“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.”
This is why I love King David, he hits the nail on the head with every verse he writes. If there’s one lesson that God’s been trying to drill in my head this Summer, it’s how to deal with Spiritual Dryness. There were a lot of times throughout this summer where I felt exactly like this verse…I thirsted for God in a very very very dry land with no water.
A couple of rough bumps hit me along the way this summer and I started to get overwhelmed by everything and didn’t allow myself to spend time with the Lord. I stopped doing quiet time and had no intention of letting Him speak to me or direct me. Once I woke up to the realisation that I really missed being with Him and was repeatedly quenching the Holy Spirit and distancing myself away from Him, I decided to stop and start correcting myself….but wow! things were different…
I had the desire to be with God but I just felt so empty. What came so naturally to me before felt extremely difficult. Reading His word felt tasteless and boring and praying felt so impersonal and insincere. I remember seeing this quote in my bible by St. Isaac the Syrian: “What other time is so holy, and by its sanctity so apt for the reception of gifts, as the time of prayer wherein a man converses with God?” and feeling so upset because I was trying to relive the emotions I used to feel during prayer but nothing was happening; I wasn’t getting anywhere. Even listening to praise or worship had no impact on me whatsoever, I just felt cold.
But that was my first lesson about Spiritual Dryness; My faith should not be shaken by emotions. Jeremiah 17:8 says:
“They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit”
I felt like God was teaching me such a crucial lesson in my walk with Him; I shouldn’t let emotions dictate my spiritual life. Don’t get me wrong – by no means am I saying that emotions aren’t important. They’re vital. I just woke up to the realisation that Satan loves to use sadness, despair, worry, guilt, frustration and many other emotions to make me fall into sin. I need to work on my foundation – my faith in the Lord Jesus – in order to fight dryness.
Later on in the summer I travelled up to Scotland and attended a bible study about Haggai chapter 2 led by Fr. Mark Aziz where God spoke really loudly to me. Here the Israelites were called to rebuilt the temple of the Lord but everyone was concentrating on building their own house first. God speaks to them in chapter 1 and says:
‘”You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house…’ Haggai 1:9
It must’ve been daunting for the Israelites to rebuild the temple and try to make it as beautiful and magnificent as the first one. Even the thought of it must’ve put them off because of how much work and time they would have had to put in, and how unrealistic the goal must have felt.
Fr. Mark reminded me though that my identity is a CHRISTian. “…it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…” Galatians 2:20. Yes the journey with God may look impossible from where I’m at in my current spiritual state, yes I see how far I have to go and how much there is to build and it can be daunting, yes I have to decorate the temple with gold and silver and all I have is shabby cardboard… but that’s OK, that’s the beauty of our Lord Jesus. I am unable but HE is able. I can’t but HE can. Just like it says in Jude 1:24 “To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy…”. These verses really stood out to me during the bible study:
“…Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty… I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty.” Haggai 2:4, 7-9
It’s God who builds our relationship – I am His.
God asks me to work and put in the effort to spend time with Him even if I’m struggling or I can’t ‘feel’ him. But He says that He’s with me and that all the silver and gold that I don’t know where I’m going to get to rebuild His temple, is already His. Our whole relationship is in His hands and He’s the one that’ll make it grow. I am incapable but He is capable. All I have to do is “…give careful thought to the day when the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid.” Haggai 2:18 and then He will say “From this day on I will bless you.” Haggai 2:19
During the same week in my quiet time I read these verses:
“Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
… but look at God’s response!…
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.”
When I read what Moses said I paused for a minute and the words ‘be still’ caught my attention. But then God’s response in verse 15 completely surprised me! I thought it was quite funny actually… God literally just said to Moses “get a move on!”.
I felt like God was telling me “Michael, you need to learn when to be still and when to move on”. Let me explain what I mean; by putting into action what I learnt in lesson 2 – recognising that it is God who will build our relationship and that it is He who is able not I – I am being still and trusting that it’s Him who will deliver me from my dryness.
But then I shouldn’t allow myself to fall into the danger of accepting the fact that I am in a dry state and not do anything about it from my part i.e. not push myself to spend sufficient time in His presence reading His word and not asking the Holy Spirit to open my heart to delight in prayer. I need to move on and do my part,trusting that just as Moses raised his staff, stretched out his hand and God divided the Red Sea, that He will do the same for me.
The next week a group of us had a mini-retreat where we focused on Ezekiel 37:1-14, the valley of dry bones. Here’s a really great YouTube clip that I came across:
“I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ezekiel 37:5
Jesus has conquered death. He can turn death into life.
Our God can open up our graves, bring us up from there and place us where He is (Ezekiel 37:12). He’s done it before and He is able to keep doing it every single time we go through spiritual dryness. He says to us every day “I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it..” Ezekiel 37:14
I guess all this post is trying to portray is that God is so close to you and I even when we’re spiritually dry and we don’t feel Him or see Him. His relationship with us means everything to Him and He’s never going to abandon us in that state – in fact He turns our death into life, and teaches us valuable lessons about His identity and our identity in Him along the way.