I don’t know about you, but every year around this time, I feel like I hit a wall. Its that mid-semester slump. We have celebrated our way through the beginning of the semester and now are privately wondering if we are going to have enough energy to make it through until Christmas. It lacks the glamour of newness that marks August/September or the poignancy of the November/December days. Maybe I am just a secret hater of routine, or maybe it’s the midterms that have started up, but I always feel as though my battery has just about run out of juice by this time each year.
I once drove my 10-year-old truck up into the mountains. I found the most backwoods, out-of-the-way location to get some serious alone time. I succeeded completely. As it started to get late in the afternoon, I crawled back into the cab of my truck and turned the key to absolute silence. That battery was as dead as it could possibly be. Talk about a sickening feeling. The location that I had driven to meant that I did not have anyone around who could help me with a jump. I remember the rest of that afternoon—hiking and bumming a ride as I made my way out of those mountains. I still have fond memories of that Chevy Camaro and the gentleman who drove me to civilization. That day, I decided that I never wanted to be out in the middle of nowhere with a questionable battery.
I have also decided (from past experience) that I never want to reach these tougher parts of our semesters without a firm grasp of life-giving energy that God provides. I am convinced, now more than ever, that as leaders of ministries targeting young adults we have to be doubling down regularly on our times spent with the Lord (quiet times) so that we may be recharged and also so that we are setting great examples for those seeking to emulate the behavior they see in us.
I recently read in Jeremiah some verses that I think apply to this situation. The prophet bemoans the civic and ecclesiastic leaders of his day by saying, “the shepherds are senseless” (Jeremiah 10:21, NIV). Some translations will say brutish, dull-hearted, or even STUPID! And, what qualified these leaders as stupid? Jeremiah says that it was because they “do not inquire of the LORD,” and because of that, they “do not prosper and all their flock is scattered.” This passage is powerful to me and I submit that it should be for all of us who consider ourselves shepherds of others. If we are not seeking the Lord on a regular basis, then we have a tendency to slide back into doing things under our own power. When that happens, we can become dull-hearted or senseless to the spiritual needs of those around us. We will be less in tune with the suffering and hardships of the very flock who we have been called out to minister to. We also are more prone to see the wind and waves around us instead of the face of Christ, as Peter did in Matthew 14:30. Discouragement can be so easy to slip into! Not seeking God results leads to an overall lack of prosperity and the truly scary pronouncement of our flock becoming scattered!
I think Jeremiah gives us his personal remedy, and again I think that he is spot on for what we need to be doing. He says in Jeremiah 15:16, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts” (ESV). Hear his heart on this, he found God’s words and then he ATE them! I love that. He ate everything given to him by God, and as a result, God’s words became a delight to his heart! This is the opposite of dull-hearted or stupid. This is a shepherd who is not in danger of having his flock lose sight of the end prize!
I am convinced that in these rough mid-term days when I feel tired and sometimes discouraged, what I need most is the thing that I recommend for my students. I need to intentionally be feasting on God’s Word. I need to EAT His words and satiate myself on the bountiful meal of God’s wisdom and encouragement. This helps to ensure that what is begin done is according to God’s will (Romans 12:2) and that the personal failure is held in check. It allows me to fixate on the most important individual (Hebrews 12:1-2), and it is not me!
I pray each of you are persevering through seasons of ministry. I pray that you do not become discouraged or frustrated but daily you are spending time in the Word and that your quiet times result in batteries being fully-charged and functioning.
Conan Sherlin is the Baptist Collegiate Ministry Director at Nicholls State University in Louisiana. He lives in Thibodaux, Louisiana with his wife Christy and their four kids (Evie, Ada, Haddie, and Gilford). Connect with Conan via Twitter: @nsherlin10.