Tuesday, April 23, 2013

walking through dry season with God: 6 symptoms of growing away from Him

Have you ever felt like you were in a dry season with God?

I have. It felt like there was a thick brick wall between me and God. I would try to lift it but always gave up because I was way too tired to try.

I've tasted the joy of walking close with God all day long- of Him being constantly in my mind, of songs of praise going up all through the day. I've walked with Him in prayer all day in short little conversations, and my heart was full to the brim.

So when I felt the arrival of a dry season a few weeks ago, it was all the more devastating to me.

Like a physical season, it didn't come on all at once. It wasn't hot one day, and cold the next.

It was a slow change...just barely noticeable.

My heart started feeling a little more distracted and a bit less focused on God, and before I knew it, it really felt like I started to lose joy in Him too-  but just a little each day. And then after many, many days later, I realized how much different I felt than the month before.

I'd walked right into the dry season without even noticing.

Looking back, here were my symptoms that had developed very slowly:

1. I started reading less of the Bible.
I started reading my one-year Bible in January, and I started 7 days late because- get this- on January 1 I tried like 4 times to either use a daily reading app or to find my special Bible and I couldn't get any of them to work. I made the joke {and the realization too}, I guess God doesn't want me to read it like that, because He sure isn't making it possible. And so I went back to my regular reading for a week.

But you know what I did? I finally found my one-year Bible a few days later and started reading it because I wanted to be able to say I read it through in a year again.

Now- it isn't bad to read a daily Bible by any means, but for me each day had less reading time than I would normally spend by at least 1/2 or maybe more, and I started reading it differently than how I normally would.

I used to spend an hour or more in reading and prayer and would soak up the words. When I started the daily Bible, I started reading it to get done instead, and I effectively put myself on a starvation diet of God's Word. I had been hungry before, and I shrunk my stomach- my desire- for the Word by not listening to the Holy Spirit's leading that I shouldn't be reading it like that, and that I needed more.

2. I started praying less.
My time in the Word became so efficient {ahem} that I felt less need to spend as much time in prayer as I had before. I wanted to go on and get on with my busy day since I was done early, and slowly my prayers got shorter and shorter.

3. I became restless and started focusing on other things.
When I started reading less and praying less, my heart started looking for things to do and my mind for things to think about. What am I not happy with here? Hmmm... what can I fix? What projects can I work on? Previously, I'd been extrememly {and unusually} content, and slowly I felt the contentment grow into discontentment in so many areas.

4. I felt my prayers start to hit a wall, and I knew it without a doubt.
I prayed and asked God to show me what I was doing wrong, and I knew He hadn't left at any time, but that it was something I was doing that was breaking fellowship. My heart felt tired and stubborn, and I didn't even feel like trying. {BIG red flag for me then}. I knew God wouldn't forsake me in this time- and for that I kept asking, even though I felt like I couldn't communicate with Him and didn't know for sure why.

5. We missed church for a few weeks due to sickness and commitments.
Without fail, when I feel my heart start to harden, I remember that we have missed church for a Sunday or two. I promise you, no matter what season I'm in, when I miss church my heart feels parched. The Holy Spirit is filling and He always refuels me even more in the presence of the body of Christ. 

When I miss being in that refueling, I can tell every time. I'm kind of dumb and I forget this constantly, and it always takes me a while to remember it. ;) And what I've found even stranger? My heart can long with all of it's being to be back in church on that first Sunday morning we return, and Satan has a full out war on my spirit that very morning. I kid you not. Every time. It testifies to the fact that the Holy Spirit is there, because Satan sure does hate it like nothing else.

6. My attitude changed.
After having all these symptoms, they all seemed to lead to my joy starting to wane in every area. My heart was feeling more stubborn, more irritated, more unloving, more unhappy- because I wasn't walking in the joy of the Spirit of God. I had let myself get farther away from Him, and my fruits started to look less and less like His.

I hated it. There's nothing like being self-aware and knowing what your heart normally feels like versus what it does when you're away from God. You've tasted the joy of the Lord, and nothing compares to it. You want it back, even though you feel powerless to get it back.

when things started to change
So realizing that about my attitude just felt like my breaking point. I realized over a few weeks my heart was steadily losing joy, but I didn't know why. I cried to God, and told Him I am weak and I have nothing to offer you, Lord. My heart is failing, and my flesh is weaker than weak.

And I wish I could say I instantly got an answer, but I didn't. I kept crying, I kept feeling the wall, I kept trying to figure it out. I was too tired to keep pushing. I even told Him I'd pretty much make the worse martyr/sufferer ever because I give up so easily. I'm pregnancy-tired and I want to quit already. I am terrible at suffering.

But to no credit of my own, I kept offering up those weak, sad little prayers, and God was faithful to answer me in His time.

I didn't know what was wrong- I thought I was merely being discontent, or irritable, but He slowly revealed all of those symptoms to me, and where my outward symptoms had started in the inner person- in my lack of fellowship time with Him. I had wanted to repent- to turn away from seeking after myself, and I needed His help to even see where to start.

I had been neglecting the most important thing in my whole day- soaking in His Word and in His Spirit, for the sake of getting it done and for the pride of reading it through in a specific way, in direct disobedience to what I felt Him leading me to do.

Ick. But I wanted to know what I was doing wrong more than anything. It got to a point where I would rather give up anything than to lose fellowship with Him, and I told Him that. I couldn't stand to be away from Him, even for a little bit at a time for a few weeks.

I really started to understand even more what David meant when he said, "Better is one day in your courts than thousands elsewhere."

It really, really is. Better is one hour in fellowship with God, than getting more time to myself in the morning. Better is one morning in the house of God than a whole week without the refueling of the Holy Spirit's presence.

Oh, I hate screwing up. I used to cry for hours even in kindergarten when I got a 95 on a test- I cried to the point of having to go to the principal's office. Seriously. I hated being wrong, and I beat myself up for it like crazy.

I still hate messing up, but God is so good to me still. He is faithful when I am faithless.

I see more of who God is, and how much He loves me when He teaches me what I'm doing wrong. Losing fellowship with Him in my disobedience was part of His discipline, and He teaches me through His discipline, because He loves me:
Hebrews 12:3-11
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

I can't deny it was painful- being away from God, even just a little when you've tasted the good, is extremely hard. I didn't want to walk through something like that, but He loved me enough to show me where I messed up, and how I was seeking after myself rather than Him.

Oh, friends, our God is that good. He is so full of grace. I would give up on myself in a heartbeat, I am so weak and sinful. I can't praise Him enough for showing me my sins- for making me a new creation, and giving me a new heart that longs after Him. He is like water to my soul.

When we are dry, He is the living water. When we are hungry and faint, He is the bread of life. He will not turn away from you, His precious sheep- He loves you with an everlasting love, and longs to pick you up and carry you when you're too tired. I was too tired, and He showed me and carried me through it, even when it was I who wandered away from His care in the first place.

If you're walking through a dry season, I want to pray for you. You are so not alone, I promise you that. Every believer will walk through them, but our God is so faithful to carry us through, even when our strength fails and we don't even have the energy to try. Don't stop believing He can do it. He can, and He will. He is faithful, even when we aren't.

2 Timothy 2:13
if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. 

Oh, look to the faithful one for strength, sweet friend. He is good. He will show you where you need Him more. :)

Have you ever experienced a dry season? 

What were your "symptoms"?

Are you in one now? I would so love to pray for you today, as would many others! 
oh, it's too hard to try to do it on your own.
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