When God Disappears from View
Jagged cracks mar the ground of our parched pasture. We haven’t had rain in weeks. Unfortunately, here in Texas, we are becoming accustomed to drought conditions.
Suddenly, a powerful gust whips a swirl of dirt and debris into a dust devil. Standing in the middle of this chaotic whirlwind, I’m overwhelmed by a sensation of thirst. While the wind blows unmercifully, I recall a difficult season that feels very similar to my encounter with this pesky dust devil.
A couple of years ago, my spirituality took on the characteristics of drought. I found myself in an arduous season that felt like a barefoot hike through the brutal Mojave desert in the middle of the scorching, summer heat. It was a windblown journey fraught with granules of discouragement pelting me in the face leaving behind a grainy residue of hopelessness and loss.
While droughts can be terribly destructive, they are part of a normal weather cycle. When a drought occurs, water recedes, allowing unhealthy plants to die and decompose. The decomposition replenishes nutrients that have been depleted over time from overgrowth. These life-giving nutrients help vegetation grow healthier and stronger, ensuring future growth.
A spiritual drought acts precisely the same. Experiencing drought is part of an ordinary spiritual journey and can be described by feelings of loneliness, spiritual thirst, and an absent God. The refreshing presence of the Spirit appears to evaporate, leaving behind an inability to pray or worship.
David’s cry in Psalm 42 depicts a soul during drought. He described his soul as thirsting for the living God. Questions like, “Why are you downcast, O my soul?” and “Why so disturbed within me?” revealed an undercurrent of anxiety and desolation. Throughout this Psalm, David struggled with the absence of God, “Where can I go and meet with God?” God appeared to vanish from their relationship, leaving David to wrestle with the loneliness he felt.
For me, drought created a sense that my faith was failing. Questions popped up, “Where is God?”; “What is happening?”; “Why is this happening?”; “Did I do something wrong?”; “Was I good enough?”
The spiritual drought challenged my faith and forced me to dig deep to persevere. Looking back, I notice several habits that enabled me to hang in there when going on got tough. These simple practices provided the nourishment and structure I needed for the long, lonely, dry trek.
First, let me say God sustained me by his grace, just as he does every moment. The spiritual terrain changed, and I couldn’t see evidence of his presence during this part of the journey. But now, a little further down the path, I can see how I was sustained through a life-draining drought.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll describe my experience and what I learned during my spiritual drought. For today, let’s begin with one that sounds easy, but in reality, it can be tough at times.
Get out of bed every day.
In Psalm 42, David wrote about the usual ebb and flow of night and day. He continued with his regular routine of life even though clearly God felt absent to him. I found that when I felt hopeless, the temptation to stay in bed, binge watch Netflix, or just check out of life increased. The question, “Why bother?”, assaulted my desire to go about my regular routine. I wanted to quit life.
“You’re blessed when you are at the end of your rope. With less of you, there is more of God and his rule.” Matthew 5:3 The Message Bible
Drought forced me to face my hopelessness and admit I was at the end of my rope.
But, when I persevered, got out of bed, and went about my day, even though I didn’t feel like it, I discovered an inner strength that was beyond me. Maybe all I could do that day was to brush my teeth. It didn’t matter, that was enough – the strength was there. The tangible action of going on with my day was an act of faith, and at some point, I might become aware that I was not alone, nor was I without resources.
I realize now that lurking under my inability to get out of bed, and my hopelessness was the lie, “I am not enough.” Embracing my human limitations freed me to be at peace with what I accomplish each day (I am enough) and trust that God will fill in the gaps with his grace.
This truly is living by faith.
Practical tips I used to get out of bed each morning while experiencing a spiritual drought:
Before getting out of bed, I take a deep breath and say good morning to God. I give myself a few seconds to orient my soul towards his love. If the alarm is going off or I’m in a hurry, I do this exercise after things have calmed down. But at some point in the morning I stop and do it.
I remind myself that I am enough. That’s all the Matthew 5:3 is saying.
I thank God for the day, no matter what happens – whether I get a lot done or very little. The beauty of the day is not dependent on my accomplishments – it is dependent on God’s grace.
Lastly, I am gentle on myself. I lower the expectations I place on myself. Drought is a shrinking time, my resources are limited.
Next week, we’ll look at another simple habit that enabled me to persevere through a spiritual drought. Until then, remember you are enough.
How has hopelessness affected my ability to go about my daily routine?
What did I do to persevere during this time?
Am I currently at the end of my rope and need more help to navigate this difficult time? If yes, please let me know. I can send you some resources.