The truth of the gospel—the benefits of Christ’s substitutionary life and death on our behalf are received by faith alone—regularly poured into our minds and hearts, will guard us from deadening legalism and subsequent spiritual dryness.
If you have been a Christian for any amount of time, you know that spiritual passion, sight, and affections ebb and flow. At times our sense of spiritual realities can be strong and vibrant. Other times our hearts feel like lead weights, and we find ourselves longing for God to visit us once again and bring refreshment (Ps. 85:4-7). These seasons are usually referred to as times of “spiritual drought” or “spiritual dryness” and find intimate expression in many of the Psalms.
David often cried out to God in times where his soul seemed like dust, and he yearned to be refreshed by the presence of the Lord (Ps. 13; Ps. 63). Other psalmists expressed their longing to have their parched souls be replenished by the Lord (Psalm 42). Those who have tasted of the goodness of Christ know what it means to be without that taste; it leaves us pleading, “light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death” (Ps. 13:3).
Spiritual drought, though a persistent and unwelcome visitor, is not something with which we must constantly live. There are Biblical means by which we can, by grace, put ourselves in the way of refreshment; we can be restored to once again feel the joy of our salvation. But this can only happen if we are able to discern why we might be experiencing spiritual dryness, so we can take the appropriate action. With this in mind, I would like to suggest a few reasons we may be experiencing a season of spiritual drought and provide the correlating remedies.
1. Unchecked Lust
Peter’s warning could not be more explicit: “Abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul” (I Pet. 2:11). Impure thoughts and freshly cultivated fantasies will only dull our sense of spiritual things; this is what Peter means when he tells us that lust “wages war against the soul.” Harboring lust defiles our conscience, feeds our sinful flesh, and withers our spiritual vitality.
If we are experiencing the ravages of spiritual drought, it may be because we are entertaining our minds with lust and feeding our sinful desires with suggestive movies, magazines, internet sites, or by simply visiting the local mall. The only remedy called for here is sincere confession and repentance (Prov. 28:13; I John 1:9). In order to find our souls once again enthralled with the joy of our salvation, we must confess these sins and turn from them (Ps. 51:1-12), resolving to no longer make any provision for the flesh (Rom. 13:14).
Jesus, in confronting the Pharisees’ desire for self-exaltation, provides a valuable insight as to how pride relates to faith. The Pharisees were unable to see the truth and beauty of Christ, because they were infatuated with their own glory and loved receiving praise from men. Jesus asks them, “‘How can you believe when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?’” (John 5:44). Saving faith was hindered by their pride.
And although this passage speaks specifically of pride obstructing saving faith, I think we can safely apply this principle to our lives as Christians: pride kills faith in Jesus. If we are nurturing self-love—seeking praise and appreciation from our friends, our congregation, our professors, our supervisor, or those who read our blogs—we will find out very quickly that “God opposes the proud” (James 4:6). Our souls will shrivel as we fill them with the glory that comes from man. On the other hand, turning from ourselves and our reputations to exalt Christ at all costs will bring about spiritual renewal since “[God] gives grace to the humble.”
3. Love of Money
There is also a direct correlation between our attachment to stuff and our ability to see the glory of God. Jesus connects our physical gaze with our spiritual sight in Matthew 6:19-23. Christ instructs us to store up lasting treasures in heaven rather than temporary riches here on earth. Whether we do this or not will have a significant impact on our affections, for “where [our] treasure is, there [our] heart will be also” (Matt. 6:19-21).
Jesus continues, “‘The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness’” (Matt. 6:22-23). In other words, if we are fixed upon the glitter of earthly riches, the brightness of God’s glory cannot shine into our hearts, and we will only suffer spiritual thirst, not saturation. The solution here is to start taking our eyes off earthly riches. This is often helped through prayer and by regular and consistent giving to our churches, faithful gospel ministries, the poor, and to those in need. Isaiah 58:10-11 is encouraging in this regard,
If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
4. Lack of Bible Reading, Meditation, and Prayer
When we neglect Bible reading, meditation, and prayer, we are cutting ourselves off from essential nourishment for our souls. It is impossible to thrive spiritually without feeding our minds and hearts with God’s Word. Psalm 1 reminds us of the benefits of meditation:
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, or stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the sear of scoffers, but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither, in all that he does, he prospers (Ps. 1:1-3)
On the other hand, our leaf will wither if we are not planting ourselves near the life-giving streams of God’s Word. This reminder is especially important for those of us who tend toward service and who desire to stay busy and productive.
Although it is good to be busy and always abounding in the work of the Lord (I Cor. 15:58), our work can become empty, heartless, and sapped of power if we are not fueling ourselves with the spiritual food that comes from God’s Word. We need to fight to set aside regular time to read, meditate, and pray over Scripture.
It is also beneficial to memorize Scripture so that we can receive refreshment from biblical truth any time during the day. If we refuse to drink from the well of God’s Word on a regular basis, we should only expect dry ground and withered leaves.