Physiological Issues

According to first century Greek thinking, the soul is elevated as good while the body is rejected as earthly and evil. The writers of the New Testament rejected this dualism, and Paul was especially clear with the Corinthians that our bodies matter (see 1 Cor. 6:12-20). We are embodied souls (souls within bodies); or to think of it differently, we are ensouled bodies (bodies housing souls). Because of this indivisible connection between our bodies and souls, the condition of our bodies affects our relationship with God. Here are two ways that the dis-integration of our souls and bodies can create the conditions for spiritual dryness.

Diet and Exercise

In the passage from 1 Cor. 6 above, Paul says, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body" (19-20). One way we can honor God in our bodies is though exercise and eating well. Neglecting these things can affect our mood and damage the way we see God and ourselves. 

In 2010, an American Journal of Psychiatry study concluded that women who ate a “traditional diet" of vegetables, fruit, meat, fish and whole grains were less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety disorders than those who ate a “western diet" of processed or fried foods, refined grains, etc. A 1999 Archives of Internal Medicine study showed that regular exercise can be as effective as medication in alleviating depression, and the effects last longer.

Mood Disorders

Exercise and healthy eating may only have a limited impact on spiritual dryness. If this experience has lasted for weeks or months and has been accompanied by fatigue, lack of interest or pleasure in anything, and persistent feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, worthlessness and/or guilt, the person may be suffering from a mood disorder like depression. If this is the case, it is important to get help from a trained counselor or psychiatrist who can help determine the best way forward. 

Depression often has a physiological component, and can be compared to being stuck at the bottom of a hole with a broken leg. While emotional wounds may need to be addressed (the broken leg), that is impossible until they first get out of the hole, and this may require the assistance of antidepressants. There is a lingering stigma among some churches that antidepressants are unnecessary because all we need is stronger faith in the promises of God, but this is based on the assumption that depression is only an emotional or spiritual issue. Diabetics are not told to refuse insulin because all they need is stronger faith - when depression is affected by brain chemistry, a medical solution may be the best option.

Read about the effects of exhaustion and burnout.

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