Question: "What is spiritual dryness, and how can I overcome it?"
Answer: When people say they are “spiritually dry,” they usually mean they feel distant from God or are struggling to grow spiritually. They don’t see God working, the burdens of life press in, and they begin to feel discouraged. They search for God “in a dry and parched land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1)—it is a time of spiritual dryness. There may be several reasons for spiritual dryness.
Sometimes spiritual dryness is due to personal sin. Sin can cause us to feel distant from God because we are attempting to live for ourselves instead of living for God. Unconfessed sin can cause us to lose the joy associated with our salvation (see Psalm 51:12). We can remedy the time of dryness by confessing our sin to God (see 1 John 1:9 and Psalm 32). And we must take God at His Word: “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8). To be “double-minded” is to maintain a dual loyalty, such as trying to serve both God and mammon (Matthew 6:24). Attempts to do so will dry us up spiritually.
Some people feel spiritually dry because of physical, mental, or emotional pain. When we are sick, it is often more difficult to focus on God or spiritual things. After Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal, he ran a great distance because he feared Queen Jezebel would put him to death (1 Kings 19:1–5). He was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, and he wanted to die. God gave Elijah sustenance and rest (verses 5–8) and then used that time of weakness to work in Elijah’s life in a new way.
God sometimes allows a person to reach a low point before intervening in a powerful way. The time before that intervention can feel spiritually dry. The Israelites trapped by the Red Sea are an example (Exodus 14). The people were caught between Pharaoh’s army and the sea. There seemed to be no escape. God seemed to have led them into a death trap. Yet it was during this time God chose to intervene with a miracle that is still talked about thousands of years later: He divided the sea to allow the Israelites to escape on dry land!
God offers some solutions to our spiritual dryness. We have already noted God’s command to draw near to Him with the promise that He will draw near to us. In addition, we are called to seek God through His Word: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). In God’s Word we see the faithfulness, mercy, and love of God. It is God’s Word that sanctifies us (John 17:17).
A second way to overcome spiritual dryness is through prayer. Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jesus taught in Matthew 7:7, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Persistence in prayer is a virtue (Luke 18:1).
A third way to overcome spiritual dryness is fellowship with other believers. One of the strengths of the early church was that they spent time with one another. Acts 2:46–47 notes, “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” God’s purpose for His people is koinonia, which involves fellowship, encouragement, and true relationships.
David was likely experiencing a time of spiritual dryness when he wrote this psalm:
“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?” (Psalm 13:1–2).
At the end of the same short psalm, we have a change in attitude:
“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me” (Psalm 13:5–6).
How did David break out of his spiritual dryness? He trusted in God’s love; he chose to rejoice and sing, based on unchanging spiritual truth; and he remembered God’s goodness in the past.
Jesus promised, “Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). Living water from our Lord is a sure cure for spiritual dryness.