By Les Henson.
There are times when God seems so far away when it’s difficult to read one’s Bible, to pray, or to engage in any form of spiritual practice. One’s temperament to some degree influences such times, and the frequency or the effect on our lives. I envy those people who have a consistent spiritual routine and can practice it day in day out faithfully. My temperament does not allow me to do that, I need variety otherwise I get bored and switch off. So I have developed several ways of reading the Bible and for praying, etc. I need to do this for all the spiritual practices in which I engage. For me, variety is essential. But, regardless of our approach to spiritual disciplines, there are for many of us those times when nothing works.
Thankfully for me, those times are rarer than they use to be, but for many of us, they can come without warning. One of the worst times I have experienced was when about six months after I arrived in Australia some twenty plus years ago. One moment everything was fine, and the next moment it was like the heavens were bolted shut. For about six or seven weeks, I could not read my Bible, pray or engage in any form of spiritual practice. I kept on trying, but it only made matters worse.
So, I stopped and started to go for long walks instead. In one sense, this did not work either, but it gave me the space and time that I needed. It enabled me to stop worrying about it and relax. Then about a month later when seemingly by accident I picked up my old blue Presbyterian hymnbook and started to read some of the old hymns. I would read each hymn about seven or eight times before proceeding to the next. At first, it did not seem to help, but after doing this each day for about six weeks, I started to pray the hymns I was reading. Then after roughly another three weeks, I started reflecting on them. This practice eventually resulted in a very rich time of spiritual blessing until I realised it was time to get back to my regular spiritual practices and routine.
Now, I am not suggesting that this solution is for every one, but rather when we are going through such a time, it may be that the worst thing that we can do is to try harder. In those times, maybe we need to relax and abandon our spiritual practices for a while and allow ourselves space and time. Yet, remaining open to God and allowing God to guide us back in time to our customary practices. We need to accept that such times are a part of the spiritual journey of many of God’s people. Though painful initially, such times can, in the end, prove to be times of richness and blessing.