Here is the third and final set lesson notes from September’s New England Ladies’ Retreat. Several have asked that I share my notes. It seemed easier to clean them up a bit and post them here. They are not in narrative form, fully edited, or in tight order. Rather, they are a bit of rough journaling from my time with God as we poured over His word and I asked Him what we needed to learn. I am hopeful they provide a starting place for you to tuck in along side me as we are gathered by God to His heart. Perhaps I will return to them and be granted the opportunity to study even more, polish them into order, and share the lessons in full that God brought me.
The Condition: a period of dry weather, especially a long one that is injurious to crops.
What is Spiritual Drought? The Condition is: a period of dry weather, especially a long one that is injurious to crops.
an extended shortage: a drought of good writing. Archaic. thirst.
In our case, I want us to consider it the condition of our spiritual land.
As well, let’s consider our own droughts, and what God is teaching us here, and also the droughts of others and what His role for us is in those times.
What happens in a drought? There is not enough nourishing water to satisfy the needs of the plants and animals that depend upon it.
Allow me to paint a picture for you:
Spiritually speaking, it is a time when we feel depleted, dried up. Our souls feel limp and lifeless. We may look great on the outside, like we’re functioning, but inside, in our hearts and souls where it counts most, there is nothing left. Spiritual droughts cause a lack of food.
*worship becomes rote and distilled to ‘attendance’. You may be physically present at every service, many activities of the church, but you don’t feel connected to the body, or to Christ.
*your passion for Christ, His church, the lost, is in a holding pattern…has become stale
*your attempts at serving and ministering are stopped short at the walls of disinterest, criticism, ‘someone is already doing that’, failure, inertia (lack of movement)
*only you and a few others appear to be caring and or serving, and you have run out of steam. You are a ‘frequent flyer’ in the ministries. Why do this if it’s only you?
*Bible classes and sermons fail to inspire you to growth. You feel as though they don’t challenge your faith, encourage your spirit, or anchor your heart to Jesus.
*there is no spiritual encouragement at work, at home, anywhere, only a draining of your spirit
One of the dangers is:
*because of the dry landscape of your heart, the seed of rebellion (which can grow EVERYwhere!) takes root and begins to grow: rebellion against authority, rebellion in our marriages, rebellion in our free time, rebellion against our elders, rebellion against the convicting truth of God’s word
The other danger is spiritual death:
This condition can happen for days, weeks, months, or years.
**Here are the three Questions to keep in mind as we study:
Does God INTEND for us to have seasons of spiritual drought?
If there is a drought, do we create it or contribute to it?
What can we do to survive the drought?
Turn to John 6:35-37 with me for a minute…Jesus PROMISES his disciples (that’s us!) a life without drought.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life, he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.” John 6:37
**What causes droughts? http://weather.about.com/od/drought/f/droughts.htm
Droughts are caused by a depletion of precipitation over time. Unlike a dry spell, prolonged lack of rain will cause regions around the world to slowly dry out. Because of the slow onset of droughts, their cost is often only estimated.
*Think about the lesson here God provides about your soul, His church…
1. My observation has been that (for me, and some others) one cause of Seasons of Drought is selfishness with time or lack of time listening to God and living in relationship with Him through His Word. Jesus made this same observation of the Jews:
Flip back to John 5. Jesus is speaking to the Jews here. They were having such a horrible time accepting Jesus as God’s son, and accepting His version of salvation. He says things of critical importance. He tells them something they were totally unaware of. They were living through a drought, and didn’t even know it! Remember, a drought is the condition of lacking what is needed to thrive. Listen to how He point this out to them-how they did not have life! (v. 39).:
37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (NIV)
41 “I do not accept glory from human beings, 42 but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts.
THIS is their ‘lack of rain’.
First, Jesus says to the Jews: “You have never heard His voice nor seen His form.” Well, of course they hadn’t! To do that would be to die So, what could Jesus mean? Think about it…there He was, Jesus the Son of God, Jesus who WAS/IS God!—saying, in essence, “Here I am. I have been living among you as Emmanuel-God with you, and you do not hear me! You do not “see” me for Who I am! I am God with you and you don’t LOOK OR LISTEN! You are living in a drought! You are WITHOUT Me.
How often do we do this? We have JESUS, here in His Body, the church, His Spirit, God-breathed in His Word! Do we look for Jesus here? Do we look for HIM, listen to HIM, not the people, the routines, the external structure of church life?
Next, “God’s word does not dwell in you!“ They knew the law and the prophets, oh, yes, but God’s word wasn’t dwelling in them. This was their LACKING, their drought. They KNEW God’s word, but it didn’t take root in their hearts, it didn’t cause the BELIEF of Jesus. That is the PROOF that they abide in God’s word. That is the Proof that WE abide in God’s word. Belief. Do we take Jesus at His word…all His promises? All His commands? Do we live like we believe it?!
Jeremiah 17:7-9New International Version (NIV)
7 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
8 They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
A tree planted, roots to the stream, with no worries of drought! THAT is refreshing!
Then, oh, Jesus saves the real zinger for last!: . 39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
Do we equate our striving for a spiritual “summer” of thriving and growth with an academic understanding of faith and Jesus? Do we ‘study’ Jesus, and expect spiritual strength and understanding? Look what He says here. There is something different in spiritual life (the opposite of drought), than just knowing about Jesus. He wants us to COME TO HIM, which is really, the LIFE He promises us. V. 40
Yes, come to ‘church’, but not because it’s a 21st century social structure that attempts to live a life like Christ. Come to CHURCH—His Body, because IT’S HIS BODY! We touch Jesus and He touches us when we are together, worshipping, serving, reasoning over God’s word! We touch Jesus.
You know the scripture of us being all part of His body: 1 Cor 12:27 “ Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” RSV
Yes, study God’s word, but by this, He means, pour over it with an open heart. Cry with me over the state of mankind and your soul. Sit with me at the well and learn compassion. Listen to my lessons on forgiving debts and ask me to show you who you need to forgive…
Yes, come to JESUS…talk with Him! Bring Him along in our parenting, our sistering, our daughtering, our shopping, our dishwashing, our gardening, our family taxi runs, our walks on the beach, our cooking, our reading…ask Him what He thinks? What would He have you do? What corners of our hearts do we need to release to Him? What scales of blindness does He need to lift from our eyes so we can see ourselves raw and let Him work?
38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent
This is our lack of rain.
I have separation anxiety…from my bed…from sleep…from warmth. Yet, with God’s help, I have been blessed by wrenching myself out of bed in the early AM. It is by His strength that I get up early, daily, before the distracting of my work or home tasks begin.
Not anymore. It is HARD WORK of wrestling with my will to rise every morning, but once I win that (spiritual and physical battle, I rejoice in the cherished time with God and He blesses so! I highly recommend reshaping your day with God’s help. Along with begging God for a relief from your drought, here’s an answer to “What Can I Do?” We’re always wondering what we can DO. Well, here we are: dig deep, deep down, into the word of God and root yourself by His feet in prayer. Find those underground lakes that the scorching sun and dry winds cannot diminish! They are below the surface, available to be tapped.
- **The Ugly Truth that we’d like to ignore, is that SOMEtimes it is WE who cause our droughts. Let’s just get this ugly part over with. It is more comfortable for us to speak of droughts as being seasons that ‘come upon us” that we must endure. That they are unpreventable. Someone else causes them. It’s the preacher’s fault, the elders’ fault, my family’s fault, my background, my work, my husband, my children…This the ‘victim mentality’, that, quite frankly, pervades our culture so deeply. And we pray, “Oh, Lord, give us strength and wisdom to get THROUGH.”
What about: “Oh, Lord, protect my heart and grant me wisdom to AVOID drought, to stay fertile and nourished by your waters!”
“work out your salvation with fear and trembling” Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, Phil 2:12
Do the work. You do the work. Not anyone else.
You dig into God’s word. YOU pray diligently by yourself, with your children, with your sisters and brothers in Christ.
YOU make the choices in your life that grab hold of spiritual opportunities.
YOU sacrifice your time and sweat equity to serve and study.
YOU pour out your heart in joy and conviction and praise to Jehovah in worship.
Even if your husband doesn’t, your children don’t, your friends or coworkers don’t, your preacher doesn’t, your elders don’t, your church family doesn’t. YOU do it!
ERADICATE your drought!! By God’s strength and your malleable heart, YOU CAN!
- We ‘overfarm’ the landscape, and use it up. We suck its nourishment dry, without replenishing it. Think about this in the church, in your own spiritual walk.
How do we dry up our places? Our hearts? Our church communities?
-The most obvious is by sin. We misuse the soil of our hearts and lives.
Jeremiah 13:22- 27
22 And if you ask yourself,
“Why has this happened to me?”—
it is because of your many sins
that your skirts have been torn off
and your body mistreated.
23 Can an Ethiopian[a] change his skin
or a leopard its spots?
Neither can you do good
who are accustomed to doing evil.
24 “I will scatter you like chaff
driven by the desert wind.
25 This is your lot,
the portion I have decreed for you,”
declares the Lord,
“because you have forgotten me
and trusted in false gods.
26 I will pull up your skirts over your face
that your shame may be seen—
27 your adulteries and lustful neighings,
your shameless prostitution!
I have seen your detestable acts
on the hills and in the fields.
Woe to you, Jerusalem!
How long will you be unclean?”
7 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 8 Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. 9 “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. 10 Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. 11 I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.”
The sin here (both places) was forgetting God. It’s always forgetting God. When we forget Him, we act, think, move, live in ways that either intentionally reject Him, or just ignore Him.
What gets me is v. 9 of Haggai… I am really struggling with that now. I feel so pulled by “my own house”. Even with my children grown and off in college or elsewhere, my house, my work—it all claims my time and energy. I feel smothered at times. Because my ‘house’ and its responsibilities are in front of me, loud and insistent, making everything immediate and urgent, they push aside the priority of God and His house.
How do we prevent this? How do we tend the blessings of home, family, work and first tend the Lord’s house?
*They must overlap.
*Sacrifice. Give. Something. Up.
*Encourage each other. Remind each other of opportunities. It’s got to be more than a pulpit announcement. If you see a need, come and ask ME. Don’t assume the needs will be filled by someone listening to a general announcement. Come gather me. Offer to work alongside me!
Deuternomy 28: all The Blessings of Obedience, the Curse of Disobedience
*I assume that most of us are here because we choose to hear God’s call and walk with Him. Most of us do not purposefully live our days in intentional rejecting of Him and His decrees. Most of us probably fall into the category of forgetting Him.
How do we do this? Let’s look at some places that are easy to remember and easy to forget Him:
Easy to Remember… “church”…big decisions…travel…illness… marriages… parenting…
Easy to Forget/Ignore…our use of time…everyday shopping purchases…who we choose to be with…financial management…leisure activities (what we read, watch, where we go, what we listen to …)…the words we say/write
God was upset at both the literal and figurative adultery that His people’s hearts committed. Read Hosea to find the love and grace in all of that.
There is ALWAYS an exit strategy, a door of redemption and return to the arms of our Father:
There is a mentality of taking, always taking, without returning that can cause our spiritual droughts.
Ask ourselves: Are we Takers or are we Givers? In the Kingdom, in our marriages, in or friendships, at work, at play…?
What is the SOLUTION to spiritual drought?
You know this answer already. Casting nutrient-filled water upon the dry land in a steady flow is the ONLY solution to drought.
But this steady rain is not a torrent. What happens when torrents come and fill the land cracked and hardened by drought? Tremendous floods occur, further damage is done. As you move through and out of your drought, or see others in a drought, in particular. Remember to be tender. As we are admonished in Scripture: restore gently, exercise love, patience, and gentleness with each other. Provide nourishing water, but don’t do the bucket challenge on their hearts!
Preparation: develop deep roots and send them out toward the water.
The Blessings of Drought: deep gratitude and appreciation of the satisfaction of our soul in God; submission, a breaking of selfish will
God is a God of contrasts. I am convinced that He does so much of His deep shaping of souls while leading us through contrasts. By allowing the world to drag itself through sin, generation upon generation, He provides for us what we need to understand redemption, to see grace in action. By feeling need, by being in want, we can feel what it is like to be fully satisfied.
The Purposes of Droughts:
Two things I ask of Thee; deny them not to me before I die:
Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
Give me neither poverty or riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me lest I be full, and deny Thee, and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God.”
Droughts force us to give up our perceived control. We pray, “Not my will, but Thine”, but do we really want that? Are we really comfortable with that?
Celebrate the Droughts! Drought, the contrast that allows you to truly see the light in the darkness, the satisfaction of soul-thirst. Learn from it. Remember that God does not intend for you to live dry.
Move toward the holy Oasis, the only One who can satisfy…Stretch your roots deep and tangle them in the rich soil that is Christ, His Body, His love, His work, His Word, His relationship, His grace.
From “Blessed be Your Name” by Matt and Beth Redman:
Blessed be Your name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name
And blessed be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be Your name
Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name