The Feast is over. Somehow, even though the Feast is always eight days, it seems like it gets shorter every year. Eight days, three Sabbaths and 10 church services seemed like they passed in a matter of moments, as if Feast time is accelerated and condensed.
After such a spiritual and emotional high, it can be difficult to re-adjust to our everyday lives and become bored, discouraged or lonely. Once these feelings start to weigh on us, they can snowball into a full-on spiritual crisis as our relationship with our Father and Jesus Christ starts to slip—sometimes we drop from a spiritual high to a low very quickly.
If this starts to happen to you, don’t worry—the antidote is right under your nose, embedded in the meanings of the Feast of Tabernacles and the Eighth Day that we just observed!
Relationship Maintenance Part 1—God and Jesus Christ
Without a doubt the most enriching and fulfilling aspect of the Feast, whether we’re aware of it at the moment or not, is our deep fellowship with God for eight days. When we ask for God’s presence and guidance in the opening prayers at our Sabbath and church services, we mean that quite literally! We want God to be present and active within our Feast experience, guiding our speech, conduct and thoughts.
Post-Feast, this needs to remain our first priority. Proverbs 3:6 instructs us that if we acknowledge God in all that we do, He will be an active, guiding force in our lives. If you’re having trouble keeping God in every part of your life, try this: Say an “opening prayer” every morning before you start your routine. Just like we do at the Feast, ask God to be an active participant in the day’s activities, and don’t forget to thank Him for His presence and guiding hand.
Also make sure to spend time every day studying and meditating on the life of Jesus Christ. Keeping His example of perfect living at the forefront of our thoughts helps us to work hard to live up to that example. When we dwell on and appreciate our Messiah’s selfless sacrifice we keep our perspective and stay humble, realizing that without our great God we can never have true fulfillment.
Relationship Maintenance Part 2—Our Brethren
A big part of the spiritual recharge we get during the Feast is being surrounded by our spiritual family. We get the treat of spending all day, every day with our brothers and sisters, something that very few of us have the privilege to do on a daily basis. I was very impressed by the brethren in Germany this year. For many of them, they only really get to spend any serious time with their brethren once a year—at the Feast. The feeling of excitement and joy was absolutely electric in the meeting hall every day.
So what happens when we leave the awesome Feast environment? Our tapestry of support from our family disappears, and we’re faced with our old worldly troubles once more. Psalm 120 is the first of the “songs of ascents.” These psalms picture the progression of going up to the Mountain of the Lord to worship at the Temple, just like we do in a spiritual sense every year for the Feast. Notice what was on David’s mind when he wrote this psalm, before he ascended to the Feast: “Woe is me, that I dwell in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar! My soul has dwelt too long with one who hates peace. I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war” (Psalm 120:5-7).
Meshech and Kedar were areas inhabited by gentile people who didn’t understand God’s way of life. Sometimes the world feels like Meshech and Kedar for us, with people who at times treat us unfairly or spitefully, especially when we try to live according to God’s Word. When we return to the “tents” of our home areas it can be hard to adjust back to living in a world that doesn’t have the same hope that we do.
Besides keeping our focus spiritually by staying close to God, we can strengthen our resolve by making a commitment to stay close to our brethren even after the Feast. If you have fellow Church members nearby, take time to visit them throughout the week—it will benefit them just as much as you! If you live in an area that’s far away from others, keep in touch with phone calls, e-mails, Skype dates or even a good, old-fashioned hand-written letter! Don’t underestimate the positive impact this can have on you and others. Solomon understood the value of long-distance communication: “Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land” (Proverbs 25:25, New International Version).
Stay Spiritually Active by Serving God and Others
The Feast is all about service, both in application and meaning. We work hard during the Feast to make it an enjoyable and memorable experience for those around us, whether we’re ushering, speaking, leading songs, greeting or doing kind things for people behind the scenes. When the Feast is over, make service a priority in your home congregation. If you’re not already involved, make a point to pitch in wherever you see a need. If you know someone in the congregation who has a need outside of services, talk to them privately and volunteer to help them out. One wonderful fact about service is that it’s mutually beneficial for all involved: One person gets helped and another gets an opportunity to express the Christ-like attribute of a service-driven attitude. God enriches our lives with bountiful spiritual gifts. He expects us to use them productively in His service for the benefit of others. Peter stressed the importance of this to the brethren of his time: “Each of you has been blessed with one of God’s many wonderful gifts to be used in the service of others. So use your gift well” (1 Peter 4:10, Contemporary English Version).
During the eight days of the Feast we remember one of the most profound truths of the Bible—that God’s plan includes all of mankind, each in his or her own time. With this in mind, don’t forget that your service shouldn’t be limited to the Church only. Although the Church is God’s primary focus at this time, He is still involved and deeply interested in what happens to those who are at this time outside the household of faith. Don’t forget that Jesus’ greatest act of service—His willing sacrifice—was accomplished due to His love for all mankind (John 3:16).
While keeping your priorities straight and not neglecting your obligations to serve God in His Church, look for opportunities to serve your communities and your neighbors. There are many worthwhile charitable community-based organizations that provide for the physical needs of the most vulnerable and needy potential members of God’s family. Serving in this capacity is even more important when we can establish a personal connection with those we’re helping, because it helps us to let our light shine to the glory of our Father (Matthew 5:16). By setting a good example of a godly lifestyle and selfless service, we may be setting an example that will last into all eternity, as the Eighth Day shows us.
To recap: Fellowship with and serve God and your brethren. Build meaningful, lasting relationships and set a good example for those around you. Glorify God in all that you do. By looking at the meaning of the Feasts we just kept and resolving to live these principles past the Feast and throughout our lives, we can do much more than just beat the blues. We can set a standard and establish habits that will last forever.