“The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ And I answered, ‘O Lord GOD, you know.’ Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.’” (Ezekiel 37:1-5, ESV)
It is not uncommon. In fact, I would be surprised if any Christian didn’t experience a time where their faith didn’t feel dry and hollow. We go through the motions of faith. We open our Bibles and read, but the words seem empty. We pray, but it feels as if our prayers are tethered to weight-of-the-world carrying shoulders. We put on a happy face on Sunday morning; “I’m doing great! How are you?” Around and around we plod over the path we understand to be “Christian.”
Of course, this in no way invalidates our faith! We should think of these times of desert wandering in the same way we consider obstacles to, and direct assaults on, our faith. The challenges of resisting temptation, choosing to put others before ourselves, or giving sacrificially, are all part of the Christian life. And dry times are no different.
Israel had been scattered like dandelion pappi in a windstorm. Ezekiel had prophesied that it would happen, and it did. The Israelites saw little hope of recovering. Perhaps they recognized that they had turned away from God and saw their dispersion as the just response of a holy God. Or maybe they were angry at God for putting them in such an awful position.
Also possible is that they had never rebelled against God as did many of their fellows. Maybe they continued to hang on to their faith, clinging desperately to a relationship and covenant that had kept them through difficult times before. But despite their faith, they likely found little cause for hope of their circumstances changing.
And then God….
God brought Ezekiel to a valley—because one doesn’t have to look long and hard to find faith on a mountain top—filled with dry bones. In fact, Ezekiel said that they were verydry. If Ezekiel had even for a moment thought about someone being raised from the dead, he most certainly would not have pictured someone in this condition as a possible candidate. But that was really one of the points that God was trying to make.
Our God makes the impossible possible! Ezekiel prophesied to the dry bones, as directed by the Lord, and little by little the bones and flesh came together. Then, once the bodies were complete God put breath in them again and they lived!
This is, of course, a metaphor. God wanted the scattered Israelites to know that they were not too far gone. He was able to give life and restoration.
I remember going through a dry time (well…more than one!). My faith wasn’t gone, by any means, but it had certainly become dry. I continued going through the motions—praying, reading the Word, writing—but my faith felt stale.
I was forced to step back and take a look at my life. What had changed? Why did I feel so removed from God? The things from which I was previously refreshed weren’t so any more.
I found myself giving of my surplus faith, but failing to resupply. I was basically asking myself to make bricks without straw! The busy-ness of church life and commitments had distracted me from recognizing that I was running on empty.
I was forced to take a hard look at my schedule—the commitments I had made and the attitudes that drove those commitments—to determine where I needed to make changes.
When you’re dehydrated, you don’t have to be told that you’re thirsty. You just need to figure out where your Camelback is leaking, patch it up, and refill! When we face dry times in our faith we can be certain that He hasn’t backed off one inch. If there’s a problem, it is only right to assume that it lies with us.
Just as God gave the scattered Israelites hope that they would be brought back and refreshed in their faith in Him, He is speaking to us. We may walk through the valley, but we will find our way back to the mountain path.
If you are feeling as though your faith is lifeless, if your spiritual life is so dry you think you might turn to dust, let me encourage you. Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:38, ESV). Take a long, hard look at yourself. What are you doing—or what aren’t you doing—that has brought you to your dry condition? Anyone can say that they are doing all the right things for only the best of reasons. It takes great courage, however, to examine our lives and motives deeply and honestly. It takes courage to do whatever is necessary to sate our thirst and regain our hunger once again.
“For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:17, ESV)
How have you found water in the desert? What practices helped you overcome a dry faith? Leave a comment below. I’d really love to hear from you.
As always, these are the musings of a mindful disciple. Blessings on your week!
Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay