In our journey of faith, we all have times when our spiritual life feels dry. During these times God can feel distant, and we don’t feel that connection that we crave in our prayer. Often this is just a passing phase in our journey. But for some, like St. Teresa of Calcutta, these times of spiritual dryness can last for a long time, even years.
So how should we approach seasons of spiritual dryness? Monsignor Don Sawyer stopped by The Inner Life® to discuss this topic, and how we can use these times to grow closer to the Lord, even when we feel far from Him.
On the characteristics of spiritual dryness Msgr. Sawyer said, “Many people describe it as if God is not there for them. He’s not listening, He got distracted or something like that. It is passing. Just like our human moods, we kind of judge where God is with us. But it’s like Footsteps in the Sand, we may not see Him there but He’s always there.”
Msgr. Sawyer also explained how we can feel distant from God because we are looking for some particular feeling or response, but it’s just not there. “Sometimes we may be always looking for some spiritual high, and we can’t really judge our spirituality according to our emotional state. Not at all,’ he said. “Any relationship goes through a dryness, a taking of rest.”
If you’re not feeling as close to God as you once were, it is easy to beat yourself up and think that you must not be as holy as you are supposed to be. But Msgr. Sawyer reminded listeners that this is a normal part of the spiritual life, and just because you feel that God is distant doesn’t mean He is. “It’s normal, and I would tell anyone to not be alarmed. God is still with you, that’s the bottom line,” he encouraged listeners. “He’s still with you and you will come out of it.”
If you are feeling distant from God, Msgr. Sawyer encouraged perseverance in prayer as the best way to overcome these periods of dryness in your spiritual life.
“Maybe it’s like feeling hunger,” he said. “What we’re feeling is actually a hunger for God in our lives. And maybe we haven’t been eating (i.e. praying) enough. St. Paul says that all Creation groans until the day of salvation. And we have that emptiness in us that oftentimes we think we’re going to go shopping and that a new dress or a new gizmo will fill that emptiness in us. And it may for a short time. But there is still that hunger that we are trying to feed. And only in God are we fed.”