I grew up in California and have may friends and family members who live there.
They speak with growing concern about the severe drought that grips the state, and, when your father-in-law grows oranges, it touches us personally.
But there is another kind of drought over the land.
It is a drought of the spirit. A season of dryness and inner aridity that is producing a mass falling away from God.
We’re going through the motions, working harder and enjoying it less, and finding ourselves far from the fountain of living water.
Part of it is the spiritual season we’re in.
It’s been over 100 years since a heaven-sent, sustained outpouring of the Spirit. None of us alive now can remember what it was like then, when a mass turning to God and experience of new life happened.
Such things still happen and are happening in the Third World.
And perhaps that is part of the answer–when flooded by material prosperity there’s a corresponding drying up of spirit.
We sense our needs less, can more readily indulge in various and readily available distractions, and grow fat and sassy.
As the writer of Proverbs puts it, “Give me not…riches, lest I be full and say, “Who is the Lord?”
We lose touch with our frailty, warehouse the elderly and the dying away in special institutions, and amuse ourselves with multitudinous distractions.
And these distractions are another part of the reason we’ve dried up within.
We protect ourselves from as much pain, unresolved tension, and immovable difficulty as we can.
We hide in our bubbles and live in virtual worlds–growing more sedentary and disengaged with the real world with every day.
We grow numb and fall spiritually asleep–”He has poured out a spirit of slumber and deep sleep over the land.”
Ironically, it is desperation and unmet need that faithfully drive us to God, who loves us in wilderness.
A life without wilderness and desperation is a life without burning bushes, without encounters with God.
And without encounters with God, we dry up and lose touch with Him.
We resort to self-managing, self-indulging, and self-collapsing back in on ourselves.
In such a place maladies like depression, addiction, and boredom multiply.
The things we use to solve our problem only make it worse, and we head for a crisis.
We think it’s our body that’s the problem, when it’s a dry spirit that’s completely disconnected and far from God.
So we grow more frenzied and compulsively give ourselves over to increasingly empty pleasures.
Our very capacity for enjoyment fades, the pleasures grow empty, and we grow hollowed out inside–but we don’t see it.
Our spiritual eyes are blinded, our ears are deafened, and our hearts are hardened.
For a fortunate few, awareness dawns.
Hitting bottom, we begin to look out and away from our miserable, collapsing self. We realize our pleasures are empty and our real need is spiritual.
We begin to cry out in the desert of our own making and begin to long for deliverance.
And God is there, has always been there, waiting for us to come to our senses and return home to Him.
He beckons those far away and invites the lost to return.
He gives a warm welcome and embraces us as sons and not as dirty refugees.
And in His fresh embrace a fountain begins to bubble up within our soul.
We realize our true longing has been to be loved by Him, and our true calling is to share the overflow of His restoring love with others.
These streams in the desert turn it into a lush, spacious garden–vast enough to burn off every false desire and to satisfy every true one.
The drought is over!