If you’ve been feeling weary, discouraged, and far from God, then you may be in a spiritual drought! Read on for some encouragement for the weary heart.
I remember after I first began my journey following God. Not when I got saved at around 8 years of age, but when I really began to live like I meant it, in my early 20’s. I read my Bible voraciously, prayed constantly, and felt on top of the world. My circumstances were tough, but I was full of faith and passion to follow God and live the life He had for me.
This continued for a few years as I purposefully made important life decisions (and even the non-important ones) moving in the direction I felt God stir. I did my best to determine God’s will (see my 5 CS’s for helping determine God’s will) and live out biblical principles in my everyday life. And I did it with gusto!
Then, gradually but steadily, things started to feel less… joyful. I kept doing the same things, but instead of sensing God’s presence over my life daily, I began to wonder if He still cared. I didn’t often have revelations while reading the Bible, nor did I sense God moving in my life as much. I wondered where I’d gone wrong and what had I done to make God mad.
I entered a wilderness.
And to be honest, I’m still in it.
I used to beat myself up about it and feel guilty and condemned, now I believe that there are seasons in life and, sometimes, the season is winter. But there wouldn’t be classic best selling devotionals like Streams in the Desert: 366 Devotional Readings if wilderness experiences were a fluke. A rare occurrence. Nope. I’ve come to see them as a pivotal phase in the spiritual journey. It doesn’t make them pleasant, but it does offer some encouragement.
1. Feeling separated from God
A common thread in spiritual drought experiences is the feeling of being distant from God. Obviously there are times in life when we’re distant from God because we have created distance. We stop praying, reading our Bibles, or seeking fellowship with God or the church. But there are other times when we do those things and still feel the distance. I believe it’s compounded when we compare it to how close our previous experience was in daily living with God.
What has gotten me through the tough times is knowing that God is with me, whether I feel it or not. As Deut. 31:6 says, “… the Lord your God goes with you, He will never leave you nor forsake you.” Is that what it feels like? No. Do I choose to believe it? Yes.
2. Feeling weary of your circumstances
For myself, the past few years have been fraught with difficulty. Challenging situations, sin against me, extreme disappointment, anger, and hopelessness. While my spiritual drought began before this, these circumstances have only heightened the intensity of my relationship with God. We must be careful to release our emotions to God (I write on the importance of our emotional basement here), but still draw near to Him.
For years I blamed God for my circumstances, not realizing I was creating a further distance. It is possible to cry out to God in anger and distress and still draw near to Him. My circumstances began to make me feel as though life was hopeless. However, when I began to cry out to God in honesty with my whole heart – even if I didn’t receive immediate comfort or deliverance from suffering – my hope began to grow.
3. Faith over feelings
It’s a difficult thing to believe God over our feelings at times. Jeremiah 17:9 says our heart is deceitful above all things. While God continues to change our hearts and minds to be renewed, there is still danger in letting ourselves be controlled by our feelings. When life and our spiritual relationship with God were good and thriving, that wasn’t so difficult. Why? Because the feelings were good, positive, hopeful, and faith-filled.
It is imperative, in times of spiritual droughts, that we learn to believe God’s Word over our feelings. Can we trust when it’s hard? Can we believe when aren’t sure where God will take us? It’s a journey we all must go on. Feelings are God-given, but must be put in their proper place.
4. Don’t play the blame game
If you are in a spiritual drought, take some time to determine if your habits or heart towards God has changed, and if you truly believe it hasn’t, don’t blame yourself. Were people in the Bible exempt from suffering or pain? Take heart from this Streams in the Desert: 366 Devotional Readings excerpt.
It is the common idea that the pathway of faith is strewn with flowers, and that when God interposes in the life of His people, He does it on a scale so grand that He lifts us quite out of the plane of difficulties. The actual fact, however, is that the real experience is quite contrary. The story of the Bible is one of alternate trial and triumph in the case of everyone of the cloud of witnesses from Abel down to the latest martyr.
Here is God’s pattern for our own lives. Here is a Gospel of help for people that have to live in this every day world with real and ordinary surroundings, and a thousand practical conditions which have to be met in a thoroughly practical way.
God’s promises and God’s providences do not lift us out of the plane of common sense and commonplace trial, but it is through these very things that faith is perfected, and that God loves to interweave the golden threads of His love along the warp and woof of our every day experience.
If there are things you’ve stopped doing to draw near God, try reaching out to Him again. But know that in this season you are not alone. And it’s not a sign that you are wrong, it’s a part of the spiritual life.
5. Ask others for encouragement
God gifts us all to bless and encourage one another. It’s part of the joy and privilege of having a family outside of family. One thing that has helped me time and time again when I feel distance from God is encouragement from others. Sharing openly and honestly about my journey and feelings allows others to speak into my life and offer encouragement. Though I may not always sense God speaking to me during spiritual drought seasons, I recognize His voice through others. We were made to be in relationship and the Christian life is no different. Allowing others to bless you and support you will strengthen your earthly relationships as well as keep you encouraged through the tough times.
I want to encourage you, as a fellow journeyer, to keep moving. As Winston Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell… keep going.” I wish I had a “light at the end of the tunnel” testimony for you, but I do have this. The knowledge that God is for me. I do have a mustard seed of faith that some day, some time the spiritual drought will ease up. But I also know that, even if it doesn’t, that my eternity is secure because – praise God – it doesn’t rise and fall with my emotional state.