When a lull hits in the spiritual life, people look for a cure. Why does God feel so distant? Why can't I reclaim a previous experiential connection to God? Why is it that my faith, which once felt so vibrant, has taken an apparent recess?
Oftentimes, pastoral counseling in the face of spiritual dryness or depression amounts to more regularity in public worship, more commitment to the spiritual disciplines, participation in a small group, taking up a new Bible study, or engaging in acts of social concern. And all of these things, in and of themselves, are good. They may serve as a cure. But they may not.
A surprising truth may be that we are doing too much, rather than doing too little, causing our spiritual life to suffer.
David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in a sermon entitled "Weary in Well Doing" observes well that a critical step in diagnosing the reasons for spiritual depression is self-examination. One must get to the root of the problem. And while it may be the case that there is presence of sin or the failure to discipline oneself in the practices of the Christian life, the cause may also be sheer exhaustion. Lloyd-Jones states:
You may be in that condition simply because you are working too hard physically. You can be tired in the work and not tired of the work. It is possible that a man has been over-working--I do not care in what realm, whether natural or spiritual--and has been over-taxing his energy and his physical resources. If you go on working too hard under strain you are bound to suffer. And of course if that is the cause of the trouble, the remedy you need is medical treatment.
Extending pastoral counseling to another person, or to oneself, may require the offering of the choice to stop doing, rather than to start doing. We live in a culture of over-work, having neglected or obscured the value of the discipline of rest. If you feel exhausted and far from God, pause and reflect if the neglect of the physical, bodily dimension of your personhood is the root. It may be the case that altering the rhythm of your life and incorporating rest may serve as the needed course correction, allowing other Christian spiritual practices to then flood and nourish the soul. We are embodied creatures, this much cannot be denied, and in order for the soul to thrive, the body must be properly tended. Christianity, inclined to gnosticism, has too often forgotten this truth.