How many daily tasks do you have? Most of us have too many to count and having to do them repeatedly can usually cause them to become monotonous. Eventually, we can reach a point where we’re simply going through the motions instead of putting effort into it. It’s very similar to when you were required to memorize something in school like a list, a series of dates, or the correspondence of two sets of information. No longer are we absorbing the information. Instead, we are regurgitating a stream of information that has no meaning except for its relation to the way we memorized it.
This can also happen to us in our spiritual lives. Maybe you’ve read the same passage five times and it still isn’t getting to you or you’re praying the Hail Mary’s of a Rosary and they’re just blending into a meaningless sequence of words. This is where we encounter spiritual dryness and, try as we might, we cannot seem to communicate with Our Lord. Josh Raymond welcomed Father Dave Heney onto The Inner Life to talk about those times when we feel stuck and how to respond to get back on track.
Josh began the conversation by asking Father Heney how he would define spiritual dryness in his own terms and where it comes from. “I think the term comes from the idea of either being in a desert or a water well. And you go to the well to draw water because it’s life-sustaining and you’re thirsty and you find the well dry.” He said that people often go to prayer to find goodness, grace, and personal holiness. But sometimes, when they go to the well, there is “no water there for them to receive.”
Often, this lacking experience can upset or disturb one’s spiritual journey. All of a sudden, the stream that was giving them life has been cut off and they begin to search for answers. They might ask, “What is causing this dryness? Is it my fault? Is it God? Why isn’t He answering or speaking to me?”
But this is completely normal. This spiritual dryness or feeling of abandonment or loneliness is nothing new. Early Christians and saints underwent periods of intense struggle just like us and let us never forget the words of Jesus on the cross: “And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Matthew 27:46) Father Heney says this is not a phrase of despair, but a reference to Psalm 22. People back then would have recognized this and known that the next one, Psalm 23, begins, “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.” God is our shepherd, and He will always bring us back to the flock if we trust in Him through our trials and tribulations.
Josh mentioned that this is not out of the ordinary for the Psalms. There are periods of darkness in those passages that acknowledge the pain and suffering that we will undergo in this life on earth. But always, they return to the light and goodness of Our Father in heaven and how He will protect us. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me.” (Psalms 23:4) Josh recalled that someone once told him that we should not fear the shadow of death because shadows only exist if there is light around the corner.
The key to weathering the storm of dryness is to avoid panicking and remember that this is not unusual. The answer to the empty well is to keep filling it up with water. Stay the course. Jesus never promised us sunshine and rainbows all the time if we follow Him. He told us in no uncertain terms that we will have to face trouble. But as long as we stay close to Him, we will get through it. “‘I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.’” (John 16:33)
Listen to the full conversation below:
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