When I was a young believer, someone told me that one of the reasons why God created the physical seasons was to illustrate the spiritual seasons that a Christian will pass through in his or her life.
Jesus talked a lot about the significance of seasons (Matthew 21:41, 45; Luke 12:42; 21:30; John 4:35; 5:35).
Paul told his young apprentice Timothy to “be prepared in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2).
To borrow the title of Robert Bolt’s play about Sir Thomas More, Timothy was to be “a man for all seasons.” A person who can stand in the face of every season—great, good, bad, horrible, unmentionable—and not to be moved.
Paul was such a person. Consider his own description of the seasons that he passed through during his ministry:
Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love … known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed.… I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. (2 Corinthians 6:4–6, 9; Philippians 4:12)
Like Paul and Timothy, every Christian and every church is to be “a person for all seasons.”
One of the wisest men who ever lived taught us well about the different seasons of life (see Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). What’s true in the natural realm is also true in the spiritual realm.
At bottom, a season means a change. As fallen creatures, we don’t like change very much. We fall into ruts and routines rather easily. We’re bent that way. But science teaches us that all living things must grow or else they die. And growth means change.
A few words about a dry spell.
The dry spell is the spiritual drought. During this season, the Christian’s throat becomes parched, and his/her eyes are filled with sand.
One’s spiritual life is dull and lifeless. You feel as if you’re going to the motions. There’s a dearth of joy, excitement, and fervor. Songs that once moved you to tears no longer touch your heart. When you open up the Bible, the pages are blank. Prayer is a study in boredom.
What’s happening? You’ve entered into the dry spell.
To borrow the language of the spiritual writers of the past, the dry spell is “the dry well,” “the dark night,” “the cloud of unknowing.” Death appears everywhere. God has gone on vacation.
(I discuss “the dark night of the soul” in Revise Us Again. It’s actually much more drastic than a typical dry spell.)
One of the greatest lessons I learned in my spiritual walk is that God is the author of dry spells. He plans them. He creates them. He brings them. And He eventually removes them.
Our Lord authors dry spells as much as He authors wet spells. He engineers both of them.
Those who are of a Pentecostal/charismatic background may be tempted to call the dry season a work of the Devil. But it’s not.
Authentic churches go through dry spells. And it’s during the dry spells that most church splits occur. When the river runs dry, the rocks begin to show. When the water recedes, the bottom begins to appear.
Moths are attracted to light. But when the lightbulb goes out, they flee in a royal hurry.
Do you know what God is doing during a dry spell? He’s searching us out. He’s asking the acute question “Do you want Me only during the good times, or do you want Me in the dry times also?”
A church will grow numerically in a wet spell, but it will lose people during a dry spell. Yet the greatest spiritual growth often takes place during the dry spell. But that growth is imperceptible.
The dry spell is the season when the deeper lessons of the Christian life are learned. A church needs dry spells. And so does every believer. They are part of the Christian life.
Everyone’s devotion to the Lord and to one another is tried during the dry spell. Those who are in a church for what they are getting out of it usually head for the door. The dry spell is God’s way of shaking out the fence-sitters. It’s the Lord’s winnowing tool.
It weeds out those who are worshipping the Creator of the universe from those who are worshipping a Cosmic Sugar Daddy. Dry spells separate those who are loyal to the God of blessing from those who are loyal to the blessings of God.
In a word, dry spells are designed to purify our love.
Interestingly, a dry spell can usually be broken. But sometimes it cannot. And at such times, you have but one option: Batten down the hatches, hunker down, and walk through it.
Blessed is the church . . . and the Christian . . . who can ride out the dry spell.
For those interested, I expand on the matter of spiritual seasons, dry spells, and wet spells in Finding Organic Church.