In the Wilderness

Even believers may experience times when God feels distant. (He’s not, by the way.) But we feel a spiritual dryness. Our cup feels empty. It is our wilderness experience. Listen to the psalmist’s wilderness experience.

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? (Psalm 42:1–2, ESV)

He goes on to speak of his tears, and people asking him, “Where is your God?” One of the refrains in Psalm 42 is “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (Psalm 42:5, 11 ESV).

What does David do to combat this spiritual wilderness?

  1. The psalmist is honest about how he feels. He is spiritually dry, and he admits it. His soul is cast down within him. He asks God, “Why have you forgotten me?” (v. 9). 
  2. The psalmist remembers his better days when he went with the throngs to the house of God with “glad shouts” and “songs of praise.” (v. 4)
  3. The psalmist remembers who God is. He remembers his hope in God (v. 5). God is his salvation (v. 5). God has “steadfast love” (v. 8). He is “the God of my life” (8). Note that there is another refrain within the psalm, “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Psalm 42:5-6a and 11. And it is this closing refrain in verse 11 that gives us the resolution of the psalm.

Why do we have these “wilderness experiences” and feel spiritual dry? I don’t know for sure, but I suspect these test our faith. The moments of dryness in my life seem to have come when I’ve been extremely busy or stressed with difficulties. The question becomes then: will I seek God? I have found that when I pray, read scripture, and worship through the dry spells my cup is eventually refilled. I must like the psalmist be honest in my prayers, remember better days, and remember who God is. Don’t be surprised by spiritual dryness in your life. Scripture warns us and aids us when we are in the wilderness.

— Russ Holden

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