This is where I am right now. If the title hasn’t already given it away, I have long been here in a season of spiritual drought. Have you known the feeling? These wilderness moments where God seems so very silent and so very far away. Where we can’t seem to perceive His presence. Where there is no new thrill or excitement, and things that we normally do seem to take about double the effort. Things feel dry and barren–our throats parched for a drop of water that will satisfy.
I tend to bemoan these seasons. These seasons where things get quiet. Where often God is calling me to rest but I don’t want to. Or rest turns into a laziness that was never His intention for us. And however you want to call it, things are just hard. God feels far away. I feel like I’m floundering. Hoping and yearning for a sign of His presence, but really just hoping that these days are numbered here in the great and dreadful wilderness.
Do you know the feeling? Have you been through these seasons of spiritual drought? Because in reality, I think we call go through them at times. We may try to motor on as normal and pretend that everything is fine and the same as it has always been. Or we persevere and lean into God with a stubbornness born of Him. Or we disengage and and just try to wait it out or distract ourselves with other things because we don’t want to confront the reality of these wilderness moments. Or maybe all of the above. All of the above all day throughout each day. But have you been here?
Ever since I started writing this blog, I have always wanted it to be a place of vulnerability. Of sharing the good and the hard and everything in between. And this is part of that hard. Because this is not a season that I want to be in. I don’t think any of us truly enjoy these times of spiritual drought in our lives. I pray everyday that God lifts me from this place, from this rut, and plants my feet somewhere else. That He reveals His presence and just shows up even though I know in my heart of hearts that He is already here.
However, as I have learned in every other wilderness season that I have ever gone through, there is a certain beauty to it. There are things that we cannot learn about God any other way. He reveals Himself in unique ways through this drought and through this thirst that I’m really not sure that we can learn any other way. I walk into these seasons lamenting and bemoaning my time spent wandering seemingly aimlessly in the wilderness only to come to a moment, whether days or weeks or months or years later where I end up praising Him for it. For these exact moments in my life that I so love to hate while I am in them.
But they can be a gift. A gift that we didn’t necessarily go looking for or even ask for, but a gift nonetheless.
So many of us long for those moments in our lives where we have had these great revelations of God. Where His presence has felt so very near. His voice so loud and clear. Moments where we can’t get enough of reading His Word day in and day out and our cups are just overflowing, and those are the types of moments that I long for most when I am in these seasons of spiritual drought. But I also think it is naive of us to think that that is what our relationship with God is always meant to be like. That that is what our lives are always meant to be like.
It doesn’t take very many pages into the Bible to see that God often brought His people into the wilderness, both literally and figuratively. That He had things to teach His people that they could only understand in the vast and dreadful desert. That He often went decades without no new word or direction for His people. Just look at the 400 years that elapsed between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament. Yes, there is such a bigger picture to what we are going through and experiencing–this giant redemption story that is so much beyond our everyday lives. But I also think these stories are here to show us something about God.
I have heard this from so many people, and I have caught myself saying it and thinking it as well. Longing for those moments and experiences of literally feeling God’s presence. I’ve had people asking me what they are doing wrong when they can’t feel God in their lives. Have you ever asked that same thing, whether to someone else or just in your own heart? Longing for those moments when God now seems so far away?
And while these may be very real experiences–and I certainly look back with so much longing at those moments when God just seemed so very there when I am in these seasons where now He seems so very distant–these moments of “feeling” God’s presence in our lives have never been something that He has asked us to chase or seek.
God doesn’t call us to feel His presence. He calls us to know Him.
“This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God,” (John 17:3, emphasis mine).
“Formally, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God…” (Galatians 4:8-9, emphasis mine).
“To know the love of Christ..” (Ephesians 3:19, emphasis mine).
“Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God,” (Colossians 1:10, emphasis mine).
“For this is the will of God…that each of you know…God (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4, emphasis mine).
“Anyone who does not love does not know God,” (1 John 4:8, emphasis mine).
“The people who know their God shall stand firm and take action,” (Daniel 11:32, emphasis mine).
“For they shall all know me,” (Jeremiah 31:34, emphasis mine)
“Be still and know that I am God,” (Psalm 46:10, emphasis mine).
“If you really know me, you will know my father as well,” (John 14:7, emphasis mine).
I could go on and on. Throughout both the Old Testament and the New, God is calling us over and over again to know Him. He doesn’t tell us to concern ourselves with feeling His presence. With chasing these experiences of His nearness. We don’t need to seek His presence because knowing Him and being in relationship with Him is a guarantee of His presence already in our lives.
Not to say that we don’t have moments or seasons in our lives where we truly do feel God’s presence at work in our lives. When the curtain between this world that we know and the one to come is pulled back just a tiny bit and we get a glimpse of so much more than we can ever take in. Where God’s presence is this enormous reality. But never does the Bible say to put our trust in our feelings.
Again, we aren’t called to feel God. We are called to know Him.
But I have definitely had those moments when His nearness has been so great, and I find myself longing for them more than any other when I am in a time of spiritual drought. But in a way that is very revealing. I think spiritual droughts are a gift in a way–a time of reaching out to God for who He is instead of worshipping these great experiences of His presence. Because there is a difference. I have spent time with so many people who talk about how absent God feels, but maybe that is the point. We aren’t supposed to be longing for a feeling, we are meant to be longing for and pursuing Him.
Feelings are fleeting. They can’t always be trusted.
But a life that is built on the knowledge and truth of God is a foundation that we can stand on no matter what the circumstances of our lives may be. We can bank our lives on the reality of who He is.
So while we may enter into these seasons of spiritual drought kicking and screaming, usually we get a glimpse of God that we would never get in any other way. We get to see Him show up in ways that He just doesn’t in any other place. This is where true and lasting faith is often built–in those moments when we have to fight for it. Fight for our relationships with Him. Return to Him and His Word over and over again even when we don’t want to and even when we just want to disengage and numb the quiet and the emptiness. There are things that we can only learn by walking through trials and wilderness moments. These times when we often feel so shaken are actually the very catalyst to God building within us a stronger and deeper faith that cannot be shaken.
When things get quiet and life feels dim, that is when I become most aware of my hunger for Him. When He feels most distant, that is when I tend to seek Him most. He may feel far away, but He is just as present and just as loving and just as good as He has always been. We may not be able to see it yet. We may still be lamenting the season that we are in. But our circumstances and feelings and wilderness wanderings never change who He is–but they often change who we are, for the better or the worse. And we get to choose.
So maybe just maybe, if you are here with me in a season of spiritual drought, God is actually working down below in the surface in ways that you can’t even possibly fathom. Clearing the soil of our hearts for something new. Clearing the land of weeds and debris. Maybe just maybe this season is a gift of getting to know Him in ways that we never have before. Wilderness moments often teach us so much about ourselves. I am most confronted with the reality of who I am and the choices that I have been making, both good and bad, here in the quiet of the desert. Confronted with my sin. With bad habits and choices and so many things that I allow to distance myself from God.
When all else is stripped away–when it is just us and the barren desert, it gives us the gift of seeing ourselves as we really are, and places a longing in our hearts for God that no other setting truly can.
Not experiences of Him. Not the warm fuzzies. But Him, just as He is. The God who has never left us alone and never will. Who adores us and pursues us, and leads us both into the wilderness for purpose and growth and grace, and who lovingly leads us out of it as well.
This season can truly be a gift. You may have to fight for it. You may need to cling more stubbornly than you ever have before to your faith. To God.
But I promise it is worth it.
Because God can use any and everything for good. Including these times of spiritual drought. This season may just very well be a gift of His grace that you will end up praising Him for in years to come, and actually look back on with longing.
Embrace the quiet. Embrace the stillness. Embrace the rest.
He is just as present here as He has always been.
By the way, I am teaching a Facebook class on biblical rest this coming Thursday, October 19th at 8 pm EST for anyone that is interested! Even if you can’t catch it live, you are more than welcome to join and peruse the group when you have some time! I’ll be speaking on what the Bible has to say about rest–and we’ll also be talking about making space for margin in our lives, as well as healthy habits for times of spiritual drought and just as women in the Word who are seeking to always know God more! It is open to anyone who wants to join. You can request to join the class by clicking on this link here.