Fighting for Joy in the Desert
A friend recently mentioned to me that she was in a spiritually dry season, and I was able to respond with a degree of empathy, because I am on the edge of one myself. You are familiar with that; we all are (even church staff members—shocking, right?). Those seasons come because of varying reasons, with varying intensity and duration, but they send us all into a state of doubt. We doubt our salvation, the value of living a holy life on the narrow road, God’s goodness and power and love, maybe even his existence.
What are we supposed to do in such times? Well, as my friend pointed out to me, the methods that are effective are really individual. What God uses to help you might be different from me, but no matter the process, the key remains the same for us all: PERSEVERE. Remember, as John Piper says, this is a FIGHT for joy. Joy doesn’t just happen. Life is difficult; it is sometimes dull, sometimes depressing, or at the least, discouraging. So as you fight for joy, for fruitfulness, for feeling, for a spirit that is LIVING, here are some thoughts that I hope will encourage you, some things that have helped me in the past and that I am utilizing right now.
- Search your heart and ask God to reveal its condition to you. Is there a sin or an idol that you are holding on to? Sin disrupts fellowship and hinders our prayers. It “dries us up.” Psalm 32
- Continue to dig into God’s word even when it seems to be only a duty, and you don’t think you’re getting anything out of it. His word does not return void. These are the words of life that are filling your thirsts even in a winter of the soul. Isaiah 55
- Ask God to show you wonderful things in his word. Keep asking. And waiting. And knocking. And seeking. He is faithful and working even in the dark (remember Joseph?). Psalm 25
- Speaking of winter, remember that trees do not bear fruit all year long. There are seasons. There is a time that seems dry and leafless, but a work is happening that will appear in the spring. The tree will bud and blossom and fruit will come for harvesting. The Vine is not dead, but you, the branch, may be in the condition of being pruned. Keep abiding. John 15:1-11.
- Keep crying out to God, even when it seems to only be a duty. Confess that you don’t love him as you should. Ask him to make you want Him, to make you hungry, to create in you a desire for him, to revive your soul and breathe life into you. Psalms 107 and 119; Ezekiel 37
- Be willing to obey whatever God shows you. Psalm 85; James 1:5-8
- Ask someone to pray for you. James 5:13-20
- Be thankful for this time, which is ordained by God and is being used by him. Persist in thankfulness for all things. Psalm 37:23-24; Colossians 3:15-17; Romans 8:28 and 11:33-36
- Feed your spirit with beautiful worship music.
- Read John Piper’s When I Don’t Desire God.
- Dig a well in the desert for the person who walks through it behind you. Psalm 84
God is faithful. He never wastes anything. Your dry season and mine will be redeemed. He will restore what the locust has eaten, so sing with Habakkuk,
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer's;
he makes me tread on my high places.