I'm Feeling Spiritually Dry

by Gabriele Rienas

Q: I always wanted to be a pastor’s wife since I was a little girl. My dream came true, and my husband and I have been ministering together for the past 7 years. For most of that time we have been involved in youth ministry. I partner with my husband in every way I can even though we recently had our second child. I mentor girls in the youth group, plan events, and occasionally speak at the youth service. Lately, however, I have become spiritually dry. I do not feel like praying; I do not feel God’s presence, and I am growing resentful of the people to whom we minister. This is embarrassing to admit, but sometimes I secretly question whether God exists. Everybody expects me to be the same as before, but they do not know my inner struggle. I feel like a fraud.

A: First, let me thank you for your honesty and vulnerability. Your struggle is not uncommon, yet not often revealed because of its sensitive nature. It seems that full-time ministry and service requires a solid foundation of unwavering faith and belief. Admitting anything less seems wrong. At times, however, we all wrestle in various ways in our faith. This kind of wrestling brings us to deeper levels of trust if we walk through it without giving up. Your struggle is not an indication of the end of something. Rather, it can be the beginning of something new and deeper in your walk with Jesus.

Commit yourself to walking it out. Uncomfortable and disconcerting as it may be, keep moving forward. The walk of faith is a walk of trust. Faith is not so much about clarity as it is about trust. (Brennan Manning examines this in his book Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin’s Path to God).

In your spiritual walk there are times when you may have great clarity about your faith and your relationship with Jesus. There will be other times when you simply do not. At those times it comes down to simple trust. Your stance could be, “At this moment, I may not have great clarity about anything spiritual, but I choose to trust my God.”

Be honest about your struggle, but use wisdom. Faking it is stressful and doing so over a period of time can eventually lead to burnout or a desire to escape. On the other hand, avoid arbitrarily baring your soul to anyone and everyone, especially if you are in leadership of younger, less mature people. Share as honestly as you can, keeping in mind the maturity level of the listener. Find people who can handle your blunt honesty and share your heart in an environment of safety. God already knows, and the mature listener will not be surprised. In fact, you will find healing in that kind of interaction. You may be surprised to find that someone else has felt the same. Such a person may be at your church, or you may need to go outside of your immediate circle to a counselor or mentor.

Hopefully, your husband can be a safe place for your struggle. Share as honestly as you can if he is able to listen compassionately. However, if your struggle threatens or disturbs him, extend grace. He himself is working out his own faith and his response to you will depend on where he is in his own journey.

Ask someone to pray for you. This is one of the most powerful things you can do. In my own ministry journey, I have always kept my eyes open for spiritually sensitive, prayerful, mature, confidential women in our congregation who proved their stability to me over time. At certain times I would quietly approach them and ask them for prayer. I would disclose certain levels of vulnerability, depending on the issue. In this case, you might just say to someone, “Would you pray for me? I’m struggling right now with some things having to do with my faith.” Inevitably there will be a quiet nod, a heartfelt glance, and a hug. This is enough to start the prayer wheels turning on your behalf. Take advantage of this. Allow others to minister to you.

You mentioned that you just had a second child in addition to all you do at church. Your life sounds very full and busy. I am wondering how much this is affecting your state of mind. Add together full-time ministry, a husband, and two small children and you have a recipe for burnout. Reexamine your involvement and ask where you might be able to set limits and boundaries. Sheer exhaustion and weariness can cause spiritual angst. (Remember Elijah in 1 Kings 19).

Consider setting aside time for solitude. This could be a day without interruptions, preferably in a quiet place. Spend this time to simply rest and be still. Avoid trying to accomplish a list of spiritual things or reach certain goals. Take time to be and ask God to meet you there.

You are not a fraud. You are a believer in process. God knows where you are and is not surprised. His love toward you is as it always was: unconditional, lavish, persevering, and far-reaching. Walk out this season of your life without fear, and trust that the God who called you will fulfill everything He promised.