Fr. Michael's Thoughts on Biblical Imagery: Spiritual Dryness




            Life is not all rosy and jolly jolly. No! At times life’s situations can be simply unbearable. I have come across some just men/women whose faithfulness to God should have earned them a life of blessedness but instead of happiness, they battle everyday with pain, sickness and misery. They pray to God and yet the heavens seem to close its ears to their supplications. Such was the one-time frustrations of St Teresa of Avila that made her to tell Jesus: “The way you treat your friends can be harsh; no wonder you have a few.”  A delayed response from heaven can be frustrating to a faithful Christian and the prophet Habakkuk gives us an example of such frustrations in today’s first reading.

            In the first part of today’s first reading, the inspired writer laments his frustrations in graphic words: “How long, O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not intervene. Why do you let me see ruin; why must I look at misery? Destruction and violence are before me…”

            In the writings of the desert fathers, they call such a situation in the life of a person “spiritual dryness.” Spiritual dryness can simply be described as a period of emptiness in the life of a Christian. The person loses contact with the heavens to the extent that when (s)he prays (s)he feels empty. The situation can be frustrating for a person especially when at that particular point in time (s)he needs God’s intervention. Some saints are believed to have spent decades in spiritual dryness. Once I was told that St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta spent over thirty years battling with spiritual dryness. Some experts in spirituality opines that spiritual dryness can be a time that God’s uses to test the faithfulness of his children. It is also seen as a time for purification.

            If indeed spiritual dryness is a test and a period of purification, then we need two things to pass that test and go through purification. The first reading offers us one of the solutions while today’s gospel passage offers the second. The first solution lies in the second part of today’s first reading. The Lord demands patience to unlock the blessings God has set for him/her. In the prophet’s frustrations, the Lord revealed himself to him and said: “write down the vision clearly upon the tablets, so that one can read it readily. For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late. The rash one has no integrity; but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.”

            Frustration may come in the life of a Christian but one is called to entertain patience for surely the Lord will answer his/her prayers in God’s own time. I know and understand that some moments of frustration can be really painful. Some frustrations at times makes some people lose the value of being alive but as the Lord rightly told the prophet: “…if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come…” and when it does come, your story will not be different from the psalmist: “…those who went out sowing in tears will return reaping with joy…” I can bet my last coin on this: no matter the years of spiritual dryness, the Lord will never abandon his children for surely he will visit them and fill their hearts with joy.

            The second solution of spiritual dryness lies in the first session of today’s gospel passage. In the disciples’ request of “increase our faith,” one can keep faith in Jesus’ response: “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” If one wants to handle a period of spiritual dryness, (s)he should pray for an increase in faith.

            Reading through today’s readings I deduce something in the lives of our youth in the world. One can observe that key elements in life remain unchanged but what has changed is how some people approach the elements of life. One key element has to do with frustrations in life (like the one state in the first part of the first reading). When we were growing up we were taught to be hard workers and be patient and keep faith with the Lord still our hard work bears fruits. But it seems that children of “this computer generation” are in a hurry. Apart from some of them hating hard work; they lack patience and faith and so they have resulted to “cutting corners” and taking short cuts in life.

            When young people pray and they don’t get a quick response they resort to divinations and occultism. Today in Africa some young people seem to consult the “witch doctor” for almost everything in life. Some alleged “witch doctors” who have transformed their shrines into churches are making millions on monthly basis. These fake men of God are preying on people’s impatience during spiritual dryness to make money.

            We need to save this generation else the generation after this one will be in hot water. May God help us. OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP PRAY FOR US.



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