How should you deal with spiritual dryness?

by Eugene Hor on September 15, 2008

Often when people have spoken to me about spiritual dryness, I’ve often tried to work out what they’ve meant by it.  Some people associate spiritual dryness as being spiritually down or depressed.  Others speak of spiritual dryness as feeling as though their Christian life was in a lull.  Sometimes people articulate spiritual dryness this way – ‘I go to church, I read my Bible, I pray, yet I still feel empty and down as a Christian. To make matters worse, everything around me is falling apart. I feel as if God is distant.‘ Richard Foster in his book on Prayer, calls this walking a spiritual desert.  Let me share with you some thoughts that I hope will help you along the way in your desert experience.

Firstly, let me say that the Scriptures have much to say about desert experiences.  The Psalms are full of prayers that express the pain and depths of feeling alone, isolated, rejected, abandoned.  The story of Job is the story of a guy who looses everything he has in his life.  The story of Joseph is the story of a guy who is sold into slavery by his brothers, and is then jailed for a crime he didn’t commit.

What can we learn about spiritual dryness from the Scriptures?

1) Spiritual dryness is not necessarily a bad thing. We must always remember that God is sovereign and is still actively working for our growth and good.  Job in ch.1 was never privy to the spiritual exchange that was happening between God and Satan.  Joseph only in hindsight understood God’s good purposes in Gen.50:20.  We must remember that God IS committed to us, HAS demonstrated his commitment to us completely and definitively in his Son (Rom.8:31-39), and is working even through our present desert experiences to grow us to be more like Jesus (Rom.8:28-30).  Spiritual dryness is part of God’s sanctifying work growing us to be more like Jesus.  Sometimes we forget that there is unseen beauty in the desert.

2) Spiritual dryness should drive us to desire and seek God. When I’m hungry I raid the kitchen for food (often it’s the chip cupboard at midnight).  In the same way, when we are walking in a spiritual desert, we should be panting for God like a deer panting for water.  Read Ps.42 – this guy was truly down spiritually and physically.  He’s wondering where God is.  Tears has been his food day and night.  Yet, it drives him to want God, to seek Him, to find Him.  Spiritual dryness should drive us to desire and seek God: his comfort, his presence, his strength, his filling, his help, his love.  We should be devoting ourselves to fasting, solitude and prayer during these times, to seek Him and to long for Him.

3) Spiritual dryness should drive us to ask what God is wanting to teach us. I mentioned before that God is sovereign and is always actively working for our good, to grow us to be more like Jesus.  Well, ask yourself, what is God wanting to teach you through your desert experience?  Growing in prayer, learning to depend more on him, perseverance and faithfulness, finding comfort in him, loving him more, seeking and proving his promises, praising and giving him thanks for what you do have?  Spiritual dryness can draw us closer to God and grow us.

4) Spiritual dryness should drive us to examine our lives. In our spiritual dryness God might also be wanting us to examine our lives to see if there might be anything in our lives that might be hindering our spiritual walk with Him – unrepentant and unconfessed sin that we need to repent off, habitual sins that we neglect to deal with, spiritual disciplines that we need to commit to, priorities that need to change. Sin if not dealt with affects our spiritual walk with God (Is.59:2), affects our joy (Ps.51:12), brings God’s discipline (Heb.12:6) and a whole host of other consequences.

A verse that has always been a comfort to me in my desert experiences has been Is.50:10 where we are told that, ‘let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.‘  When there is no light, I trust in the name of my LORD i.e. the unfailing and proven character of the one who has loved me, died for me and saved me, who holds my life and future in his loving hands (Gal.2:20).  Let me encourage you to do the same in when you walk the desert paths.  May you keep trusting Him, may Jesus fill you abundantly.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Pete Ko September 15, 2008 at 11:41 pm

Hey Euge, great post. :) You’re a real blessing to God’s work of reaching our city and our world. Looking forward to more partnerships in years to come.

Celz September 16, 2008 at 2:03 am

Thanks for this post Euge, really helpful and much appreciated.

Anthony Lui September 16, 2008 at 6:05 am

Completely agree with you Euge.

Love the quote – “When I’m hungry I raid the kitchen for food” (often it’s the chip cupboard at midnight) and in the same paragraph “We should be devoting ourselves to fasting”. How’s that been going for you Euge?

Keren September 22, 2008 at 9:28 pm

Hello Pastor Euge!

Have you read M. Lloyd-Jone’s ‘Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure’?

“The main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self. Am I just trying to be deliberately paradoxical? Far from it. This is the very essence of wisdom in this matter. Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problem of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment [in Psalm 42] was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself, ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul?’ he asks. His soul had been repressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you’. Do you know what I mean? If you do not, you have but little experience.

The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’–what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’–instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: ‘I shall yet priase Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God’.”

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