It wasn’t the first time I’d heard it. “I feel dead on the inside.” This sentence, or some variation of it, has come up more often than I thought it would in my time as a pastor. It’s voiced by new Christians and seasoned Christians alike. I’ve said it. Somewhere along the way a person’s emotional energy, intellectual energy, spiritual energy, and of course, physical energy isn’t showing up like it once was. And most of the time people don’t see it coming. When it arrives they don’t know how it got there or how to remedy it.
So what do you do when you feel dead on the inside? What do you say to your loved ones when they feel this way? In the last post, I offered 10 diagnostic questions upon which to reflect. Here I want to offer 10 actions that, when taken, give life to the discouraged soul.
- Remember Who You Are In Christ – We all suffer from occasional spiritual amnesia. Those who are feeling “dead on the inside” seem to be in an unusually intense spiritual fog. We forget we’re loved by God in Christ. We forget that we’re not on our own. We forget that nothing will take away anything that we need, either now or in eternity. That’s why it’s so important to attack your spiritual amnesia with active remembering. Remember the great truths of the gospel. Remember who you are in Christ. You’re not alone or left out. You’re a son or daughter of the King of Glory. He has great plans for you that don’t depend on you being “awesome.” Remember who you are in Christ until your heart starts to smile.
- Read, Memorize, And Pray The Psalms – The factors that lead to a “deadness of the soul” are complex. Thankfully, God gave us an equally complex set of prayers in the psalms. Psalmists know what it’s like to feel like a “dry and weary land where there is no water” (Ps. 42). They know there are times when all you can say to God is “consider my sighing and I’ll watch expectantly” (Ps 5:1-2). There are other times when we tearfully cry, “heal me Lord, for I am weak, my bones are shaking” (Ps. 6:2). Read, memorize, and pray the psalms everyday—it provides language of the human experience diverse enough to lift our complicated souls up from the dust.
- Talk To Yourself, Don’t Just Listen To Yourself – No one influences you more than you. No one speaks more life or death into your mind and heart than you do. And all of us naturally speak more death than life. That’s why you have to talk to yourself, not just listen to yourself. You need to win your “inner dialogue” with the gospel (Ps 42). So tell yourself, the presence of your problems, worries, and struggles are not evidence of the absence of a glorious and gracious God who is actively working all things for your good! Tell yourself convincingly to “hope in God”!
- Thank Your Way Out Of It – When you are discouraged, you tend to focus on stuff that will cause you to become more discouraged. I’ve found that thanking, rather than complaining, provides a way out of the soul deadening cycle you’re in. Thanking God is powerful because it requires you to focus your heart and mind on the evidences of God’s grace all around you. If you start your day by thanking God for 5-10 evidences of his grace, you’ll be more energized and hopeful. This thankfulness creates life-giving patterns that will help your soul get out of the ditch it’s in.
- Show Your Trust In God By Handing Him Your Burdens – Most people don’t realize that they are carrying heavy, divine level burdens until they hand them to God. They don’t know how heavy the soul is burdened when we think we know what’s “best” or what “should” happen in our lives. Only God knows truly what’s best. Only knows what “should” happen in your life. Ask God to do what you think is best and then trust him to do whatever he thinks is best—no matter the outcome. If you trust him with your problems, you can be at peace in the midst of an increasing number of problems. If you trust him enough to hand him your burdens, you’ll be able to get better—even if your circumstances don’t.
- Seek Influence Rather Than Control – Control is an illusion. We can’t control traffic, our health, the weather, and so much more. Only God has real control (Ps. 115:3). Control is an illusion, but influence isn’t. We can use our energy, wisdom, skills, and more to influence our circumstances in a more God-glorifying direction. When you seek influence, you do what you can to manage the moments God gives you in a direction for his glory. When you seek influence, you trust him to “do what’s best” while you obey what he’s commanded you to do. As an influencer, when problems appear in your life, you don’t have to waste energy worrying about any ruined plans. You can use that saved energy to focus on influencing everything for the better, whatever circumstances you find yourself in.
- Create Some Margin In Your Life By Saying “No” – Many “burned out” people became “burned out” people because they couldn’t say, “no.” Learning to say “no” doesn’t mean you’re learning to be unkind, it means you’re learning to be human. You have limitations. Only God is limitless. You can’t be everyone’s friend. You can’t keep everyone happy. You can’t achieve everything you want to achieve. You need margin in your life. Like those plants in your garden, you need space to be fruitful. Do a little weeding in your calendar and commitments. Transition out of what needs to be transitioned out of in a way that is least destructive to the places you’ve committed. Release the chokehold on your schedule and create some margin in your life with your “no.”
- Share Your Burden With Your Brothers And Sisters In Christ – One of the key ways to move from being discouraged to encouraged is by spending time around fellow Christians. God loves for his church to share their burdens and their struggles with each other. As we share our burdens and struggles with others, they instantly become lighter. As they become lighter, we find it easier to walk through our struggles. Find an encouraging brother or sister in Christ and pour your heart out to them. And don’t just look to living brothers and sisters. I’ve found that God uniquely uses Christian biographies to awaken sleeping hearts, to encourage discouraged souls. Take these steps and watch how the Spirit of God uses the body of Christ’s imperfect words and ways to accomplish his perfect purposes in your life.
- Say “Yes” To More Of What Energizes You – God has designed you so that some activities energize you more than others. Find what those activities are and do more of them. Everybody has unique “energizers” that God uses to give them even more energy and life than they’d have if they didn’t do those activities. Create more time to do them. As you do, you’ll find that those actions will increase your spiritual and emotional energy. Give more time to doing what you love to do and watch what it does to your heart.
- Make a Physical Change – There is a significant connection between our spiritual life and our physical life. So part of improving your spiritual life is improving your physical life. I’ve found that physical changes help my spiritual and emotional condition. I think you will too. So get to sleep earlier. Exercise more often. Take your meds if you’re on them. Make sure your diet is more of what it should be. Often times a big part of encouraging your soul includes making a small, easy physical adjustments.
Everybody struggles. Unfortunately, not everybody struggles well. That’s why I’ve found that the previous post’s diagnostic questions and this post’s prescriptions can do a lot of good for the weary, even the “dead on the inside,” heart.