About Spiritual Dryness

Spiritual dryness is the enduring feeling of disconnection from God. Prayer that once drew you to God leaves you feeling even more distant from him. The music you once sang in worship now reverberates off the walls of your cold heart. Words that once jumped from scripture and gave you life now seem lifeless on the page. Sermons that once encouraged you now leave you longing for the exit door. Whatever care you experienced from God during these times of prayer and worship now seems like a distant memory. You try to increase the volume of the words - praying harder, singing louder, reading and listening to more - but the words have dried up.

Spiritual dryness inevitably happens to everyone who persists in following God. It can happen very quickly for some, often in response to a painful event. Like the diminishing light at sunset, it can be a slow process for others. For most, more than one of the following factors are at work which affect the way we see God and ourselves:

  • Sin Patterns: Continuing to make sinful choices causes damage to our relationship with God
  • Emotional Wounds: How we were hurt in the past affects the way we see God and ourselves
  • Lack of Community: We were never meant to follow God on our own
  • Physiological Issues: What happens to our bodies effects the way we see God and ourselves
  • Exhaustion and Burnout: Lack of rest has terrible consequences
  • Chronic Illness: This often affects every corner of a person's life - physical, emotional, relational, financial and spiritual.
  • Crises: Painful events can shake our understanding of God

It is important to pray and seek help from others about any of these areas that are relevant. However, there are no simplistic answers or quick fixes to spiritual dryness. We will battle against sin until the day we die, but our sin may not be the primary reason for the dryness. It is important to see a counselor about emotional wounds, or join a church small group or bible study to address any lack of community, but dealing with these issues may not automatically fix what is broken to make it like it was before. 

God allows us to walk through spiritual dryness because he wants all of us. He wants us to love him with our heart and soul and mind and strength (Mk 12:30). He wants us to live by faith, and for this to happen, there are areas in us that must be dismantled so he can rebuild them. This doesn't mean that we are being punished or that God has caused this to teach us a lesson. In fact, the major narratives of the bible show that those who walk in faith experience the most trouble!

The Biblical Paradigm of Faith

Abraham was told that he would be the father of many nations at age 75, and yet he had to wait until age 100 to see the birth of Isaac. Before Joseph was second in command to Pharaoh, he spent many years in slavery and then prison in Egypt. After David was anointed king by Samuel, he spent many years running for his life from King Saul before finally becoming king. After reading these stories in full and seeing how God brought good out of the mess, many things become clear:

  • God never abandoned them.
  • Their difficulties were not primarily the result of their own sin
  • Those years in hardship were not wasted because they were being prepared for what was to come - nothing in God's economy is ever wasted.
  • There was never one single reason why they faced so much trouble - God was accomplishing many things at once.
  • Their hardship wasn't just about them - the lives of others were at stake.
  • Where they ended up looked much different from where they started. God had no intention of "making it like it was before."
  • God provided no escape routes for their difficult circumstances.

Even after living a life of pure obedience, Jesus ended up on a cross crying out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" This quote from Psalm 22 begins as a cry of a man feeling abandoned by God, and yet at the end he says, "The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord!" (v.26). It is clear that the biblical standard for the life of faith includes the experience of God's absence, but our unrealistic expectations about thriving as a Christian can derail us.

The Life of Faith and the Holy Spirit 

If faith is the "assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Heb 11:1), then we should expect that much of our spiritual life will consist of not seeing all that we hope to experience of God during this life. Our failed expectations often have to do with ideals we have about ourselves. We should desire to live completely for God without the clutter of our sin and brokenness tripping us up, but too much attention can be paid to becoming the ideal man or woman we want to be. By refusing to rest in the love God has for our real selves, and by refusing to see what he is already doing in us now, today, we refuse to live by faith. Any spiritual ideal that bypasses the need for faith in the midst of difficulties will inevitably crumble.

However, living by faith doesn't mean that we are on our own. God has given us his Holy Spirit, who is the intimacy with God that we desire. The Spirit leads us, speaks through us, convicts us, teaches us and gives us his gifts so that we may be a blessing to others, but this mostly happens in the ordinary routines of life. This website will explore how God uses spiritual dryness to deepen and strengthen our faith and open us up to the work of the Spirit.

Here are some ways we can respond to God in spiritual dryness.

Note: If your experience doesn't fit into most the categories listed above (emotional wounds, lack of community, etc.), and finding the way through has become a (or the) driving force in your life, you may experiencing the Dark Night.

I would love to read your experience of spiritual dryness. Feel free to leave a comment below or you are welcome to email me.

1 comment:

  1. Millions of people experience depression (often times for no explicable reasons). This video gives some interesting insight into how it can affect people's lives. John