One night a few weeks ago, my sister sent me a text:
“Pray for me. Neither one of them is answering his phone.”
She didn’t have to say anything further. My sister and I are of the same mind when it comes to worry. Her brother-in-law was visiting, and he and my sister’s husband had taken an overnight sightseeing trip.
It was late.
She was getting my nephew ready for bed.
And neither her husband nor her brother-in-law was responding to texts.
Rationally, my sister and I both knew that everything was fine. And, of course, it was: we had a double case of dead-battery-itis. But the unsettled feeling - the worry - is easy to understand.
When you depend on and love someone, you want to know where they are. You want to hear their voice. You want them to answer when you call.
When You Can't Hear God's Voice
It’s hard enough when our earthly family is incommunicado. But what about when it feels like God isn’t listening, either? Some of the most well-known saints and holy women of our time experienced this, from St. Gemma Galgani and St. Teresa of Avila to St. Teresa of Calcutta and Mother Angelica. Each one suffered immense spiritual dryness to the extent they felt abandoned by God.
Through it all, however, these brave women persisted. They relied on study, spiritual direction, introspection, and continued prayer to maintain their faith in God. While it may seem an insurmountable obstacle to follow their example, there are steps we can take to replenish our weary spirit and reconnect with God.
[tweet "9 things to do when it feels like God's not listening, by @ginny_kochis"]
Nine Ways to Break the Silence
Rely on a mantra
When I was around three or four, my mother signed me up for a dance movement class. One of the skills we had to learn was a forward roll or somersault, and I had great difficulty mastering it.
Mom, however, had a plan. She recorded herself encouraging me, then played the tape for several nights in a row, all while I was sleeping.
Mom’s plan worked, and ever since then I’ve used that technique in my spiritual life. Sometimes I’ll echo Mark 9:24: “I do believe! Help my unbelief!” Other days I simply repeat, “Jesus, I trust in you!” Whatever encouraging statement you choose, relying on a positive internal monologue can help pull you through a spiritual desert.
Turn to Scripture
*This links to a Protestant source - I was unable to locate a Catholic equivalent. Please use proper discernment and consider it a starting point to discovering pertinent verses within Scripture.
Receive the sacraments
According to the Baltimore Catechism, a sacrament is an outward sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace.
Since grace is what we need the most when we’re feeling far from God, why not seek it in the Sacraments? How long has it been since you went to Confession? Are you eligible to receive the Eucharist? Filling your soul with the grace of Christ will ease that lonely ache.
Go to Adoration
Even if you have to take the kids, go and sit in the presence of the Lord. Picture yourself wrapped in his arms with your head upon his shoulder. If you can pray, do. If you can’t, just sit there. Let his grace wash over you by osmosis.
Go on a retreat
A few weeks ago, my parish had a day of renewal for women. My sister asked me to go with her, and I’m glad she did. It was the first retreat I had gone to in years. I came home refreshed in both body and spirit.
Going on a retreat allows you to block out the chaos of daily life. You have opportunity for focused prayer, worship, and reception of the Sacraments. Check your diocesan office for local options, or seek out the many online options available. The point is - do whatever your schedule will allow. Your weary soul will thank you for it.
Read the great writers of the Church
We already know that many saints and Church leaders experienced great spiritual dryness. Several of them wrote about their experiences as well:
- Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis DeSales
- On Suffering and Burnout by Mother Angelica
- The Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross
- Come Be My Light: the Private Writings of Mother Teresa
Talk to someone you trust; seek spiritual direction
God does not want us to walk our path alone. Turn to a faithful friend and share what you are feeling. Ask this person to pray with and for you and encounter Christ through their friendship and trust. Additionally, don’t be afraid to approach your pastor for spiritual direction or counseling. If he is unable to help you because of parish commitments, he can point you in the direction of someone who can.
Step away from the smartphone
I often find my prayer life dryest when I’m spending more time on social media. Some days, I have to turn off my phone, put it away, and just be with my children and my God.
Try prayer journaling
Prayer journaling provides a concrete record of your thoughts, prayers, and spiritual growth. Once you have a few entries, you can go back, review what you’ve written, and begin to recognize patterns and themes.
Keep in mind that even when you feel God has abandoned you, he has not walked away. While we can’t know for certain the reason for the silence, there are steps we can take restart the conversation. Ramp up your prayer life, turn to the scriptures, and look to the saints who have gone before us. When you do, I promise you’ll find that God hasn’t turned his phone to silent.
We just need to get somewhere with better reception.
How do you find spiritual renewal when your prayer life is dry?
Copyright 2017 Ginny Kochis