I work at a retail store. During every shift that I work, I can hear both current and past radio hits on the overhead speakers. I’ve heard a variety of songs, ranging from “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana (no, I’m not joking. It was the pop version, at least), to “These Words” by Natasha Bedingfield, to Demi Lovato’s newest songs. But during the last shift I worked, I was surprised when I heard one song in particular.
I was walking through the store when NEEDTOBREATHE’s “Something Beautiful” began to play. I won’t deny that the song can pass as secular, but anyone who regularly listens to Christian radio knows these guys are on a mission to worship and serve God with their music. That’s why I was surprised, yet encouraged, to hear the song. This is a song I’ve always loved, and the lyrics have never meant so much to me as they have recently.
Ever been in a season of spiritual dryness? Feeling stuck in your faith, and not seeing any true growth no matter how hard you fight for it (or, at least you tell yourself you’re fighting hard for it)? We know what we desire in our relationship with God and that we long for closeness, but we feel that we can’t achieve it. As NEEDTOBREATHE puts it:
“It’s like I know where I need to be
But I can’t figure out, yeah I can’t figure out”
We reach a place of desperation where we cry out to God to help us through the season:
“Hey now, this is my desire
Consume me like a fire, ’cause I just want something beautiful
To touch me, I know that I’m in reach
‘Cause I am down on my knees, I’m waiting for something beautiful”
We don’t want to feel numb to God, numb to His calling us back to Him. To combat this, we try different approaches to return to Him.
I’ve been there. I’ve just recently come out of one of those seasons, having lasted almost two years. I’d gone from a place of closeness with God, walking closer with Him than I ever had, to feeling the most distant that I’d ever been in my relationship with Him.
I still strove to honor God with my life and my actions, and do what He had called me to do. But that was about it. My prayer life dwindled, my reading time decreased, and He just seemed to fade more into the background of my life.
One day I remember stopping and evaluating myself. What had happened to me? How had I ended up in this place? I had called out to God, asking Him to “consume me like a fire,” to help me grow closer to Him. I’d pray that, and then go about the busyness of my life. And when I didn’t feel closer to Him, I’d pray again, and hope I’d grow closer. I’ll do better with reading and praying, I told myself. I never did.
Then God answered my prayers about my relationship with Him.
He answered my prayers of helping me realize the seriousness of sin. He helped me recognize His power, righteousness, and perfection. He helped me draw closer to Him when I earnestly sought His face. And once I began to spend regular time pursuing Him, I found myself returning to His arms.
Before I continue, I want to mention one thing: in no way should our relationship with God be based on feelings, whether we “feel close” and “in love” with Him. It’s like any other relationship. There will be days where you don’t really feel like you love someone (family, significant other, friends, whoever), but that doesn’t mean that you don’t ultimately love them. If we acted solely upon our emotions, it would drive our world into chaos.
The same applies to our relationship with God. I understand I can’t base my relationship on how I’m feeling (“I feel so in love with God and close to Him”). There is a difference between recognizing the feeling/emotion, and recognizing that there might be some distance between you compared to other points (no, God won’t leave you, but you understand the point I’m trying to make).
So how do we get out of this spiritual dryness that we all experience many times throughout life?
The first thing is recognizing it. If you don’t know how to swim, and you suddenly fall out of a boat, you are guaranteed to drown in the deep water if you don’t recognize the situation you are in. Same with our faith. You can’t expect the situation to be “fixed” if you don’t recognize there’s something that needs improvement. You have to recognize what your part in it may be. Have I been praying? Have I been reading my Bible? What have other areas of my faith looked like recently?
Next, we need to take action. Recognizing you’re about to drown is a good thing as long as you take action to prevent it from happening. You have to reach for the life preserver being thrown to you.
The greatest struggle I’ve had in the past has been in this area. I recognize my need for closeness with God, and I know what I need to repair that relationship. Then, months pass with no progress. Why? Because I know what I need to do, but I’m not putting in the effort on my part.
But let’s say that you’re a fighter, and you’re going to fight as hard as you can to reach that preserver and make it back safely to the boat. I pray that every person reading this is a fighter, that they desire this relationship with God more than anything, and that they won’t give up when it’s a dry season.
So what exactly do we need to do?
Just like any relationship, our relationship with God is unique. He created us, so He understands how our brains work, how our hearts feel, and how we behave. We have our likes and dislikes, our interests, and our gifts. In growing closer to God, it sometimes takes reflection and honesty with yourself about these things. Ask yourself this: In the past, when have been the times that I’ve drawn closer to Him?
I know that we all have our differences, and that we connect with God uniquely. And next week, I’m going to touch on some of the things others and I have found to be helpful.
Please know, I don’t have the answer to everything. I’m not perfect, I’m far from it (hence, a two-year season of dryness in my faith due to laziness that I won’t deny). But when you give it your all, you’ll be amazed at the progress you make. I hope that next week, some of these ideas will be a tool in helping you fight your way out of a dry season.
Read the conclusion to this post, Combatting seasons of spiritual dryness, here.