How to Survive the Spiritual Desert

December 21, 2012 — Leave a comment

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.

David wrote Psalm 13 above in the midst of a spiritually dry time. When God seems far away or against us, we tend to try harder with our spiritual disciplines in order to climb our way out of the pit. But God often sends the pit not so that we try harder but as a way to increase our hunger for him. It takes a desert to really appreciate an oasis. It takes thirst to love a drink of water.

We tend to think that a dry time in our faith means that we have failed in some area of our walk. But these times are actually given to build character. Many times they have nothing to do with consequences for disobedience.

Below is an outline of what we can learn from David’s prayer in the midst of the spiritual desert.

How does the spiritual desert feel?

  • Like God has forgotten you
  • Like he’s giving you the cold shoulder
  • The only one to comfort you and advise you is yourself
  • There is a sadness that you cannot readily pinpoint to one thing
  • People or spiritual forces with goals contrary to yours seem to be winning and accomplishing those goals
  • You feel powerless to do what your heart has set out to do

What should be your request?

  • For God to think of you and your best interests
  • For God to listen to you and provide some sort of answer
  • The request is directed to the one who has absolute control, authority, and presence of blessing
  • The request is directed to someone that belongs to you. God belongs to you through the covenant like a husband belongs to his wife
  • For God to grant a divine perspective
  • For God to grant a heavenly/eternal perspective
  • For God to grant hope

The reasons for the request

  • So you don’t go down a destructive path
  • So you don’t get terminated either from a position, a mission, a relationship, life itself, or the Faith itself
  • So those opposed to you do not ultimately win (assuming your goals fit under God’s goals)
  • So those opposed to you cannot point to you as an example of God’s failure or lack of existence

What to do while you wait for the answer

  • Trust in the Lord your God’s love that is strong enough to endure any hardship or challenge
  • Trust that you will again experience joy in God’s grace, forgiveness, and beauty
  • Trust that you will again be driven to express your delight in him through song
  • Trust that he will lavish you with good things and that as his son you will inherit all things

Most of all remember that Jesus experienced the spiritual desert not only in the wilderness but also ultimately on the cross. He already trusted perfectedly for us when we could not and he already was forgotten by God so that we never will be. Look at your savior and just be in awe of him. Then thank him and love him more.

Discussion Question

How have you seen past spiritually dry times increase your hunger for God?

and/or

How does this approach to dry times help you stand strong during temptations to lust?

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