About 20 years ago, I took a personality test at work. There were four personality types: Butterfly (spontaneous); Elephant (strong); Frog (persistent); and Turtle (patient). According to the test, I was a “Turtle” with the personality traits of: introvert, observer, cautious, calm, patient, organized, stoic, etc. I don’t know how accurate the test was—I have never considered myself calm, patient, or unemotional. However, in my professional persona I did try to practice these characteristics.
Lately, it has occurred to me that I share some characteristics with my reptilian counterpart that has nothing to do with a personality test. I picture a turtle plodding along to its destination, maintaining a slow but steady speed, not caring about much of anything but getting where it is going. When trouble comes (such as cars interrupting its pathway across a street or people trying to pick it up and play with it), it tries to avoid the problem by pulling its legs and head into its hard shell.
Unfortunately, I sometimes find myself doing the same thing in my spiritual walk. I move through my days slowly not getting excited about anything in either a positive or negative way. I follow my routine, doing what I think needs to be done and staying well within my personal comfort zone. When my schedule gets interrupted, or problems start surfacing around me I tend to “retreat.” I pull into my protective shell where nothing or no one can bother me. The shell shuts people out and, I’m ashamed to say, sometimes that includes God. I keep myself at a distance—I know He’s there, but my prayer life suffers because I’m not talking to Him, my Bible study and worship experiences suffer because my heart is not open to his urgings, and my Christian walk suffers because when I’m locked away in my shell, I’m unable to reach out to other Christians to seek their support and guidance. In addition, when I’m in my shell, I’m unable to see someone else’s struggle and offer them the love and reassurance they may need in their own Christian walk.If we feel God is far away, we are the one that moved. He is right where He has always been. He doesn't change.… Click To Tweet
How about you? Do you ever feel like God is far away? That He is not interested in the things happening in your life. You pray and pray but He doesn’t seem to be listening. You can’t see (or feel) His presence and you wonder why He has abandoned you.
Many Christians have felt this way at some time in their lives, whether they openly admit it or not. We have inadvertently let our guard down, Satan has walked in, and we think God has left us high and dry. In reality, it is not God who has moved far away; it is us. God is right where He has always been. We are the ones who have shut off the lines of communication.
Satan enjoys nothing better than for us to distance ourselves from our Holy Father. His goal is to make us miserable, and we help him accomplish this when we focus inward instead of outward or when we focus on how unhappy we are rather than how blessed we are. I don’t know about you, but this makes me sad. It grieves me to think that I would allow Satan to come between me and my Heavenly Father–yet I allow him to time after time.
However, I am my Father’s child! Eventually the guilt gets too strong and I’m unable to ignore the conviction I feel to get my life back on track. I turn to Him, by opening my Bible, my journal, and my heart. My prayers begin by admitting to myself what I have been doing, accepting that it has been me that has temporarily roadblocked my relationship with my Father, and seeking God’s forgiveness. The communication lines are reopened and conversation flows freely again. It is such a wondrous feeling. I have come home.Satan likes nothing better than to interrupt our focus and make us feel far away from God. Click To Tweet
So, how can I prevent “turtle mode”? How can I slam the door in Satan’s face when he tries to slip in? I developed a “plan of attack and I would like to share it with you:
- I will remember God’s promises. The Bible is full of God’s promises to us. To name a few: He will never leave us (Hebrews 13:5). He never changes (Malachi 3:6). He loved us so much He sent his son to die for our sins so that we can be with Him in eternity (John 3:16). He will help us face whatever comes our way (Matthew 6:34). Nothing surprises Him and there is nothing that God cannot do (Luke 1:37).
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. Isaiah 43:2
- I can stop feeling sorry for myself. Life is not about me. Jesus didn’t save me so my life would be all rainbows and lollipops. He saved me so I can be a part of God’s eternal family. He has a purpose for me. I need to figure out what He desires for me to do and do it.
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)
- I need to love my neighbor. Yes, there will be times when I need another Christian’s encouragement, prayers and guidance. In the same way, I may need to be that Christian for someone else. I need to look around me, see who needs reassurance and support and pour out my love on them.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)
- When I mess up I will confess and seek His forgiveness. I will take responsibility for my actions, confess them to God and seek His forgiveness so that I can re-open the lines of communication with refreshed enthusiasm.
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. Acts 3:19 (N IV)
These are just a few ideas for getting myself out of “turtle mode” and getting back into “servant mode.” You may have some of your own ideas for your own “plan of attack.”
It would be great if I could promise that it would never happen again. But I know it will. I will get tired. I will get lazy. I will get sick. My defenses will weaken and Satan will wriggle his way in. This side of heaven I am limited by my “human-ness.” But I now have “plan of attack” to initiate when I feel Satan moving in.
If you tend to be a “turtle”, may I suggest you come up with your own plan of attack. Write it down. Prepare yourself so that when you need to snap out of “turtle mode” you will be ready. Stand up to Satan and don’t let him put distance between you and your Heavenly Father.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.