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Find out how to grow spiritually when you’re going through a spiritual dry spell – an exact method for getting closer to God when it’s hard.
We’ve all been there – a season of life where you just don’t feel as close to God as you used to. I’ve been dealing with this recently. Stress, busyness, and the difficulties of life can sometimes cloud our vision and make us feel spiritually weak.
Throughout my life, I’ve often heard people say, “It’s easy to reach out to God when life is tough. The difficulty is staying close to Him when everything is going great.” Maybe I’m an oddity, but the opposite has been true for me.
When things in my life are rosy and going well, I actually feel closer to God. I find praise and worship easier and more heart-felt. Quiet prayer and study times feel more meaningful. It’s almost like I can feel God holding my hand.
In contrast, when I’m facing a personal stress or trial, God feels further away (even though He’s not). I have to consciously work at being grateful and focusing on Him in the midst of life’s storms. Study and prayer is a must, but harder for me to accomplish. For a long time, I thought feeling further from God was just how it had to be.
Maybe it’s the opposite for you. Maybe you find it easy to cling tightly to God when you’re facing difficulties, but more challenging to focus on Him when things are easy.
Regardless of your experience, there is a way to get closer to God – even if you don’t feel like it. Getting closer to God doesn’t have to be hard, but it does take effort and desire on your part.
Recently, in a phone conversation with my sister, I was discussing this phenomenon and some spiritual questions I’m currently facing. After mentioning the lack of closeness to God in my life, she wisely replied, “The more you can get Him in your head, the more you will feel Him in your heart.”
This response sparked a new resolve and desire in me to work at my relationship with God again. It’s true – when we don’t feel close to God, guess who moved? (Hint: It’s not Him!)
Yes, getting closer to God might feel more challenging during particular life circumstances and seasons. But it’s never out of our reach. After implementing the steps below, I am feeling that sense of closeness and oneness with God again that I used to feel in years gone by. Allow me to share with you how to grow spiritually when you’re struggling.
How to Grow Spiritually When You’re in a Spiritual Dry Spell
Below you’ll find the best tips for how to grow spiritually in an intentional way when you’re not feeling particularly spiritual. Grab a cup of tea and let’s dive in.
1. Prayer journal.
Maybe you don’t have this particular problem, but I get distracted during prayer time. My mind just wanders. I start talking to God about something, then think of how it relates to another issue, and before you know it I’m off in la-la land thinking about the fact that the laundry needs doing, or wondering what the weekend holds.
Ever since I was a pre-teen, the answer for this challenge for me is prayer journaling. This practice has helped me immensely.
Writing down prayers helps keep you focused on what you are doing and helps you stay on course. Writing also helps you discover new things about yourself and to organize your thoughts. Additionally, it reveals deep spiritual insights and settles/calms the heart.
The past few years I’ve transitioned from writing prayers on paper to writing them in my iPhone notes. However, I found that typing on my phone was more cumbersome and made me less likely to follow through. So I prefer to use a physical journal or notebook. But do whatever works for you.
If you want some prayer prompts to help you get started with prayer journaling, make sure to grab the “Nourish Your Spirit” prayer and study guide below.
Basically, when it comes to prayer, nothing is off-limits. Tell Him everything. Just make sure you also include thanksgiving and praise in your prayers. Sometimes it’s easy to hyper-focus on your problems in prayer and forget to thank Him as well.
2. Brainstorm spiritual questions.
Sometimes, we don’t feel close to God because we have unanswered questions about Him. We may be struggling with our faith or struggling to believe a certain aspect of God’s nature, and this causes us to keep God at arm’s length.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with having doubts and questions. Many men and women in the Bible questioned God, such as Job – “But I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue my case with God” (Job 13:3).
The problem comes in when you allow those questions to go unanswered and those doubts to fester. That’s when Satan has an opportunity to lie to you and makes you wonder how to grow spiritually.
The key is in facing our giants and identifying our spiritual questions and struggles. Spend a few minutes in a brainstorming session:
- Write down anything in your life that is discouraging you spiritually.
- What questions do you have about God that have not been answered?
- Are you currently experiencing any doubts in your faith?
Now, you are going to use the answers to these questions to dive into the next point.
3. In-depth study.
Next, using your answers from the brainstorming session, let’s create a specific Bible study plan tailored to your needs. For each topic/doubt/question you wrote down, do a Bible search related to it.
You can use websites such as Bible Gateway to search for a specific word or topic. You can also look up specific words in the back of your Bible (the concordance) and read each passage that mentions your topic, word, or a similar word. You can even type questions into Google and see what Bible passages pop up. Try the query, “What does the Bible say about — (insert your topic here)?”
This step is the KEY to gaining an understanding of your questions. Rather than just quickly reading a specific verse that addresses your issue, (or just accepting whatever answer Google gives you – even worse) read the entire chapter. Ideally, read the chapter before it and an the chapter after it as well, to get the context and full meaning of what you are reading.
Here’s an example of what I am doing right now. I wanted to do an in-depth study of the topic of suffering. So, my aim is to research every verse that has the word suffering in it, write it down, and read the entire chapter it is contained in (sometimes more).
The other day, I found a verse in Philippians about suffering, and ended up studying the entire book that week. At the end of the week, I realized that suffering is the theme of the entire book of Philippians, something I had not realized before! It enriched my Bible knowledge so much.
Before I started studying this way, I was working through one of those “read the Bible in a year” programs (which have their place). But I did not feel like I was growing spiritually because I was just reading chapters to check off a list – not truly absorbing and applying the Scriptures.
While you are reading your designated chapter, every few verses, jot down something you learned. Sometimes I will try to summarize what I have read to stay on track. Other times I will jot down an idea that really jumps out at me. Writing notes as I read really helps me to gain a deeper understanding of the text.
After reading, write down the overall concepts you learned about your particular topic. You might be surprised at what you find!
For example, after reading Romans 8 the other day, I discovered 4 promises about suffering and the Christian:
- Suffering will be more than worth it (v. 18)
- The Spirit talks to God about how we are feeling (v. 26)
- Even the bad will work together for good – there is a purpose for suffering (v. 28)
- Nothing (no suffering) can separate us from God’s love (v. 38-39)
This study encouraged me so much and helped me see things from God’s perspective!
Using this method has really helped me fall in love with the Scriptures and gain confidence in His Word. I bet you can come up with tons of study ideas from your brainstorm session that will make you a stronger Christian and help you learn how to grow spiritually.
4. Complementary book.
After my prayer and study session, I also like to read a devotional or theological book related to the topic I am studying. Reading a complementary book helps me think of ideas or concepts I may not have thought of before, or look at them from a different perspective. Since the author has obviously studied that specific topic extensively, it helps grasp concepts on a deeper level.
A word of caution: since these authors are obviously not God, mistakes and false teachings happen. Fact-check as you read to make sure what you are learning agrees with God’s Word.
Right now I’m reading Timothy Keller’s “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering.” It has been thought-provoking and enlightening, and I highly recommend it.
One of the key things I’ve learned so far is that the American culture is one of the worst in human history to equip it’s people to deal with suffering. We are so focused on material goods and pleasure/avoiding pain that we forget that suffering actually has benefits. Also, because many in our culture lack a basic belief in God, it is difficult to find meaning in suffering.
Whatever topic you’re studying, I’m sure you’ll be able to find a plethora of spiritual books on the topic. Ask your local minister for recommendations, check Amazon reviews, or even ask friends on Facebook for resources.
With these 4 tips, you are well on your way to a closer relationship with God. However, getting closer to God is not a one-time thing. It’s a day-in, day-out journey that requires consistency. I find the times when I don’t feel like doing my study and quiet times are the times when I actually need them most.