Everyone who is engaging in their faith will experience this eventually- at a time when difficulties or despair set in, when doubts become overwhelming, and God feels distant.
Prayer feels impossible and no long or short the length of the dry spell, there is no denying that it can be an especially painful or bewildering time. If this is what you are going through right now, then here are our five tips to help you and to remind you that you are not alone.
We’re praying for you.
5 Tips for When You’re Experiencing a Spiritual Dry Spell
1. Don’t Panic
Different people react differently to a time of spiritual dryness. For some, they fall into apathy and do nothing. Others overreact and try to pile more prayer on top of what they are already struggling to do. Dry spells can vary in intensity as well. Some come from a deep place of pain, others from the simple fact that we are maturing in our faith. The main thing is not to panic. Try not to run to either extreme. Don’t give up entirely and don’t attempt more spiritual gymnastics to try and ‘fix the problem’. Take stock of the situation and proceed gently. Don’t despair!
2. Go Back to Basics
Prayer is often the biggest thing under attack when you’re experience a dry spell. Maybe your actual prayer routine is getting in the way of you praying, maybe you’re attempting too much, maybe you’ve read something that has unsettled you or you just feel overwhelmed by the amount of things you think you should be doing. Get back to basics and just do what you can right now and do it as well as you can (even if you don’t think it’s very good! That’s not the point anyway!) Don’t be hung up on getting back to the sublime heights of the last time your prayer life felt amazing. Go to the Gospels, read Christ’s words, pray a simple decade of the Rosary each day or just commit to a Morning and Evening prayer. It’s about quality, not quantity. Maybe you don’t have the words to pray anymore. Sit calmly in silence. Pray the Our Father very slowly. Ask the Holy Spirit to pray through you. God is infinitely patient and will be working through you in ways you don’t know. Do not be afraid to become like a child again. (Matt 18:3)
3. Seek Help
It is possible that you are experiencing a dry spell because of some underlying suffering, pain or crisis. Maybe you know exactly what it is, or maybe you’re just aware that something isn’t quite right. At any rate, like going to a doctor to get some worrying symptoms checked, making an appointment to see a good priest or religious or someone wise in their faith whom you trust can be very useful. Someone else might be able to put their finger on what is troubling you, reassure you or help you move towards healing. Speaking a problem aloud is very powerful because problems fester in silence. Once spoken aloud, something changes. The power of the problem diminishes. The hardest part here is stepping out of your comfort zone when you’re feeling spiritually vulnerable. There may be a thousand voices in your head telling you your problem is too small or you don’t deserve the help. Don’t listen to them! Have courage and speak out.
4. Don’t Run from It
Possibly the hardest part of the dry spell is trying to stay with it. When something is uncomfortable, we want to run or get away from it. When prayer time drags day after day, it seems more logical to give it a miss. But ignoring the discomfort only makes it stronger and attempting to numb it leads to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Only by staying with the discomfort can we identify it and go through it in order to come out the other side. Suffering is meant to be a journey- it has an end to it- it is not the destination. We need support from others and we need to stay in the ache. That way we can be present for the journey that takes us out the other side.
5. Know that God is Using This Time Too
God is using this time just as effectively as He uses the ‘good’ times. Is a time of apathy and struggle any less valuable that a time when you are feeling overflowing with joy and spiritual gifts? It might feel like it, because a lack of communication with God feels like nothing. But it is a time of growth, not failure. So often, it is only in retrospect that we can see how much we have learned from a painful situation. Though he is discussing loneliness, Henri Nouwen makes an excellent and applicable analogy in his book ‘The Wounded Healer’:
“But the more I think about loneliness, the more I think that the wound of loneliness is like the Grand Canyon – a deep incision in the surface of our existence which has become an inexhaustible source of beauty and self-understanding.”
The same can be said about a spiritual dry spell. Painful as it may be, it has the potential to open up so many things to us and to teach us so much. It even has the potential to be life-giving. After all, beautiful oases are found in the desert. All that is asked of us is to engage in it as best we can- and leave the rest to God. Also see Exodus 14:14: “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be still.”