In Praise of Dry Spells

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.

Related:

Whatever Happened to Perseverance?

Is Your Ministry Due for a New Season?

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Comments

  1. Mike McLain says

    You mention that church splits often happen during dry spells. Is this always bad? Can’t splits be good?

  2. Todd says

    Amen. Thank you Frank for this post.

    In regards to Sir Thomas More and “a man for all seasons”. I very highly recommend the DVD of Charlton Heston’s sincere and compelling version from 1988. It’s a powerful and overlooked gem about adhering and standing for God’s principles.

  3. Thomas says

    Quite an interesting post! On both the individual and the corporate level, I think, dry spells should set alarm bells ringing in our heads – is something going wrong here that I could do something about? (Am I so interested in something else that I’m forgetting about God for instance? Do we like singing so much that we forget to ask God what he would like?). If so, you know what to do to escape. If not, you can ask God to help you out – that’s happened for me a couple of times.

    But maybe that’s just the fixable dry spell that was mentioned in the post. I’ve never encountered an unfixable one – I don’t even really know if I believe it exists?

    I guess it’s kind of like being married. Things can get normal and routine, and then perhaps boring or frustrating – but there’s never nothing you can do about beyond simply enduring.

  4. Pamela says

    Wow!!! Your insight on “dry spells” is so on time for me personally and spiritually…I realize that I have been “dry” for a very long time, going through the motions of life and ministry in many respects…Yet, in all the Bible examples, God would bring streams of water in the desert (Isaiah 35)…I want to know what the Lord is saying to me and to our church in this season as we have incurred so much loss numerically and financially, but we continue to press on…I feel encouraged to see it through to the end…Thanks so much Frank…God bless!!

  5. says

    Amen! Thank you for sharing this, Frank. I have been through several dry spells since Christ was birthed in me. Currently our body seems to be in one. My heart is set to persevere towards Christ being formed in myself and the people around me. All we can do in a dry spell is turn our thirsty hearts towards Him and wait. And wait I shall!

  6. Valeria T says

    Frank, you once wrote about a friend of yours who was going through the “dark night”. I was wondering if you could tell how he got over it, if he did and if he is ok now. Have you ever experienced it?

  7. says

    Sometimes I hear God’s voice loudly. I sense his presence and his love. Other times, I don’t. It’s during these times I have to walk by faith, remembering what God has done in the other seasons of my life. That’s one of the reasons we need spiritual communities. Even when we forget what God has done, these communities will remind us about what’s true.

  8. Israel Sanchez says

    If it wasn’t for dry spells we wouldn’t learn many things, mainly patience and perseverance. It is in those frustrating times that we need to come and get a taste of the Living Water. Like you said, He helps us endure and succeed.

  9. Nancy says

    This is my interpretation of dry spells:

    Dry spells are pretty common in the Bible to many leading characters: Moses, Elijah, David, Daniel, Jonah, Job, Ezekiel, Paul, Jesus, Jesus’ disciples. I pretty much figure the prophets of old went through more than their share of dry spells. Can you imagine the enormous responsibility with little or no support? Kind of like our modern day pastors.

    If we’re interested in being a disciple and not just a believer, God will make sure we become a disciple and dry spells will all be part of that journey.

    I’ve been through dry spells. Here are some of the valuable things dry spells in my life have done for me: built character, helped me to get focused, narrowed my interests, increased my dependency on God and decreased my ability to do “His” work on my own steam. Dry spells take the breath out of us and leave us helpless. Only then can God, through us, do His amazing work of ministry.

    Frank, your advice to “batten down the hatches, hunker down, and walk through it”, is about the best advice I’ve heard from anyone. Thanks for leading me into my quiet time today. It was delightful.

  10. Tim C says

    All I can say is…thanks Frank. Your insights are helpful as I plug away through my own dry spell…excited about what God is doing and is going to do.

  11. Justin says

    Really appreciated this blog, Frank. Growing up in the charismatic renewals of Toronto and Brownsville, etc., it took me a long time to come to see that dry spells, or silence even, could be authored by God. By now I think I have solidly landed on the side of God sometimes (or often times) being the dry spell’s “Causer.” (;

    I was wondering if you could offer some of the passages of scripture that guided you toward this view. I would love to hear more!

  12. says

    I’ve been walking through my own version of the West Texas/Oklahoma dust bowl of the 1930’s. And yes, like the Okies, I ended up in Southern California. Now, I’m praying for rain.

    Thanks Frank for the prophetic insight.

  13. William Pabon says

    The only thing I can say for now is that I’m into one of those. Your advice to: “Batten down the hatches, hunker down, and walk through it”, is the best possibility for survival. The Lord is with us, in spite of it.

  14. says

    I’ve been there and I can definitely relate to the emotions. But I can also relate to the learning. Good stuff, Frankie V. It is what it is. Whatayagonnado?

  15. Aadel says

    Dry spells happen. And when I was a baby Christian and experienced my first one- I got horrible advice about it. And every time I try to talk about dry spells to people I trust- they always turn it back on me. I have learned to trust God through the dry and wet times, but not from any help that my spiritual leaders have given me. Sad, but true.

    Now I try to help other Christians realize that they will have a dry spell- and that it is not our job to “fix” it. We need only trust our Lord through it.

  16. Vicki says

    God’s timing is amazing. Perseverance, my friend, perseverance. ..We have to remember that whether we can see Him through the darkness or not, He is there. Can we still love Him when the blessings seem to stop? What we learn through these dark times is perhaps the greatest blessing of all. I’m constantly amazed by how with perseverance eventually the pieces begin to find their places. God is so cool.

  17. says

    I quite agree with you Frank. I have learnt much through observing the seasons and in some ways conforming to them – it does help when I live in rural locations. Seasons have been important to me, particularly winter and I wrote a poem on the Winter of the Soul, you can see it on my blog. I find winter a good time to wait and see, to let things die that need to die and to await the promise of spring.

  18. Bonnie says

    “Cosmic Sugar Daddy”

    Never heard it stated better, and it gave me a bit of a chuckle this morning. Thanks!

    I think dry spells are also a good time for getting back to basics. Not that we should have ever left the basics, but for me, a dry spell is a good time to refocus on “Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

  19. Guy Sperlazzo says

    Just what I needed, you addressed things I have been pondering for the past few weeks. Thanks a lot Frank.

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