32-ounce Greek yogurt containers line our shower floor to catch excess water. Everyone else’s yard looks as dead as ours has been since we inadvertently killed it upon buying our house. The ground is cracked and crunchy. People are spray painting dead grass green to give the illusion of well-manicured lawns. The government has paid for billboards reminding people to let their yards dwindle and think well for every drop used. Southern California is in a state of severe drought.
I have a dear friend who grew up in South Africa. When she first told me how they grew up praying for rain every night and how they would dance with their mouths open and shoes off in joy on the rare occasions when it did rain, I thought it sounded a bit extreme and ridiculous. But as the land and air get drier by the day and our state declines deeper into a four-year drought, I find myself praying for rain.
The physical drought surrounding me has led me to look back on seasons of spiritual droughts in my life, seasons when time in the Word or prayer felt like dry bones and it seemed that the sweet dew of God’s felt nearness would never descend again. Prolonged dry seasons in our spiritual journeys cause us to dig deeper and wait more attentively for what we often take for granted in seasons of plentitude.
If drastic times call for drastic measures in both physical and spiritual droughts, what steps are we to actively take in seasons of extreme spiritual dryness?
In my experience, God calls us to wail, to work and to wait during seasons of spiritual drought.
We wail. Just as my friend’s family would beg God every night for rain, when dryness sets in and lingers in our souls, we must begin by crying out to God, at least persistently, if not passionately. The felt nearness of God and clear movement of His Spirit, once presumed must now become sought-after privileges in these seasons. The long-waiting intensifies the desire and accentuates the joy when the rains are received.
O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water…When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, for You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:1 & 6-8.
We work. The last thing anyone wants to do when all around is cracked and exhausted is work. Yet this is what God calls us to do with Him. When accessible rivers of refreshment dry up, we are forced to dig deeper to find the springs. A story from 2 Kings 3 provides a powerful illustration of this divine command to keep digging even when there seems to be no relief and no potential rain on the horizon. Jehoshaphat and his army were in the middle of a seven-day circuit in the middle of dessert with no water for them or their cattle. He sends for the prophet Elisha to inquire what the Lord would have them do.
Elisha told them, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Make this valley full of trenches.’ For thus says the Lord, ‘You shall not see wind nor shall you see rain; yet the valley shall be filled with water, so that you shall drink, both you and your cattle and your beasts.’This is but a slight thing in the sight of the Lord.” 2 Kings 3:16-18.
It takes tremendous faith to get out in the middle of the scorching, exposing sun of drought seasons and begin digging, trusting that in His time, in His way, those valleys dug in seasons of great need will become brim-full of life-giving water meant for us and for others.
We wait. We wipe our brow and long for the refreshing shade of His presence, and we wait for Him.
Come let us return to the Lord. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. He will revive us after two days, He will raise us up on the third day, that we may live before Him. So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth. Hosea 6:1-3.
God never metes out empty promises, if says He will come, He shall. The long waiting, the sun-scorching work, the wailing, all these will only force us to appreciate those first sweet cooling drops of His presence. We will find ourselves barefooted, dancing in the rain once again. Until then, we will gather what water we can in our yogurt containers and conserve every drop that comes our way.