ARE YOU DRIED OUT?
M. J. Jacob
In his book, Restoring your spiritual passion, Gorden MacDonald writes about the dried out seasons in the lives of spiritual giants and Christian leaders. We know of Elijah, Jonah, David and scores of spiritual leaders, who have passed this way during one time or another in their lives. We too, at times, go through a drained out condition, feeling empty in our spiritual life. Sometimes it is due to a feeling of disappointment with God which leads to the dried out condition. It can also be due to the result of private sins in life, like those of David. Many preachers and Gospel singers fall into this pit as they continue to cherish the applause and praise of men in their ministries.
Sometimes we reach a drained out condition when preoccupied with our ministries and not sparing time to be in the Lord's presence. If we do not tackle the early symptoms, it will lead to spiritual breakdown in our lives. During these seasons, we have to be careful not to yield to despondency, because our loving Lord is still stretching out His hands to embrace us and bring us back to fellowship with Him.
W. E. Sangster, the famous Methodist preacher, went through this experience. He shares it in one of his books which is helpful for our self examination. "I am minister of God, and yet my private life is a failure these days. I am irritable and easily put out. I am impatient with my wife and children. I am deceitful in that I often express private annoyance when a caller is announced and stimulate pleasure when I actually greet them. From an examination of my heart, I conclude that most of my study has been crudely ambitious that I wanted degrees more than knowledge, and praise, rather than equipment for my service. Even in my preaching, I fear I am more often wondering what the people think of me, than what they think about my Lord and His Word. I have long felt in a vague way, that something was hindering the effectiveness of my ministry and I must conclude the 'something' is my failure in living the true Christian life. I am driven in pain to conclude that the girl who has lived as a maid in my house for more than three years has not felt drawn to the Christian life because of me. I find slight envies in my heart at the greater success of other young ministers. I seem to match myself with them in thought and I am vaguely jealous when they attract more notice than I do."
Although people saw Sangster as a stalwart of faith, he alone knew when he was operating from a full heart or an empty one. As followers of Christ, we are often in such a situation. During those moments we have to make sure that the love of God is following after us. He will not throw us out. Just think of Elijah and Jonah.
Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade, has narrated in his book Intimacy with God the moving story of Robert Robinson who gave us the inspirational hymn, "Come Thou Fount of every blessing." Robinson accepted the Lord as his Saviour at the age of eighteen through the ministry of George Whitefield. He later entered the ministry to serve the Lord with great love and devotion. Robinson had his dried out seasons now and then. At times, his passion for God waned. His heart was 'prone to wander.' It was during one such dried up season that he produced this timeless hymn, "Come Thou Fount."
It is a sad story that as time went on, as he grew older, he wandered farther and farther from God. Sin and corruption took mastery of his life. Robinson became a miserable man. How could he ever look to the eyes of Jesus! With a guilty conscience he moved on. But the unconditional love of God was following after him. One day, on an unforgettable day in his life, Robinson boarded a stage coach to go to another town. There was a young lady seated just opposite to his seat full of joy for Christ and was sharing about the love and joy she enjoyed. Robinson was not interested in her talk. But something inside made him to sit and hear her words. She had a hymn book with her. She opened the hymnal, and pointing to a hymn she said to Robinson, "What do you say of this hymn? It had a powerful effect on me." She handed the hymnal to him. Robinson glanced down at the hymn. That was the hymn he himself composed, "Come Thou, Fount of every blessing." Robinson was baffled. His throat became dry. He could not control himself. His eyes turned wet leading to tears. He returned the book to the young lady, who thought he was a wounded soul who needed help and continued counselling him. Robinson, though choking, began to say, "I am the man who wrote that hymn years ago. I'd give anything to experience that joy again-anything." The woman was shocked. She looked down at the page and saw the name of the poet who was sitting near her. Robert Robinson. She now pointed to him the lines he wrote. She spoke to him about the 'streams of mercy, never ceasing' that were able to wash away his tears. She assured him, though he had drifted away, the Lord had not forsaken him and still was drawing near to him to comfort and bring him back home again. On that unforgettable day, a new chapter opened in Robinson's life. Though broken hearted and defeated, he rediscovered the love he left behind. He alighted from the coach with joy abounding, restored and renewed in spirit. Robinson was able to experience afresh the unconditional love of God and he returned to his first love for Jesus.
Dear ones, let us not be disheartened if we have strayed away from our Lord due to dryness or drained out experiences in our life. Streams of mercy await us. Let us join Robinson and that young lady and sing a few lines from his hymn.
Come, Thou Fount of every blessing;
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing;
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it;
Prone to leave the God I love;
Take my heart, O Lord and seal it;
Seal it from Thy courts above.