Prepare now for your next spiritual drought

After many cycles of spiritual growth and dryness in my own life, I have learned the value of ‘banking’ spiritual graces.

Have you ever tried to read the Bible only to realise that after ten minutes you have not taken in a word? Or spent time with your eyes closed attempting to pray but really chasing anxious thoughts as if herding cats?

It is normal to go through seasons of spiritual dryness. Times when prayer and Bible reading become exercises in raw discipline or diminish to nothing. None of us want to remain in such a barren place, but how long we have to endure is God’s call, not ours.

I think it is good to always attempt to nurture your relationship with God, even when it feels as if you are just ‘going through the motions’. I also think it is valuable to accept the barren season for what it is and not heap guilt upon yourself when the going gets tough.

After many cycles of spiritual growth and dryness in my own life, I have learned the value of ‘banking’ spiritual graces. I now try to fill up with the disciplines of Bible reading, memorization, and prayer during my times of plenty. This gives me a reserve to draw upon when it is difficult to read the Bible and God seems distant.

In seasons of growth, make the most of it. Farmers use the growth seasons of spring and summer to make hay to feed their stock through the dark winter months. Be wise and use easy times (or even just ‘normal’ periods) to grow spiritually. Hard times will come again and once they arrive it is too late to start building spiritual condition.

When the fight is difficult, it is enough to stand (Ephesians 6:13).

If you are able to read the Bible today, do so. If you can pray even a little, take the opportunity to come into God’s presence. Go to church, or homegroup, even if it is tiresome or inconvenient. The day will come when you will wish you had done all this much more.


Scripture references:

Ephesians 6:13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (ESV)

Feedback for faith

It is reasonably well established that the spiritual growth of Christians is closely linked to how regularly we read the Bible, ponder it’s meaning for us and engage with God in prayer.

Most of us can verify this in our own lives, the times when we have grown spiritually have often been those periods when we have spent more time in the Bible and praying. There can be a strong feedback loop in this; the more I am engaging with God the more I want to pray and read the Bible. Unfortunately, the converse is also true; the less I read the Bible the less I engage with God and the less inclined I am to continue to read the Bible.

I would not want to be dogmatic on which happens first in this feedback loop, it seems to me that if either factor slips the situation in general either spirals downwards or grows in worship. What matters most is to know that they are indeed linked. Being aware of this link enables each of us to influence our spiritual growth.

Yet it can be frustratingly difficult to maintain a regular habit of engaging with the Bible and engaging with God. I have been a Christian since I was 18 years old and for some reason it seems to be getting harder to maintain these habits as I get older rather than becoming easier which is what my expectation was (most habits get easier the longer you do them – driving is a good example). Several obvious reasons for this come to mind; I have 3 children who are still fairly young, I own a mortgage with a house attached so time is needed to maintain this liability, and I work on a 24-hour rotating roster so do not have a set bedtime or wake up time.

However, there are also increasing concerns that the digital age is bringing new pressures upon our devotional habits. In October 2013 David Murray posted a couple of articles looking at technology-related factors which make it more difficult to spend time with God:

  • Loss of boundaries between work and private life
  • Loss of concentration due to multitasking habits
  • Habitual scanning of text when reading
  • Loss of meditation/deep thinking
  • Loss of memory (as in Bible memorization, not Alzheimer’s disease!)
  • Loss of problem solving
  • Loss of social connection
  • Loss of sleep (definitely a problem for me!)
  • Loss of quiet
  • Loss of friendships
  • Loss of family time
  • Loss of privacy
  • Too much time wasting
  • Loss of purity
  • Loss of patience
  • Loss of wisdom
  • Loss of humility

For more detail on these problems, check out the original post. Multitasking, social media and Google cop the blame in David Murray’s post. I’m not in full agreement with his list as many of these things can be lumped together under the problem of having almost constant access to unlimited information and amusements. But it is good to consider how technology is interfering with my spiritual life. The followup post was a little more practical: 20 Tips For Personal Devotions in the Digital Age. Again, I don’t agree with everything on his list but it is a good start.

For myself, this difficulty in maintaining good devotional habits is a result of several intertwined factors: being much too easily distracted by the computer/internet, lack of sleep, reserving some quiet space in the day, and forgetting that being in fellowship with God is the greatest thing I can have.

At least there are some steps I can take to improve things:

  • Get more sleep
  • Step away from the computer sooner
  • Spend some time with God – even a little bit of real fellowship is a start