Dry Spells

It’s the day when serving God officially feels like a twenty-mile stretch of Death Valley.    

It happened over the course of time, maybe years.  You had been joyful and busy for the kingdom of God.  You hardly noticed when the joy seemed to separate and go elsewhere, leaving the busy part.  Afterward for a while, your service to the Lord was business only.  And then your business felt like the kind of work you’re tempted to play hooky from.

This kept up until you were dutifully miserable in your business for Jesus, but exquisitely joyful at the movie theater.  At that point the process was complete.  What used to get you out of bed is now sand and cactus.

The Bible calls this a drought.  It takes the people of God a long time to notice it, but when they do, according to the prophet Jeremiah, “they lament on the ground, and the cry of Jerusalem goes up” (14:2).  Their search starts, only to “find no water; they return with their vessels empty” (v. 3).  The ground is so dry that “even the doe of the field forsakes her newborn fawn because there is no grass.  The wild donkeys stand on the bare heights; they pant for air like jackals; their eyes fail because there is no vegetation” (vv. 5-6).

That’s when we do the predictable: ramp up our ceremonial deeds, our fasts, our offerings.  Preachers get in on the act, with promises linked to positive thinking and words of false encouragement, but God says of them, “the prophets are prophesying lies in my name” (v. 14).

All this activity is how human beings try to control their gods and solve their problems.

And yet Yahweh, the God of the Bible, refuses to be manipulated.  He says, “I will not hear their cry…I will not accept them” (v. 12).  If you’ve ever tried to force God’s hand by bribing or impressing Him, you’ve felt the frustration of trying to make Him do what He won’t do.

Heaven remains silent.

But it need not.  Jeremiah 14 begins by saying that the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, “concerning the drought” (v. 1).  God wants to talk to us about our drought, or talk to us through it.

We’re more concerned with making it go away, than hearing Him, and so the drought continues.

We try to offset it with good deeds, as though it were karma, or swearing at the futility of it as if it were Murphy’s Law.

A key thought to your crisis lies in the middle of Jeremiah 14, where the prophet laments, “O you hope of Israel, its savior in time of trouble, why should you be like a stranger in the Land, like a traveler who turns aside to tarry for a night?” (v. 8).

The Savior Himself has become a stranger to the people He saved.  The One who brought them out of Egypt and through the wilderness and into the good land, only gets a polite nod from a distance.  He is allowed to stay the night perhaps, or check in on Sunday morning, but nothing more.

And therein lies the problem.  According to New Covenant thoughts, God didn’t come to the earth in the Person of His Son, live the life of a servant, get misunderstood, abandoned by friends, then suffer, die, and rise to be an occasional houseguest.  When someone makes a trip from heaven to earth to hades and back, He’s looking for more.

This is the “more” that Jesus had in mind: “In that day you will know that I am in the Father, and you in me, and I in you” (John 14:20).  Again He said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (14:23).

There are no strangers in this dynamic scene, none distant.  All are first person, close, intimate.  It is obedience and love.  Anything outside of this blessed scene is desert, pure and simple.  Dry spells remind us we’ve strayed from the good land, and perhaps unintentionally gotten away from the themes of devotion to Christ and union with God.

But it’s almost miraculous how a return to this reality can change the climate of the soul.

Suddenly without calculations or negotiations, we find ourselves not in Jeremiah 14, but back in Psalm 23, where “He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters.”

The drought has broken.

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