APRIL 2, 2020

Spiritual Dryness

By Pastor Dennis Yim


Old Testament Passage: Psalm 42


1 As the deer longs for streams of water,

so I long for you, O God.

2 I thirst for God, the living God.

When can I go and stand before him?

3 Day and night I have only tears for food,

while my enemies continually taunt me, saying,

“Where is this God of yours?”

4 My heart is breaking

as I remember how it used to be:

I walked among the crowds of worshipers,

leading a great procession to the house of God,

singing for joy and giving thanks

amid the sound of a great celebration!

5 Why am I discouraged?

Why is my heart so sad?

I will put my hope in God!

I will praise him again—

my Savior and 6 my God!

Now I am deeply discouraged,

but I will remember you—

even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan,

from the land of Mount Mizar.

7 I hear the tumult of the raging seas

as your waves and surging tides sweep over me.

8 But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me,

and through each night I sing his songs,

praying to God who gives me life.

9 “O God my rock,” I cry,

“Why have you forgotten me?

Why must I wander around in grief,

oppressed by my enemies?”

10 Their taunts break my bones.

They scoff, “Where is this God of yours?”

11 Why am I discouraged?

Why is my heart so sad?

I will put my hope in God!

I will praise him again—

my Savior and my God!   



Spiritual Dryness


In an instant our lives changed. The rhythm of our daily routines took a major halt. However, for many this halt has caused much suffering and possibly some form of depression – we have become deer who pants for water, we have become spiritually dry. Isolation has forced changes to the liturgies of our lives. For many of us, there’s a major disruption in our normal rhythms of worship and community; we can no longer be with each other in the flesh, we are being forced to do things virtually in the “comfort” of our own homes. This major change has caused disruption to our connection with God; whether this is real or not, for most of us it feels like a dreadful reality that's consuming our whole being.

 

We are all facing some form of disillusionment of the current events; COVID-19 has forced many of us to ask: “Where’s God in all of this? Did our sins cause this worldwide atrocity? Are we being punished by God?” In some ways, we have all fallen into the disillusionment of COVID-19 by either taking the blame upon ourselves or placing the blame on others whether that be the opposing political party, the idolatrous sins of the world, or (worst of all) placing the blame on a certain people group who aren’t responsible for it whatsoever (xenophobia and racism). 


And lastly, for most of us, we are all experiencing a form of deprivation. Not only are we affected by this pandemic spiritually, but we’re also affected by it physically. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote in his book Spiritual Depression how our minds, spirits and bodies are all intricately interwoven together. There’s this tendency in much of Christianity today that is quite dualistic and even reductionistic. It either tends to only focus on how suffering and depression affects the spirit, but neglects the importance on how they affect the body and mind. Have you noticed that you’re not sleeping or eating as well these days? Food becomes irrelevant, it has lost its taste, it’s not appealing anymore, and it almost becomes an unwanted task or work. If you’re experiencing this now, then you understand that when our innermost being suffers and feels disconnected from God, then our outer being will manifest the effects of our inner sufferings.

 

Psalm 42 teaches us to lament by pouring out our hearts and analyzing our hopes and loves. The psalmist does this in the midst of his own spiritual dryness. As he pours out his heart and analyzes his hopes and loves, he speaks to himself, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation (42:5, ESV). Many have taken this verse as a word of great joy, but for the psalmist these were words of desperation in-order to come to grips with the sober-reality that not all is well but there's hope because God is still in his midst. He’s in great turmoil, he’s spiritually dry, and he’s reminding himself the promises of God so that his soul may be nourished again. 



The Wellspring of Christ


But what if we can’t do what the psalmist did? Well, in our solidaric-union with Christ, He invites us to participate in the spiritual discipline of lament. He provides us the grace and mercy to pour out our hearts to Him and to allow Him to guide us to analyze our hearts. Jesus has given us His covenantal promises so that we may inspect our hearts and see what truly resides there. We may come to realize that even in the midst of all of this uncertainty, we are lamenting because our loves and hopes are disordered. In the goodness of God, we find the nourishment and living water in Christ who will use our tears to bring great life and restoration in our lives. Lament in Christ and find the wellspring of hope and joy that are in Him in the midst of your spiritual dryness.



Reflection and Prayer


Take some time to reflect with you family and friends on how COVID-19 has affected you. What are some of the sudden disruptions to the liturgy of your life? What are some of the disillusionments you are wrestling with? What are some of the deprivations you are struggling with? Take some time to pray and to lament to the Lord. Pray for shalom in the midst of your sudden changes to your rhythm of life. Pray for those who have been affected by COVID-19 and are struggling with spiritual depression. Pray that God may help you to use this time to examine and analyze your hopes and loves.   



Communal Prayer


O Lord our God, let us find hope under the shadow of your wings. You will support us, both when little, and even to gray hairs. When our strength is from you, it is strength. When our own, it is weakness. We return to you, O Lord, that our weary souls may rise towards you, leaning on the things which you have created, and passing on to yourself, since you have wonderfully made them; for with you is refreshment and true strength. Amen. A Prayer of Refreshment by St. Augustine