In the Valley: Coping with Spiritual Dry Spells

In the Valley: Coping with Spiritual Dry Spells At some point, every believer walks through a spiritual valley. It’s not a sign of a failing faith; it’s a natural part of our journey. In these…

In the Valley: Coping with Spiritual Dry Spells

At some point, every believer walks through a spiritual valley. It’s not a sign of a failing faith; it’s a natural part of our journey. In these valleys, our prayers might feel hollow, our devotional time forced, and our church attendance more habit than hunger. This “meh” feeling, as some call it, is not unfamiliar to the psalmists of old or even the prophets. They, too, experienced moments, days, even seasons of dryness. It’s like walking in a thick fog, where each step is uncertain, and the sense of direction feels lost. But even in the fog, there’s a still, small voice, a beacon that reminds us that we’re on a path, even when we can’t see the next turn.

The Reality of Spiritual Dry Spells:

The 23rd Psalm, often recited for comfort, speaks profoundly to this experience: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4 KJV). The assurance isn’t that we will avoid the valley, but that we are not alone within it. It speaks of God’s companionship – a shepherd’s presence that soothes and guides even when we feel lost. David, the author of this psalm, was no stranger to hardship and fear, yet he found solace in the steadfast presence of the Lord. Spiritual dry spells can feel isolating, but research in the field of psychology suggests that such periods of emotional and spiritual drought are common and can, in fact, lead to personal growth and resilience. Scholars such as James Fowler have studied the stages of faith development and note that times of questioning or doubt are often precursors to deeper understanding and commitment. This is not dissimilar to the metaphor of refining gold – it is through the hottest fire that impurities are burned away, leaving a purer element behind.


Personal Anecdote: Sarah’s Slump:

Sarah, a friend of mine, once shared her own valley experience. She felt disconnected during worship and wondered if God was distant. Her story mirrored that of the prophet Elijah, who, after a significant victory, found himself exhausted and doubting God’s presence (1 Kings 19:4-8). Elijah felt alone and weary, driven into the wilderness where it seemed his efforts were for naught. But like Elijah, Sarah’s valley was not a place of abandonment. Through her “meh” season, she received nourishment in unexpected ways – a timely word from a friend, a verse that spoke to her condition, and the gentle whispers in the quiet moments that, indeed, she was not alone. It was as if each of these instances were manna in the desert — small, nourishing, and a reminder that sustenance comes in many forms. Sarah would later reflect that this season stripped away her reliance on emotional highs and propelled her towards a more stable, grounded faith.

Recognizing the Seasons:

Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (KJV). Our spiritual lives are not immune to these seasonal shifts. As winter strips the leaves from trees, revealing their bareness, a spiritual winter can strip away our superficial engagements, revealing the bedrock of our faith. The writer of Ecclesiastes understood that life ebbs and flows in seasons, a cycle of renewal that governs all things under heaven. Through these times, we, like the trees, may seem dormant, but below the surface, there’s a hidden activity, preparing us for the coming spring. The lesson in this is not only that seasons change, but also that each season carries its own purpose. Winter, for all its coldness and decay, leads to the burst of new life in spring. So it is with our spiritual valleys — they are not permanent states, but passages to new seasons of growth and fruitfulness.

Spiritual Practices for Dry Seasons:

When feelings are scarce and God seems silent, spiritual practices can be an anchor. Unlike emotions, practices are choices. They’re acts of the will that can lead us back into feelings of connection with God. The disciples also faced their periods of confusion and felt distance from Jesus, but they continued in their practice of following Him and learning from Him. Jesus himself exemplified this when he retreated to the wilderness to pray (Mark 1:35), seeking solitude and silence in the presence of the Father, even if it meant engaging with difficult truths about His own mission and identity. His solitude was a deliberate move toward communion with God, even if it meant wrestling with disquieting silence. When we follow Jesus’ example by maintaining our spiritual practices, we ground ourselves in the truth of who we are and who God is, despite the dry environment that might surround us.


Hydration for the Spirit:

Just as hydration is vital for our physical bodies, especially in dry environments, our spirits also need hydration. David models this when he says, “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is” (Psalm 63:1 KJV). This thirst for God depicts the natural yearning of the soul, a desire for the divine that persists even, and especially, when God feels distant. Spiritual hydration might come from the scriptures—perhaps passages like Isaiah 43:2, reminding us that when we pass through the waters, God will be with us. In this passage, Isaiah is speaking to a people in exile, offering a promise of presence and protection amid hardship. This promise still holds true today. Hydration may also come from fellowship with others, sharing our struggles and discovering we’re not as alone as we might feel. And sometimes, it’s found in the silence, in the willingness to just be and wait for the rains to come. Often, it is in these parched places that we most acutely feel the refreshing waters of God’s love when they do arrive.

Embracing the Valley:

A “meh” feeling in our spiritual life can be a space of self-discovery. In the valley, stripped of the usual comforts, our true selves can be laid bare. It’s like the experience of the disciples in the storm at sea (Mark 4:37-41); their fears and doubts came to the surface in the face of danger, revealing their vulnerability. The introspection that often accompanies spiritual dryness can forge authenticity in our relationship with God. As we partake in the Communion, for instance, our participation isn’t about a surge of feeling but a testimony to our commitment, a statement that we’re there even when the heart isn’t. In these moments, it’s not about the elevation of our emotions but the dedication of our souls—a raw and real expression of faith that persists in the absence of fervor.

Learning from the Cloud of Witnesses:

Scripture is filled with a “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1), many of whom had their moments in the valley. Job’s lamentations (Job 23:8-10), Jeremiah’s tears (Jeremiah 9:1), and even Jesus’ cry of abandonment on the cross (Matthew 27:46) remind us that spiritual desolation is a part of the human and divine. We are in good company when the valley is our sojourn. The author of Hebrews calls on us to consider these forebears in the faith, not just for the triumphs of faith they experienced but also for the trials that tempered their souls. Each figure in this great “cloud” demonstrates the varying facets of faithful response to God’s mysterious presence and absence.

Conclusion: The Valley and Beyond:

In the end, valleys are not permanent dwellings. They are to be walked through, as Psalm 23 reminds us. In doing so, we gain a landscape of the heights we can only see from below. They shape our spiritual terrain and compel us towards a deeper faith. Valleys, while they may be daunting in their shadowed depths, ultimately provide context for the grandeur of the peaks to come. Paul’s journey, from his Damascus Road conversion to his final days, reflects a life lived in varied spiritual landscapes, marked by both jubilation and suffering. His letters from prison are a testament to the depth that can be mined from the valleys of life. If you are in that valley now, feeling “meh” and disconnected, know this is not the entirety of your story. There is a through-line, a path that winds its way back to the mountaintop, and the valleys are as much a part of the journey as the peaks. So, walk gently with yourself, stay hydrated with the Living Water, and know that even in the dry spells, growth is happening, roots are deepening, and the journey continues.


In this season of “meh,” what practices have you found helpful to navigate through? Can you recall a previous valley and the lessons it taught you? Share your reflections and let’s walk through this valley together, knowing that indeed, we are never alone. With each shared story, the path becomes clearer, and the walk, a shared journey. We are each other’s landmarks, reminders that the path is well-trodden and leads to a place of renewal. We can draw strength from our collective experiences and find comfort in our unified pilgrimage through the valleys of life.