Have you ever gone through a season of rich intimacy with God and an almost constant awareness of His presence? You begin thinking this vibrant faith is your new normal. But one day you wake up, and everything’s changed. For reasons you can’t put your finger on, prayer becomes a struggle, and you feel spiritually numb.
If you’re unfamiliar with the ebb and flow of the spiritual life, it can send you into a panic. You might start wondering if you’ve done something wrong or displeased God in some way. Don’t lose heart. This is an important-perhaps even necessary-part of walking with God.
Here are five tips to help you navigate those times when you feel like you’re walking through a spiritual desert.
1. Keep pressing in
It’s easy to invest time in Scripture, prayer, and fellowship when it makes you feel buoyant and alive. When God feels present, spiritual disciplines seem effortless. But once you remove those feelings, these activities start to feel less spiritual and more like discipline.
God’s promises to draw near to us (James 4:8) and hear us when we pray (1 John 5:15) are trustworthy-even when we don’t feel His presence. And sometimes that’s the point. There are times when we think we’re chasing God, but what we’re really after are the feelings we associate with being close to Him.
Often, maturity is found by seeking God without expecting specific emotional responses. Those times where God feels close to us are precious, but sometimes we demonstrate our faith when we cease to be reliant upon them.
2. Find others to serve
In the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46), Jesus equates helping others with serving Him. Sometimes the best way to reinvigorate your faith and rekindle your excitement is by taking care of others’ needs-and serving Jesus in the process.
When you think about it, those feelings of spiritual dryness are most noticeable when we focus on them. It’s important to recognize that turning our attention away from ourselves is not only mature and healthy, but it also rescues us from the constant analysis of our own feelings. By focusing our attention elsewhere, we often find that the scrutiny we were putting ourselves under was the very thing hindering those feelings of God’s presence.
3. Spend time with others who feel close to God
Christianity includes community. When we decide to follow Jesus, we become citizens of God’s kingdom. This isn’t just a theological technicality-the Christian community is critical to our spiritual growth and health. This is why the writer of Hebrews tells us:
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:23-25).
Even when you’re at your lowest point, there are others who feel animated about their faith. It can be tempting to pull away from them, but that’s often the worst impulse. When we spend our difficult and spiritually dry moments with others, we’ll occasionally find that their enthusiasm rubs off on us.
4. Pay attention to your health
God created us to be fully human. We aren’t merely spirits with bodies. We are finely tuned instruments where each system impacts the others. It’s well documented that exercise can have a dramatic impact on people suffering from emotional disorders. Why? Because our minds rely on a healthy blood and oxygen flow to work at peak efficiency. The same is true of our spirits.
If you’ve had a sudden change in your spiritual temperament, it’s wise to look for any changes in your environment. Are you getting less sleep? Are you under a lot of stress? Has your diet changed? Are you battling an illness?
Sometimes a change in response toward your faith has more to do with physical changes than spiritual ones. So take some time; do a physical inventory.
5. Check for unconfessed sin
When people start feeling disconnected from God, they tend to suspect they’ve done something wrong. And while sin isn’t the only reason that God might seem distant, it is something that needs to be examined.
The apostle John tells us:
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9).
We’re not going to get through our lives utterly free from impurity, but that’s why it’s incredibly important that we’re vigilant about identifying, confessing, and turning from the sin we recognize. The sin that we don’t confess and repent of can become an obstruction in our spiritual life-a clogged artery that stops the life-giving presence of the Spirit from reaching our heart.
Enjoy your faith journey
Walking with Jesus is an adventure, but it doesn’t have to be a rollercoaster. When you learn to negotiate the ups and downs, you’ll discover a faith that is steady and reliable. Sometimes it may seem like God’s arms are around you and He’s so close, but even when that’s not the case, you can trust in God’s promise that He’ll never leave you or forsake you.
That confidence makes all the difference.