A while back someone posed this question to me: “I am experiencing spiritual vertigo. I want to have equilibrium in regards to spiritual things. I want to trust God more and myself less. I know what to read and where to go, but how do I actually live it?”
Spiritual vertigo can be a real challenge. I spent years frustrated as a believer because my life and faith just don’t always seem to balance out. Sometimes I’m consistent; sometimes I’m not. At times I love God and others passionately. At other times, I don’t love enough. I’ve got faith and trust, but I also have doubt and fear. And I’ve got old sin patterns that emerge as soon as I think I have overcome them.
I assumed the Christian experience meant that I lived in a state of equilibrium where I would not get depressed or stressed. These expectations left me in a state of constant frustration.
Perhaps you are in a place in life where your faith seems more like a roller coaster ride. Some days are good and some days you want to chuck it all. Maybe you thought your life would look very different as a Christian and you wonder why you give in to the same temptations. The gap between what you know in your head and what you live in your life continues to frustrate you.
Have you ever thought that maybe the normative spiritual experience is far from equilibrium?
Consider the prayer and songbook of the Psalms. These guys who wrote the psalms were praising God for his awesome love and power in one song and in the very next one they were despairing of life and asking God to save them. It was like this roller-coaster.
In one psalm David says, “I come to you for protection, O Lord my God. Save me from my persecutors—rescue me” (Psalm 7:1). He cries out from his own vertigo. Things are bleak, but he’s grasping on to his faith.
Yet the next psalm is entirely different in tone: “O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens….” (Psalm 8:1). David is thrilled at God’s majesty. He rejoices in his awesome provision that carries over into the next psalm where he is filled with joy because of who God is.
But it doesn’t last. A couple psalms later he reverses again: “O Lord, why do you stand so far away? Why do you hide when I am in trouble?” (Psalm 10:1).
These prayers and songs do not present a calm spiritual experience of equilibrium, but a relationship with God of highs and lows.
Vertigo is a part of spiritual growth. Think about a spiral bound notebook. The spiral that holds the pages goes from one end to the other moving up and down, but it is still moving in a clear direction to the other end of the notebook. This is the spiritual life. We are growing to be more like Jesus not in a straight line that goes up in a continual movement, but in a spiral filled with highs and lows, victories and failures, but still moving toward the destination of becoming more like Jesus.
If you’re experiencing spiritual vertigo, take some of the pressure off yourself. If you were not longing to trust God more and yourself less, then there likely wouldn’t be the tension.
Maybe our prayer shouldn’t be for whatever we think spiritual equilibrium is but that we experience the “peace that passes understanding” even on the roller-coaster of life and faith.
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