Wednesday, 29 April 2009

The Dry Season

To all spiritual lives there come seasons of dryness, when it seems that our spiritual growth is dormant and our desires for God grow stale. These arid times may be ushered in by grief, exhaustion, or pre-occupation with matters that distract us from our inner life. Sometimes a barrenness of spirit sets in for no apparent reason whatsoever.

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my souls pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God? (
Psalm 42)

This personal devotion is created to help you to acknowledge your spiritual desert and be faithful to God in it. Furthermore, I encourage you to maintain the all-important practice that Christians throughout the centuries have advised for those in a dry season: just do it.

Even when we do not feel drawn to worship or prayer, it is a sheer act of faith to continue to do the things that nurture our spirituality--such as reading this devotion! After all, it is God who is at work to instil within us the desire and ability to do God's will (Philippians 2:13). The dry season is a time to trust that God is really at work in your life.

In this personal devotion, you will find both permission to be where you are spirituality and some practical advice to use the dry season as a significant aspect of your life with Jesus.


You’re not on your own

In case you are feeling alone in your dryness, bear in mind the countless number of faithful women and men who have gone through their own desert of the spirit. Remember Moses' burning bush? Recall Elijah's retreat from Jezebel after calling down fire from heaven to disprove her idol worship? Don't forget Naomi, whose bitterness of soul was so deep for a season that she even changed her name to "bitterness."

So, if the dry season is so common, why is it that we Christians seldom speak of it? Actually, some traditions do address it openly. For others, it seems to be a sign of weakness or failure to admit that one's experience of God has grown powdery.

Let's go further into the matter of faith and the dry season. Is it really a sign of faltering faith when we lose our enthusiasm?

"But, what will they do here who see that after many days there is nothing but dryness, distaste, vapidness, and very little desire to come to draw water?"

--Teresa of Avila

Teresa has much to teach us about living the faith life in the desert. After all, she lived her life in the Spanish Inquisition! She pictured spirituality as "fetching water from the well," with the prayer, "and please God that it may be found." There are times, she laments, that "the well is dry."

What can we do when the well is dry? We continue sending our buckets down into the well shaft and drawing them up, as faithful gardeners. In so doing, Teresa teaches, we embrace the cross. After all, doesn't it require more faith to continue our devotion to God during these dry spells than when we are full of good feelings and excitement? You may never know the pillars of spiritual strength that you encounter in everyday life, who are faithfully living out their love for God in ways that aren't so eye-catching and spectacular.

Dangers in the Desert

"Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil."

-- Matthew 4:1

While the dry season is by no means an indication that we are doing something wrong, it can be an occasion of intense temptation. It has its own special dangers.

  1. The temptation to believe that God is far away. Without the feelings of enthusiasm we once experienced in our prayer and worship times, it may feel as though there is some huge gulf between God and us. We may wonder, "Does God still love me?"
    The reality may be that God is actually deepening our faith so that we do not base our faith on feelings, but on an inner assurance that God is faithful. Believe that God is at work behind the scenes!
  2. The temptation to be swayed in our beliefs. Spiritual writers throughout the centuries have described this temptation in terms of confusion or irritability. We may become doubtful of doctrine--and easy prey to those who would draw us from our faith. We may become resentful of what we perceive as God's inaction.
  3. The temptation to substitute physical experience for spiritual experience. With the dearth of spiritual vitality, it is common to find that our physical desires may compensate. The dry season is often a time when our desires increase in ways that reflect our own personal weaknesses.

"We hunger for satisfaction, for real fulfilment. Not finding it, we stuff ourselves with food, and stuff our houses with gadgets and furnishings. We thirst for intimacy, to offer ourselves to someone who will receive us, who will know us to our depths and delight in us. When this proves impossible, we turn to sex and pornography in the unconscious hope that they will meet the real need that we hardly even know how to acknowledge as yet."

--David Rensberger, Thirsty for God

Of course, the internet is full of merchants waiting to capitalize on our temptations!

Surviving the Dry Season

There are three things I can recommend you pursue during your dry season.

Continue your spiritual disciplines.

Even though it may seem that your prayers bounce off the ceiling or that your Bible reading is boring, it is now more important than ever to exercise your faith rather than basing your Christian walk on feelings.

This is not to say that you should continue in the same old patterns. It may be time to learn new ways of praying and to give up the compulsions that sometimes rob our spirituality of life. A dry spiritual season often marks a significant shift in our faith from a devotional life based on habit and compulsion to one based on authenticity and freedom.

Put the extra effort into connecting with your church family.

The fellowship of other believers can be a real source of encouragement and comfort. If your circle of spiritual friends has trouble accepting your dryness and novel attempts at devotional diversity, it may be time to enlarge the circle!

Seek out a spiritual companion.

It is during such dry seasons that many Christians turn to a trusted pastor, mature Christian or a counsellor who can help them listen for the movements of the Spirit in prayer.

Here are some reflection questions to guide you in thinking through your dry season experience:

  1. In what ways are you losing enthusiasm in your spiritual life?
  2. List the various persons who can be supportive of you during this time?
  3. With which Biblical characters do you identify most, who also experienced a dry season?
  4. What temptations are you struggling with?
  5. What might your particular temptations be revealing to you about your unique spiritual gifts?
  6. What spiritual practices would be most helpful for you now? Prayer? Bible reading? Silent meditation? Journaling? Attending worship services? Attending a spiritual growth group? Others?

Dark Night of the Soul or Depression?

Physical disease can have an effect on our emotional and spiritual well-being. While it is common for Christians to experience dry seasons in their spiritual life, depression is an illness that has many of the same characteristics.  Though God may allow dry seasons to occur for our spiritual growth, Scripture indicates that God also provides healing for our illnesses.

Dry seasons and depression can look very similar, but have different causes. Take a look at the lists below.

Dry Season

  • Lack of spiritual enthusiasm
  • Questioning and searching
  • Struggles with temptations
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Neglect of faith community


  • Lack of enthusiasm for all matters
  • Negative self-talk
  • Loss of appetite; over-eating
  • Insomnia or over-sleeping
  • Social withdrawal

If your observations and feelings match more with the second list you may be depressed and I would encourage you to contact a counsellor or Doctor. Depression is very treatable!

(This article is republished (with very minor edits) from Faithnet, without expressed permission and will be removed if they object)

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Hearing in the middle of the storm

There’s a lot going on right now. It’s like a storm has been brewing and now is thrashing down on the ship that is my family. There is a mixture of emotion. Some are exhilarated, some worried, some frantically attempting to steady the ship, some hypertensive, some reflective, some mourning and some afraid all is lost.

Storms (in nature) and in our lives shake everything. What is not fastened down (and built upon) is often shook loose and lost or destroyed.  Many see storms as trials to be endured – and this can often be true - but I like to see storms as the power to make sweeping changes.  So often we can invest time and energy in ‘beautifying’ mess or rotten structures in the attempt to kid ourselves and others that all is ‘GREAT’. But the refiner’s fire will not leave anything untouched that is not holy. It will burn up the chaff, and destroy that which we have attempted to make holy in our lives, that should not be. It reduces the idols we have placed in our lives to ash.

But storms can be painful. When our emotions are attached to anything but God, when we invest in building OUR lives instead of building HIS KINGDOM the loss can be devastating. Even when we love and build correctly, it is very difficult to be truly ‘content’ when much of what you know is ripped away. It is easy to ask ‘how can this be the action of a loving God?’ Yet, we must remember that EVERYTHING is His. He gives and He takes away. (Job 1:21) It’s all His, how often we forget.

Some people seem to experience more storms than others. – Some people seem to weather storms better than others. I am not able to tell why. I know that there were seasons in my life that were very stormy, and I know that as I grew older and grew in maturity there were less. – but they haven’t disappeared. This current storm is a bigger one for some in my family than it is for me, but maybe that’s just because I’ve been through a storm like this before and ‘survived’?

Whatever the reasons, my job as head of my household is to focus everyone’s attention on Christ the Rock, who, rather than being the one thing you want to avoid in a storm when you’re in a ship, is the very thing we need to lash our family too. My job is to help each one of us to tether to Christ, sink our anchor deep into the rock so we cannot move. When the storm is over, my job is to arrange to rebuild holy buildings after shoring up foundations, providing Nehemiah-like leadership, building with one hand and defending with the other whilst the walls are rebuilt.

Storms have lasting effects. What was there is gone, and even if it is rebuilt exactly as before, it is still a different structure with different materials. The foundations have proved (or not proved!) to be strong, and one might be able to predict the likelihood of what will stand in the next storm. If anything then storms encourage us to build right. To speak life and strength to each other, to remind each other to work with the master builder to craft pure gold in our lives which cannot be destroyed by fire or storms, and to lay up our treasure in heaven which cannot be eaten by moth or decay.  It encourages us to keep our eyes on God, His Kingdom, and our place with him in heaven. It urges us to remember that everything here is temporary and easily lost.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Deal with hurts before they hurt you real bad

One of the challenges of Christian life, is the damage that we do to each other in church.
The following has a lot of common sense, and tells you what to do when hurt is inflicted on you by a brother or sister in Christ. – [Courtesy of George Verwer: No turning back pg 104]
1) Keep Calm
“Be still, and know that I am God.” – Rushing about trying to correct the injury usually causes greater damage.
2) Apply direct pressure of understanding to the wound
What caused the incident? Could you have prevented it? How does the offending party feel? What if things were reversed?
3) Wash the wound thoroughly with kindness
This removes all hardness and vindictiveness.
4) Coat liberally with the ointment of love.
This will protect from infections of resentment and bitterness
5) Bandage the injury with forgiveness
This will keep it out of sight until the wound is healed
6) Don’t take the scab off
Bringing up the subject will re-open the wound. Serious dangers from infection (see no4 above) still exist which could prove fatal spiritually.
7) Beware of painful and touchy self-pity
This is often referred to as withdrawal pains, as the symptom is withdrawing from others, especially the one inflicting the injury. The remedy- accept apologies.
8) Prescription.
Take a generous does of antibiotics from the word of God several times daily, using prayer each time. This has a soothing effect and is a good painkiller.
9) Stay in close contact with the great physician at all times.
Depend on his strength, joy and peace to help you during convalescence.
10) Recovery.
Full recovery is reached when the patient is restored to complete fellowship and harmony, especially with the offending party.