When I wake up in the morning, as a general rule, my temperature is 98.6. I expect this. I feel more or less entitled to it. If it's not the case, I figure something is going wrong, and I want it fixed.
What about my spiritual temperature?
Should I expect it to be as well-regulated? After all, the apostle Paul said, "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord." If I'm lacking, has somebody (me? my wife? my church? God?) messed up?
On the other hand, the same Paul said, "I face daily the pressure" of concern for all the churches. "Who is weak, and I do not feel weak?"
How do we reconcile fervor and weakness?
The psalmist says that the godly person is "like a tree planted by streams of water that yields fruit in season, whose leaf does not wither, who consistently prospers." But a few psalms later we hear: "My bones are in agony. My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord, how long? … I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears" (Ps. 6).
Every Christian wants a "normal" reading on their spiritual thermometer. We all want to feel spiritually vigorous, and we hurt when we don't. This pain is intensified for people who lead church ministries. You ask yourself the questions: "How am I to lead people to life when I feel dead inside? Is it even safe to try?"
How can we make sense of, and respond to, our fluctuating spiritual temperatures? Are we alone in this experience? And what does prayer look like during these times?
There is an old saying: "We tend to compare our insides with other people's outsides." Nowhere is this truer than in ministry. I see other ducks floating serenely on their ministry ponds, but the only furiously churning legs I'm aware of are my own.
Perhaps it's helpful to know how common soul struggles are. Consider the story of Agnes.
From the time she was a young girl, Agnes believed. Not just believed: she was on fire. She wanted to do great things ...