How to Get Out of a Spiritual Rut

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What is a spiritual rut? “Spiritual ruts” are a period of stagnation in spiritual disciplines, and a feeling of distance and lack of intimacy with God. Most people have had them before, including us! You don’t feel close to God, aren’t serving, don’t care, etc…

For me (Xan), some days feel like this. But looking back, the first year of our marriage was a spiritual rut season for me. We had just moved for Nathaniel to go to seminary and I was a first-year teacher. I didn’t have a lot of support working for Teach for America. It felt like I was drowning and didn’t feel like I could rest and I was low-key resentful of the experience Nathaniel was having at seminary. I was so caught up in life that I felt so far from God.

For me (Nathaniel), it was when we first moved to Wisconsin. Honestly, I feel like I’m just now coming out of it. A lot of my spiritual rut came from the problem of evil and questioning why there are so many evil things going on in the world.

Signs of a Spiritual Rut

What are some of the signs that you may be in a spiritual rut?

  • Apathetic
  • Feeling distant from God 
  • Forsaking spiritual disciplines 
  • Not desiring growth 

Oftentimes, we can’t point to exact things, but we just now we’re in a spiritual rut.

Causes of a Spiritual Rut

Spiritual ruts don’t just happen. So what causes them?

It’s not necessarily always bad things that cause them. This conversation reminds me of a quote from The Screwtape Letters (written from the perspective of a demon writing to his nephew and giving him advice on how to tempt a human) by C.S. Lewis.

“You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him. Or you can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room…. And you will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy.”

The Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis

Even as Christians, we typically think we have to avoid the “big sins.” But, we so easily let our guards down with complacency or focus on the things that don’t matter.

  • Busyness/distraction
  • Unconfessed sins 
  • Crisis of faith or crisis of life 

How to Get Out of a Spiritual Rut

So, if you feel like you’re in a spiritual rut, what are you supposed to do about it? How do you get out of one?

  1. Acknowledge the rut. You have to realize and acknowledge that you need to grow.
  2. Like we say so often, lead with discipline, and let the desire follow. You’re not going to feel better about it. You can’t wait for the emotions to be there so you can get out of the rut. This might not be immediate or as fast as you would want it. Sometimes it takes years! Embrace it and lean into it.
  3. Ask for God’s help. God has wide shoulders and can carry the burden of your questions and apathy. God is the only one who can change our hearts and renew our minds.
  4. Seek community. Find friends who can pour into you and pray for you. Text a friend!
  5. Find accountability/discipleship. Having someone disciple you, keep you accountable, and study the Bible with you can be life-changing.
  6. Look for ways to serve. Get involved in being the hands and feet of Christ. Get involved in being the body of Christ. This is not the time to pull back from being a faithful member of your church- press in!
  7. Remove distractions from your life. Do you need to fast from social media or the news or sports? Rest and take a step back from those things.
  8. Feast on scripture. Again, lead with discipline, and let the desire follow.
  9. Look to the hope and promise of renewal in Scripture

Isaiah 43:19: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”

Psalm 51:10: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

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