It’s something that happens for every believer: the wilderness seasons. You know, those seasons in your life when God seems distant. Very often, these seasons are characterized by a lack of joy in Christ.
Oh, we may be familiar with the truths of Scripture and aware of what we ought to be doing. But still: our hearts feel as dry as a wilderness and like the nation of Israel, we find ourselves wondering through life—waiting to see if God will fulfill His promise to fill our hearts with joy (John 15:11).
So, what can we do in these seasons? In my own experience, I’ve found the following steps to be helpful:
1.Listen to Music
Not just any music, but music that reminds you of the greatness of God and helps you cry out to him for relief. In my phone, I have a playlist entitled “In the Darkness.” This is the playlist I go to when I have seasons in which the light of God’s love doesn’t seem to be shining in my heart.
There’s just something about music that helps me connect with God. Not always, but very often: this playlist has been an instrument God used to bring His presence near when it felt so far away. Perhaps you know some songs that do this for you as well. If you don’t, ask someone for some suggestions. Some songs that do this for me are:
- “The Way I Feel” by Tyler and Bailey Dodds
- “Though You Slay Me” by Shane and Shane
- “Fall Afresh” by Jeremy Riddle
- “In Your Presence” by Jeremy Camp
- “Presence Power Glory” by Citipointe Live
Either way: I would encourage you to make your own playlist and let God use it to communicate His presence to you during the dry seasons.
2. Read Scripture
Our tendency in these times is to check out from the work it takes to read the Bible. But this is a fatal mistake. The love of God in our hearts will often be fueled by the Word of God in our minds (Romans 12:1–2). Like gathering logs before making a fire, we must gather God’s Word into our hearts.
When the time is right, God will strike the match and re-ignite our passion for Him. The question is: will we have done the work of gathering the “logs” of Scripture into our hearts so that He has something to light when that time comes?
Some places I go to in such seasons of “log gathering” are:
- Psalm 13
- Psalm 23
- Isaiah 40
- Ephesians 1–3
- Romans 5:1–10
3. Go For A Walk
As simple as it sounds, sometimes we just need to get outside and feel the fresh air. In such moments, we need to be reminded of God’s majesty and one of the best places to do that is by taking a walk to gaze upon God’s creation, which constantly “declares the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1–2).
Not only does this give you a chance to look around and see the glory of God, but it also gives you a chance to be alone—not checking social media, away from your spouse and kids, and not consumed by the recent day or week at work. In the crazy-busy pace of my life, I need moments like this. I need moments to be alone with God, to sense His Spirit, and to not be in a constant state of hurry.
Maybe you need to calendar 30 minutes this week to go for a walk, or perhaps go for a drive, a run, or whatever you need. Either way: get alone with God in creation.
4. Read Good Books
I won’t labor this point, but three books I’ve found especially helpful during times of spiritual dryness are:
- Gospel by JD Greear
- Jesus Continued…by JD Greear
- When I Don’t Desire God, How to Fight for Joy by John Piper
5. Ask People to Pray for You
During one season of spiritual dryness in my life, I tried to shoulder the burden on my own strength. “I can do this. I know the truth. I just need to be more disciplined and get my act together!” But, that ultimately proved to be an exercise in sanctified self-deception.
The truth is, I needed people to see my weakness so they could put their arm around me, pray for me, and let me know that I wasn’t fighting this battle alone.
During such seasons, you need the same. We all do. One of the greatest blessings of the local church is that God has given us people to bear us up during seasons of spiritual emptiness (Galatians 6:2). These need to be people you can trust to honor your struggle and walk with you through it—the sort of friends that stick closer than a sibling (Proverbs 18:24).
If you know who these people are, call them this week and ask to talk. If you don’t know who these people are for you, then pray for God to make that clear or to bring them into your life. Either way, we can’t do this alone.
Following Jesus, Believing the Gospel
Even Jesus asked his disciples to pray for Him in His hour of need. And yes, they fell asleep on Him, but He still had the humility and courage to ask. In our effort to follow Jesus and be like Him, perhaps this is an area of our lives we need to put into practice.
Perhaps you have some other practices that are helpful to you during such seasons. I’d love to hear them. In the end, the struggle to know God’s presence is not a self-defeating endeavor. God is more willing to give than we are to receive. Even when we feel like God is distant, the gospel declares and reminds us that He is not (Hebrews 13:5).
In light of the gospel, then, let us make every effort to draw near to God—even when He seems distant. Because of what Christ has done, God only seems distant, but He’s actually not. He’s doing something; He’s at work—and He promises that if we will draw near to Him, He will draw near to us (James 4:8).
“Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest”