–September of 1997
The residents of a Florida apartment building awoke to a terrifying sight outside their windows. The ground beneath the street in front of the apartment complex had collapsed, creating a massive depression in the earth that scientists call a sinkhole. Tumbling into the ever-deepening pit were automobiles, lawn furniture and whatever else fell prey to its gaping mouth. In a matter of time the building itself would go.
Sinkholes occur when underground streams drain away during seasons of drought, causing the ground at the surface to lose its underlying support. Suddenly everything simply caves in, swallowing everything on the surface and leaving the area in a state of disarray and chaos.
There are many dear Christian people whose lives are like one of these sinkholes. On the surface, all looks well. They are a bundle of spiritual energy and enthusiasm. They dash about at a breathless pace, involving themselves in every activity imaginable. Then suddenly it happens. They collapse and leave onlookers scratching their heads in bewilderment as to what happened to this sincere child of God.
Others cave in more slowly. They, too, immerse themselves in exhaustive activity, filling their daily schedules from early until late. However, they are spiritually sensitive enough to feel the cracks developing in the surface of their lives. They sense that something is about to give way. They try to warn us about what is happening when they use terms like, “I feel so empty,” or “I’m just too busy to have a real devotional life,” or “I feel that my whole world is just coming apart.” They are always talking about being stressed out, even after coming back from two weeks of vacation. They’re like a drowning victim, grasping whatever is in his reach to keep his head above water, yet knowing that unless there is a rescue, he will ultimately go under.
The problem with these dear people is very similar to the problem that creates the Florida sinkhole. Just as physical drought takes its toll on the underlying streams that uphold the surface, spiritual drought takes its toll on our inner world and we lose the ability to sustain and support all that must be done in the outer world of our lives. The world’s wisest man was well aware of this when he penned the words, “Keep thy heart with all diligence for out of it flow the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23).
Those of us who are affected by Westernized Christianity are extremely susceptible to this danger. Our Western cultural values blind us to this problem. We are naively inclined to believe that the most publicly active person is also the most privately spiritual person. We wrongly assume that the more activity we are involved in, the better. But the truth of the matter is that we can only engage in the quantity of public ministry and activity that our inner spiritual resources can sustain. That is why Martin Luther said on one occasion, when confronted with an extremely busy day, that it would necessitate him rising earlier to spend three hours in prayer in order to be able to handle the day’s busy schedule. He needed the extra inner resources that only prayer could give him.
It is shocking the number of good people scattered across our country that have become weary and feeble spiritually, when they ought to be strong and flourishing. I’m amazed at the number who have lost the song from their soul and are ready to put their harp in the willows because they are so deeply discouraged. I’m sure there is no simple answer. But I do firmly believe that at the heart of much of this is an empty heart. Too many Christians are trying to sustain a huge superstructure of activity without the underlying power and strength that comes from close fellowship and daily communion with our Lord.
My world at GBS is extremely busy. I constantly face the temptation to let the most important part of my life go—strength and care of my own soul. Recently, back in the spring, I called for several days of prayer and fasting on our campus. I felt I needed something more and that the campus needed something more. I felt empty, stressed out, and void of any music in my soul. After the third day into the fast, my soul began to soar, heaven’s orchestra began making melody in my heart, and I felt prepared to tackle the biggest problem around.
Don’t wait until your world collapses and your inner resources have given way. Learn what Jesus meant when He said, “Apart from me ye can do nothing.”