Environment Canada had issued a weather warning for April 13, but because neither my wife nor I had listened to the news, we were in for a surprise when we left home that day for our early morning walk. Strong winds, with gusts up to 80 km/h, slammed into us as we headed off north for the first leg of our walk. The resistance was so powerful it felt like walking in a swimming pool, and on more than one occasion we contemplated a return to the safety of our home. But we pushed on, and as we made the turn, conditions became favorable to us. The powerful wind was now at our backs and driving us forward with little to no effort from us. It seems like all we had to do was to lift our legs. The wind did the rest. The resistance had given way to assistance. The wind was a foe when we walked into it but a friend when we allowed it to carry us along.
In the middle of that windstorm, especially on the return loop when the wind was at my back, my mind flashed to the Holy Spirit and his work in our lives. We know that the Holy Spirit is often symbolized in scriptures as wind. The metaphor ‘wind’ has been used to describe the Holy Spirt in both Old and New Testaments. For example, the prophet Ezekiel is asked to summon the “four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain that they might live (Ezek.37:9). And to Nicodemus, that Pharisee who wanted to know how he could enter the kingdom, Jesus said, “You must be born again….The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (Jn.3:7b-8). We also recall that famous incident on the Day of Pentecost, when the Spirit came “as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:2b).
As the ‘wind of God,’ the Holy Spirit is either in our faces or at our backs. He comes into our faces to push us back from words and actions that are detrimental to our personal growth and our relationship with the Lord. This resistance is also known as striving. For example, the Spirit strove with the people of Noah’s generation to stop them from their wicked ways. But they pushed past that resistance and brought about their destruction in the great flood. On the other hand, when we have the Spirit at our back, meaning we allow him to lead us, or drive us forward, we will discover that ministry becomes easy.
Burnout occurs when we are either working in the energies of the flesh or striving against the leading of the Spirit. It is hard slogging and leads to frustration, bitterness, and resignation. But God has given us an easier way and that is to let the Spirit carry us. Be filled with the Spirit (Ep.5:18). Walk in the Spirit (Gal.5:16). Pray in the Spirit (Jude 20). Sing with the Spirit (1Co.14:15).
If we find ourselves always in tension, always struggling to move forward, it is a good indication that we are either moving against the will of God or trusting in our own flesh to do spiritual work. But when we have the Wind at our back, we will discover that life and ministry is a breeze.