Monday, September 29, 2008

Feeling Dry?

Our Hostess: Heather at Emotional Purity

Today's Topic:
Spiritual Dryness

Have you noticed a pattern of when you find yourself spiritually dry?

What do you do to move quickly through that season of dryness?

An interesting thing happened here in the high desert early this morning. The girls were finishing up their breakfast and we heard the loudest thunder! We quick grabbed some umbrellas and ran outside to greet the rain. It's been many months since we had our last rain.

It wasn't a downpour. It wasn't even a good soaking. It was intermittent at best. But because it was so unusual and this desert is so dry, it was exhilarating, refreshing and exciting.

Did you catch that? The drier it is, the more valuable the rain becomes. My life gets that way sometimes. I feel dry and empty. I haven't "felt" God's presence in a while. And the possibility of Him raining on me a little becomes so desired, it's all I can think about.

King David was in the desert of Judah when he wrote:

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Psalm 63:1

Sometimes I am thirsty because I haven't been making regular trips to Jesus' deep, sweet well. There is a story about Jesus in John 4 where we find Him sitting by a well. While he is there, a woman comes to fill her containers with water. He says to her, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." John 4:13-14

When I am not taking in what Jesus provided for me, sometimes I am the one making myself thirsty. We've been given the Word of God, prayer and the Holy Spirit to sustain us and refresh us. When I decide not to allow one of these things in my life, I start to get spiritually dehydrated.

Why? Well, just like anything living needs water to grow, the Word is intended to be living and active in our lives (Hebrews 4:12). If a dry spiritual season is one that feels sluggish and slow, the Word of God motivates us to get moving and change.

In the same way, if in a dry spell we feel like we are not as close to God, James 4:8 promises us that if we come near to God, He will come near to us. Jesus paid an expensive price to provide a way for us to talk to God, just so we could get closer to Him.

And sometimes my soul feels dry because of my own sin. Jesus left us a parting gift, the Holy Spirit. I have a choice each day to live a life filled with the Spirit of God or not. Galatians 5:16 instructs us, "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature." There are times when I have simply been drinking too much of that worldly water. I get too busy, my priorities are in wrong order, I don't believe and stand on God's promises, I'm doing something I shouldn't be and it starts to create a wall between God and I. These things can dry me up as fast as our desert sun snatched up our meager little rain puddles today.

But what I've noticed on occasion, is that sometimes it is not my sin, or my busyness, or mixed up priorities that are causing me to feel empty. Sometimes we're just suffering the consequences of living in a sinful world. We have all experienced loss, disappointment and pain from others. It's as if I know my spiritual tank is dry. So I go faithfully to the place I always go to fill up my tank, but the needle is stubbornly stuck on E. In these times, God seems distant from us for no apparent reason.

These seasons seem to move beyond a dry spell, to a drought filled wilderness experience. There are a variety of possible causes for these times: God may use them to test our faith, to strengthen our commitment, or to purify us. Moses talked to the Israelites after they had a time like this:

"Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart.... He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then fed you with manna which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.... Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.... For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land--a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing." Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 5, 7-9, NIV

God allows those times in my life to show me what is really in my heart. Maybe He needs to show me that I only go to Him when I can get something from Him and He wants to know if I will be faithful to come to Him even when I'm not getting what I think I should. Maybe it's to simulate a "rock bottom" experience, causing me to be humbled and once again recognize my great need for Him. And maybe it's just to keep me aware of how amazing the waters of God really are and keep me thirsting for them even when I have more than I can drink.

Whatever the reason, I can be sure the wilderness experience will lead to the Promised Land. It is the path God has chosen for me. His Word is forever true, and He makes a promise to me that He is my peace, and His choices for me will lead to fulfillment and joy.

Heather asks us, What do you do to move quickly through that season of dryness?

There are a few verses from Psalm 51 that I love to cry out to God when I am in a spiritual drought because they remind me of what I should be doing.

verse 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will turn back to you.

14Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.

Verse 10:
* Ask God to create a clean heart in me, even if I am not aware of any sin that is keeping me from Him. And ask Him to renew a steadfast [adamant, dependable, enduring, faithful, firm, loyal, stable, steady, sure, true, unchanging, unflinching, unshaken, unwavering, unyielding, wholehearted] spirit in me! I do not want to give in to the temptation to just give up seeking Him.

Verse 11:
* Beg Him to keep allowing me access to His presence and His Spirit. It shows how much I value those things in my life.

Verse 12:
* Seek out the joy of my salvation. I need to remember where He has brought me from, what He has delivered me from and all the gifts He has given me! Sometimes this becomes real clear when you get around some new believers, as we were last night at a Teen Challenge banquet. There was something about being around a crowd of men and women who had recently been delivered from their sin and addictions, that brought my own salvation into perspective and made it that much sweeter to me.

Verse 13:
* Start reaching out. Get involved in the lives of others and start sharing the Gospel in tangible ways. This is often one of the quickest ways God leads me out of my wilderness times. Allowing myself to be used by Him has the ability to pull me out of my self-absorption and reminds me whose servant I am. Sometimes this is hard simply because I am feeling weak and thirsty. But this is also when God starts to fill me to be used for His purposes.

Verses 14 & 15:
* Praise God for the things His Word says are true, whether or not I can see them at the time. (Exercise that faith muscle of mine that is so puny.)

Verse 16 & 17:
* Realize while my sacrifices of time in the Word and in prayer are things that bring me closer to God, what God truly desires is my heart. I need to evaluate if there is any area of my heart (or life) I am holding back from God. Sometimes even though I am going through all the right motions, there is something so personal, so vulnerable, that I don't completely trust even God with it. I can kind of hold it close in my arms instead of opening up completely to God. I have to remember, even if I feel God disappoints me by not giving me all I desire in an area of my life, that brokenness of spirit and heart God will not despise. I have recognized Him in His rightful place by trusting Him with it and He will honor that.

If you are giving God everything you have and still feel dry and lifeless, hold on! God will reveal His face to you again. Don't give in to the temptation to give up. God's love for us is real, and our suffering is never wasted. In your waiting, cling to His promises and know His words are truth. You will be stronger for it in the end.

"Here is the opportunity offered. Be patient. Wait on the Lord for whatever He appoints, wait quietly, wait trustingly. He holds every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year in His hands. Thank Him in advance for what the future holds, for He is already there. "Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup" (Psalm 16:5). Shall we not gladly say, "I'll take it, Lord! YES! I'll trust you for everything. Bless the Lord, O my soul!" ~ Elisabeth Elliot

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