You know that feeling.
When your prayers seem to not go past the ceiling. Or you feel like you can’t even pray at all.
When your mind feels dry and your heart feels a despairing loneliness you thought you’d never feel again. When reading the Word feels flat, and worship songs ring empty.
When you just feel alone.
You cry, you struggle. You said You’d never leave me or forsake me. You said You’d always be here. You said I could depend on You. You said…
Your heart screams with a thousand thoughts–directed at your Maker. Admit it, you feel betrayed. Admit it, you’re angry with Him.
Admit it, you feel like it’s His fault.
My dearly beloved, can I be the first to put my arms around your shoulders and squeeze you tight? Will you let me cry with you, commiserate with you, and feel lonely with you?
Because I’ve been there, beloved.
I’ve been in that place, that dry spell that goes on for what seems like forever. I’ve felt the loneliness that makes one question if there is a God. I’ve longed for that warmth, yearned for the joy, scraped for the peace that He so promises in His word. When I came up empty, I wanted to despair.
So what then? What kind of battle can we wage against these feelings?
Before anything, take heart. In every relationship, there are hard times–all too often, these rocky areas are the ones that make that relationship stronger. Every Christian encounters periods of dryness. Every pilgrim goes through valleys on the road to the Celestial city in which they wonder if such a place even exists. Every believer questions what they believe.
You are not alone.
Breathe and accept this time for what it is, and deal with it accordingly. Accept the challenge and wage war appropriately. Take heart and be encouraged that this emotionally charged time is not fact. Just because you feel alone doesn’t mean that you are.
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8a
The Lord promises to draw near to us if we draw near to Him. We cannot expect to feel close to Him if we are not making our own efforts.
If we are not relentlessly pursuing Him, are our hearts truly for Him?
If He is not the very next thing on our minds, the first thing when we wake up, the last thing when we go to sleep, how can we expect that we would feel His closeness?
If we are not constantly thinking of Him, reveling in His goodness, talking to Him without ceasing, thanking Him for every breath, how can we expect Him to feel like our best friend?
Now, I know this sounds high and lofty. If we were to follow these standards to ever feel close to God, it would seem impossible. This is the ideal; where we strive to be.
But there are practical ways to work towards this; to begin the journey of drawing near to the Lord that He might feel near again.
Here is how I refocus my heart and begin my journey of nearness again:
1. Shut out the noise
When I feel distant from the Lord, it helps to shut out all extra noise that would distract me from Him. Practically, I start by cutting out secular music. From beyond there, sometimes cutting off some movies, Facebook, Pinterest, putting some distance in certain relationships. Basically anything that does not encourage you in your walk with Jesus. Anything that wouldn’t set your heart on fire for Him. Be bold, be ruthless! It’s a season of quarantine for your heart.
2. Immerse yourself in His Word
I find the Gospels in particular to be a soothing balm. Read all the red letters. Let the words of Jesus wash over your heart. Read the book of John and imprint it on your heart. Memorize the words of your Savior. Learn Who He is. What He loves. You’ll find it’s you.
3. Surround yourself in worship
Music, music, music. My heart is stirred by music in a very profound way, which is probably why the first thing to go in dry spells is secular music. Listen to songs like “Oceans“, “Lord, I Need You“, “How He Loves“, “Jesus Loves Me“, “Overwhelmed“, “Never Alone“, on repeat. Over and over and over, let the words, the promises, the cries of fellow believer’s hearts to wash over your own. Sing with reckless abandon–even if you feel nothing. Sing hard, sing loud. Sing until you know. When you can’t be singing, keep instrumental hymns playing in the background at all times, constantly reminding you of the goodness of the Lord.
4. Count gifts
I still keep my one thousand gifts journal going. I’m only on 1287 so far (which, for as long as I’ve had it, is not as impressive as it sounds!). When I am feeling depression beginning to come over me, stealing my joy, I take out this journal and furiously count gifts. Some of them may seem silly and frivolous, but nothing is silly in light of grace. Anything and everything good is a gift from God. When you begin to look around and recognize and name the blessings around you, you begin to realize just how close He truly is.
5. Cling to His promises
He promises to never leave us or forsake us. He promises to draw near to us if we draw near to Him. He never changes, He is constant. He is faithful, He is true.
When we feel alone, recognize these feelings for what they are: subjective emotions.
Cling to the promises of your constant, never changing, ever faithful God.
The most important thing that you can do during the dry, distant times is to cling close to the promises of His Word. To be bold enough to believe that He will make good on His promises. To trust, to take every doubting thought captive.
Preaching to myself.
My dearly, dearly beloved. He is never, ever so far that He cannot hear you. Even when your prayers are flat and your singing rings empty. He hears every word. Draw near to Him, and He will overwhelmingly draw near to you.