums, so those who want to grow in God’s grace must know to expect the doldrums.
The doldrums are an important, even necessary, part of learning to abide. They protect us from the dangerous temptation of enthroning our experience of Christ over the real Christ. See, if you always got a high, or a spiritual surge, every time you drew the sail, it would be easy to shift into pursuing your own immediate gratification instead of pursuing Christ.
It might become less about the horizon and more about another spiritual jolt. In the name of seeking God, you’d be using God to help you maintain a sense of control over your own life.
But precisely because it is the real God you are seeking, by definition this means you must give up your right to control him. You can’t control the wind! You are utterly dependent on a power outside of you. Jesus said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). It’s a terrifying truth, but in order for it to break through and become life-giving to us, we have to be made aware, sometimes painfully so, that we can’t coerce or control God by our own frantic maneuvering.
Think about how silly and pointless and exhausting it would be for someone to stand up in his sailboat and blow with all of his might onto a limp hanging sail. How sad. But isn’t that how many of us approach these “means of grace”—if we just try hard enough, we’ll be bound to move? No wonder we get so easily flustered.
The doldrums train you to place your trust in God and not in your own frantic blowing. There will be, even must be, times when you draw the sail and nothing happens. You are doing everything “right.”
You are reading the living word, but it does not seem alive. You are praying to the living God, but it seems like no one’s listening. You are worshiping, but it just sounds like noise. You’re doing all you know how to do, yet you are stuck.
The doldrums are there to remind you that it is the real God you are seeking. You must wait on him because he is God. He is not in our service. We are in his. Waiting on him means… waiting on him. How else would we learn to wait other than by waiting? Waiting on God is critical to knowing God (Ps. 130:5–6) because it teaches us that we are not God.
In terms of a biblical picture, we can be like a tree planted by streams of living water, meditating day and night, and still be in a season with no visible fruit on the vine. Psalm 1 describes this tree, which “yields its fruit in season” (Ps. 1:3), implying that there are other seasons where there is no fruit.
Every tree has seasons of winter, when it looks like nothing is happening. It may almost look dead. But far below the surface where no one can see, the roots are forcing their way down deeper so that the tree can bear more fruit when spring comes again.
We would like to thank Rankin Wilbourne and David C Cook for providing this plan. For more information, please visit: http://www.dccpromo.com/union-with-christ/