“A little extra sleep, a little more slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest –
then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit;
scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.”
~ Proverbs 24:33-34
I’ve read these verses many times, but I’ve always interpreted them as a lesson on how quickly physical poverty to catch up with you. However as I read these words the other day I was struck with how this lesson speaks to our spiritual life as well. It occurred to me, as I reflected on these verses, that they indeed speak to my own experience of spiritual poverty when I have rested from my prayer and devotional life.
I have found that a “little extra sleep, a little slumber” manifests itself in a couple of ways. One such way is through spiritual boredom or restlessness; Evagrius Pontus (345-399 A.D.) spoke of it by the name of acedia. At times I’ve found myself going through the motions of my spiritual disciplines, but mentally and emotionally I’m disconnected from the sacredness of what I’m doing. So out of boredom I choose to “take a break” from prayer, reading the bible, and meditation, and decide that its a good idea to put it all off until I feel motivated again. The other way slumber has manifested itself in my life is when I feel like I’m in a really good space with God, that our relationship is strong and flourishing. On those days I find myself thinking “I feel like my relationship with God is great at the moment and I’ve got a busy day today, so its ok if I ‘fold my hands to rest’ from reading my bible today.” Which ever way my emotions have swung I have found that I quickly fall into spiritual poverty and depression, and for me the feeling of disconnection from God is tangible and painful. What I’ve been coming to recognise though is that when spiritual poverty attacks it does not mean that the LORD loves me any less, but rather its affect is to tempt me to run further from Him out of shame and embarrassment. I’m coming to recognise that I can run back to Him and He will pour out in abundance His fullness of grace, peace, and love – I am rich again in Him.
As I meditate on these verses above I recognise this: Even when I don’t want to go to work or school, I still go. We turn up even if we don’t feel like it (or if everything is running smoothly) because we know that if we don’t the negative outcomes could be catastrophic for both our lives and the lives of those who depend on us. So it ought to be that we approach our devotional lives with the same mindset. Faithful commitment to our times with the Lord, whether we feel like it or not, can only bring greater richness to our souls and to the souls of those we live along side of.
One last thought… When King David wrote “Bless the LORD O my Soul” I wonder whether he was rousing his flesh to worship the Lord even though he didn’t feel like it. I wonder whether he recognised that “a little folding of the hands to rest” would lead to a spiritual poverty and a disconnection from God, which he desperately wanted to avoid.