Dear Cobham Park Church Family,
The ocean lies still as a mill pond. Not even the slightest breeze makes sails flutter. The ship and her crew are helplessly stranded. There is no refuge from the stifling heat. Freshwater supplies are dwindling—along with hope. Becalmed sailors can only wait and pray for wind…
All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody Sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon.
Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.
These lines from Samuel Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” describe the region along Earth’s equator that sailors call “the doldrums.” Hot, moist air rises here, leaving little or no wind near the ocean’s surface. In the age of sail, vessels could be stuck in the doldrums for days—or much longer.
We Christians can be stuck in doldrums of a spiritual sort. Many are surprised to encounter days—or much longer—without the slightest breeze of encouragement. Life suddenly feels stale, monotonous, and stifling. Our faith seems stranded. How can we make it through these waters?
Know that you aren’t alone. Every human being faces emotional ups and downs. We are all sometimes tempted and discouraged. Jesus also experienced these doldrums: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man…For we do not have a high priest (Jesus) who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (I Corinthians 10:13a; Hebrews 4:15; ESV).”
Don’t neglect physical factors. We are embodied creatures; our spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical health are intertwined. Spiritual dryness can have physical causes. How are you sleeping and eating? What is your medical condition? Have you been stressed? In your doldrums, it’s often wise to consult a physician. Look at Elijah’s discouragement in I Kings 19:1-8. It is significant that God’s first three helps to him were rest, cool water, and hot food.
Stick with your holy habits. In the doldrums, things that usually put spiritual wind in our sails (like prayer, church, or Bible reading) don’t seem to move us. One might pull back from Christian fellowship out of embarrassment or disinterest. But we need spiritual habits the most when we feel like keeping them the least. Keep your soul shipshape and ready for the wind’s return!
This is the best time to sail beyond shallow faith! You may not feel God’s presence, but He can work more in the doldrums than in times of happy blessing. A believer begins to realize how much he or she had been leaning on emotional highs and worldly supports instead of God. With fewer crutches, one learns to love God more than His gifts. The Lord can also deal with long-ignored sin in our lives now that He finally has our full attention. Patience, endurance, and inner strength grow daily in the doldrums. Wait for God, and you’ll definitely find Him faithful!
In His Love,