As I sit here in my house, I am taking great pleasure in listening to the rain fall on the ground. Why I am taking so much pleasure is because in the western panhandle of Oklahoma, like most of the central and south west, we are in a serious drought. Less than a month ago Oklahoma and Kansas were plagued with grass fires because of the drought. Many farmers lost crops and ranchers lost parts of their herds. So to see and hear the rain fall I take much delight. I believe that drought is one of the hardest times in our lives. Not just physical drought, but more importantly spiritual drought.
What happens to us when we go through a spiritual drought? I define spiritual drought as noticing and realizing our distance from God. Sometimes in our lives we let all sorts of things get in the way of our closeness with God. Family, work, TV, news, and finances are all examples of outside circumstances that can lead us into a dry and thirsty drought from God. However, these are outside factors that we sometimes cannot control. There are also internal circumstances that we must be aware of that causes drought; anger, lust, pride, a constant need to be liked or accepted, wanting to make everyone happy, worry, doubt, silliness, greed, and the constant need to be correct, etc. These are just a few examples of outward and inward elements to our lives that cause us to separate ourselves from God and begin to cause a spiritual drought.
I find that when I go into these seasons of drought I tend to seclude myself. I feel depressed and lonely, along with irritable and cranky. I feel like I am against the world and everything is going wrong. This is the sign for myself when I am at the greatest distance from God. I know that I have let other things get in the way or that I have just turned and ignored the God who desires to be with me. My life becomes one big complaint.
Going through a spiritual drought reminds me of the Israelites who wondered in the desert for 40 years for their spiritual drought. No matter what God does, they always go to their one big complaint, “why have you brought us out here to die when we could be in Egypt, back in slavery.” Their drought was so bad that they preferred to be slaves in Egypt. An example of this complaining is in Numbers 20, “Now there was no water for the community, and they assembled against Moses and Aaron. Then the people confronted Moses and said to him, “If only we too had died when our brothers perished in the Lord’s presence! Why have you brought the Lord’s assembly into this desert to kill us and our animals here? Why have you led us up from Egypt to bring us to this evil place without grain, figs, vines, or pomegranates? And there’s no water to drink!” This is what spiritual droughts does to our lives. We begin to reflect how we used to live before Christ and desire it.
I want to reflect on the season of Lent and discuss what to do in times like this. Lent is a season of choice. It is a season to choose drought. Not drought from God, but all the things that keep us from God. We choose to enter into a wilderness or desert so that we may find God as our only source of true life. All these external and internal hindrances that cause our distances from God are given up so that we may find God in the wilderness and the struggles of life. Jesus found His strength in the desert being tempted by the devil (Matt. 4). Jesus gives us the best advice to overcome our spiritual drought. “Jesus replied, ‘It’s written, People won’t live only by bread, but by every word spoken by God.” Our drought is only quenched by seeking God. Only God can speak to us and quench that thirst that we long for. Whether we realize it or not we are born and live in a constant drought.
Through grace our souls are awakened to the fact that sin has separated us from God. Should we listen to our very souls awakened by grace we will find that we are living in a drought and only the Water of Life can quench it. If we respond to our cries of drought the Spirit enters in and strikes the rock of our hearts and water begins to spill out, as God wanted Moses to do in Numbers 20. When we get a taste of this water our desires are directed to God and we become blessed because we “hunger and thirst for Righteousness.” (Matt. 5)
John Wesley writes,
2. Righteousness, as was observed before, is the image of God, the mind which was in Christ Jesus. It is every holy and heavenly temper in one; springing from, as well as terminating in, the love of God, as our Father and Redeemer, and the love of all men for his sake.
3. “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after” this: In order fully to understand which expression, we should observe, First, that hunger and thirst are the strongest of all our bodily appetites. In like manner this hunger in the soul, this thirst after the image of God, is the strongest of all our spiritual appetites, when it is once awakened in the heart: Yea, it swallows up all the rest in that one great desire, — to be renewed after the likeness of Him that created us. We should, Secondly, observe, that from the time we begin to hunger and thirst, those appetites do not cease, but are more and more craving and importunate, till we either eat and drink, or die. And even so, from the time that we begin to hunger and thirst after the whole mind which was in Christ, these spiritual appetites do not cease, but cry after their food with more and more importunity; nor can they possibly cease, before they are satisfied, while there is any spiritual life remaining. We may, Thirdly, observe, that hunger and thirst are satisfied with nothing but meat and drink. If you would give to him that is hungry all the world beside, all the elegance of apparel, all the trappings of state, all the treasure upon earth, yea thousands of gold and silver; if you would pay him ever so much honour; — he regards it not: All these things are then of no account with him. He would still say, “These are not the things I want; give me food, or else I die.” The very same is the case with every soul that truly hungers and thirsts after righteousness. He can find no comfort in anything but this: He can be satisfied with nothing else. Whatever you offer besides, it is lightly esteemed: Whether it be riches, or honour, or pleasure, he still says, “This is not the thing which I want! Give me love, or else I die!” (Upon Our Lord’s Sermon On The Mount: Discourse Two)
“Give me love, or else I die!” What an amazing line that is. This is what gets our hearts out of the spiritual drought. We must seek, hunger, and thirst for Love. The love of Christ is all that can renew the dry and thirsty land of our souls. This is why Lent is so important. Lent helps us to realize that we only need Christ, we only need the Love of God. The Love of God is like the rain I am enjoying at this moment. It is renewing the soil for growth. It is bringing beauty and life back to the earth. Lent is a season of rain on your soul. It is a choice to go into the desert and find the Love of God through the Holy Spirit.
Whenever you find yourself in a spiritual drought, maybe it is God telling you to move into a season of Lent. Lent can be anytime of year. When the circumstances of life move you away from God, try observing a season of Lent. Try moving to the desert of the soul and abstain from those circumstances. You just might find that the world is not against you, but that you have neglected the food and drink from God. If you move to the desert you will truly be blessed. As Jesus promises, “Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full.” (Matt. 5)