I was speaking to a great friend the other day who was discouraged because he had worked and fasted and prayed very hard and had achieved a new spiritual stature over many months. The great blessings came, he felt the Spirit night and day, and had great spiritual insights and revelation moment by moment. And, then the spiritual high began to dissipate. New opposition arose. He tried harder – and it still slipped away. He worked even harder still, and found he couldn’t stop it from slipping away. He wasn’t doing anything wrong – as a matter of fact, he was doing more things right than ever before in his life.
He sat down in my office very discouraged and after a few minutes of hearing his tale, I knew exactly what was happening, and it had nothing to do with any error or sin on his part, but the opposite. It was happening because he was seeking and was obtaining great spiritual growth.
Here’s what happens, when we pay the price for some new spiritual growth, we arrive at a spiritual high, or a type of honeymoon period where we bask in the new blessings, the powerful prayers, the peace and constant revelation. Obedience is easy there because it is so wonderful. We can easily see the path before, and obedience to the voice of revelation and to any commandment is a joy. But, we are living on borrowed light – the Lord’s light. We are glowing with spiritual power that is not our own.
This always happens. Following periods of growth new opposition arises which challenges our new gifts. The Spirit begins to withdraw to give us the opportunity to continue with our new level of obedience simply because we know it is correct, not because we are lit up with a trillion volts of spiritual light.
It may seem, and actually does seem, that something has gone dramatically wrong. The adversary whispers, “If it was actually true, then it wouldn’t be slipping away.” Or, “See, you’re not good enough. You’re too weak to maintain any great blessings.”
The truth is that the rise of this additional opposition and loss of spiritual power is part of the plan. It gives us a chance to be tested at this new level of spiritual growth. The test is to continue doing those things we learned to do to get there, even when we no longer feel like doing them.
On my mission we had hundreds of mission rules. Because I had a great trainer first companion, I learned to keep the rules from day one. We worked hard and studied hard, prayed hard and testified hard. And, we lit up spiritually and had wonderful experiences. We knew where to go, what to say, what to teach. We just loved it. Then, after a few months there was a spiritual tapering off. We lost some investigators. We got yelled at and threatened by local ministers. It became hard. We didn’t feel the Spirit as often. We didn’t know whom to find, or what to say once we found them. My companion looked at me and said, “It happens. We just keep working and doing the Lord’s will even when it’s hard.” So, we trudged along for another few months in the hot African sun, doing everything we knew to do, fasting, praying, studying, keeping the mission rules, and in a few months the Spirit returned with greater power, and new spiritual gifts, and new investigators. We were thrilled. My companion looked at me and said, “It happens. We just keep working and doing the Lord’s will even when it’s easy.”
In other words, keep doing everything right – because it is right – even while standing in darkness or in light. This is the test. This is where we prove that we are “willing to serve Him at all hazards”. This is the magic of obedience. This is the test that guards the way to the next greater thing you are seeking. Then, when the Spirit returns – and it will return – it returns with greater power, with new spiritual gifts and new levels of obedience for us to learn. Then we bask in the new honeymoon period and prepare for the test that will surely come.
This is the way of growth. Struggle – grow – receive blessings – bask in the blessings (Honeymoon Period) – greater opposition – lessening of the Spirit – remain faithful – climb to new spiritual heights – start all over again.
I drew this little chart years ago for FTL. It illustrates this process on a rather broad scale. In reality it operates on a much smaller scale, in much smaller challenges and blessings than the Rebirth or Calling and Election. But, it is the same process throughout our lives.
The blessing of know this process is operating in our lives is that it empowers us to forge onward, to know that it is the way of growth and not some unfair and unholy obstacle. It will end and we will regain our blessings as we endure. We are not lost in some spiritual wilderness, but upon the path that leads to greater blessings.
It is the way of growth.