Dryness: When God Seems Far Away

Dryness: When God Seems Far Away February 16, 2014

Boots The interior life is just like anything else that you begin with excitement and enthusiasm: the excitement and enthusiasm wear off, and you end up with dryness. You don’t want to sit down and pray; when you do, it seems meaningless and pointless and boring and no fun. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the dryness will come and go.

There are two reasons for this, one human and one divine.

The human reason is what Uncle Screwtape called “the law of undulation”. In any human endeavour, your energy levels go up and down. When you’re feeling energetic, the activity is easy; at other times, you just don’t have as much energy for it. And then, if you’ve got some reason to be tired or sick or exhausted, it’s just so much worse. It’s the same thing that applies to housework, say. Prayer is a human activity, and subject to all of the same circumstances as any other human activity.

The divine reason is that prayer isn’t wholly a human activity; God plays a role, too. Sometimes He makes His presence felt; that’s called “consolation,” and it’s delightful when it happens.

Now, the interior life is about learning to love God with all your mind, soul, heart and strength, i.e., more than anything else, and then to love all other things in due proportion. And here’s the thing: the consolation God grants is not God. It is heady, delightful, intoxicating, and so we naturally want more of it; and it is all too easy to learn to love consolation more than God who grants it. We must learn to love God with our wills rather than with our feelings.

And so God grants us dryness, times when we can choose to love Him even though our feelings rebel. In short, as annoying as it is, dryness is a good thing.

(You might have heard of the Dark Night of the Soul and the Dark Night of the Senses. I’m talking about something much more basic, something that you’ll almost certainly experience on a regular basis. All I have to say about the Dark Nights is that I don’t understand them well enough to say anything worth listening to.)

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