Feelings of Drought

I am confident that I am not the only Christian who has “spells of dryness”—in my life with God, in my life with others, and in my vocation.  These are times when I feel barren:  lonely, isolated, and incompetent—failing and falling.  It is hard to talk about these periods—it is hard to know what to say, and hard to know how to seek comfort from others.  Mostly, I end up putting on a happy face and hoping the feeling passes quickly.  And, thankfully, it usually does.

Finding myself in the midst of one such dry spell today [ironically, in violation of the overarching metaphor here, today’s grey rain isn’t helping], my Christian Century came in the mail, and I was surprised by a lovely little reflection by Rodney Clapp called “In a dry season.”  In that brief article, he offers a variety of remedies for the spiritual and vocational “thirst” such dry seasons can create in us.  Of the five he lists, I was particularly encouraged by three.  First, Clapp reminds us that “spiritual masters” down through the centuries have experienced “dry periods”—it just happens sometimes, even to the best of us, even with a God we love, spouses we cherish and jobs we enjoy.  Second, he also encourages us to “trust momentum”—keep praying, keep writing, keep working.  Our habits, he promises, “will carry us through the dry time and often even provide glimpses of God’s presence, until a lively, stable sense of God’s presence returns.”  Third, he invites us to “lean on the objectivity of others.”  Going to worship and continuing to participate in the activities of the church [broadly understood, I would say] is a way that we share in “assurance of God’s continuing reality and faithfulness to God’s people.”  In this way, we are reminded “that God holds us in God’s hands, whatever our perception or misperception of that central reality.”

I appreciate Clapp’s words of wisdom here, and his basic message that when you find yourself in a desert, you just have to keep walking and “stick with the journey” you are on, trusting that God is walking with you, guiding you to water.  So, one foot in front of the other it is, in the hope that the oasis is just around the corner.

4 thoughts on “Feelings of Drought

  1. Thank you for your honesty, Dr. Largen, and thank you for passing Clapp's suggestions along. Sounds like an important article to check out, especially as the semester trudges along and as assignment woes (and the realities of actually graduating and entering full time public ministry!) loom large.


  2. I, too, thank you for your honesty! It's so easy to get caught up in the moment (momentary stresses, doubts, spells of dryness) and lose sight of the bigger picture (the blessings we have, how God is at work in our lives).

    And maybe (this is an idea I'm tossing around) those dry spells and thirsting are helpful reminders to to continue placing our trust in God and not in ourselves.


  3. Henri Nouwen also has a similar reflection on spiritual dryness in which he reminds us that feelings of dryness are often just feelings and thoughts, and that “the Spirit of God dwells beyond our feelings and thoughts.” It's a great comfort for me to be reminded that God's faithfulness does not depend on how I feel myself flourishing or not!


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