THROUGH PATHS OF DRYNESS AND DESERTION
(Editor’s note: This article was selected from an unspecified source and published in the May-June 1973 issue of the “Midnight Cry Messenger.”)
It is very common for us, when we feel the sweetness of the grace of God, to fancy that we love Him. But it is only in the withdrawings of His Presence that our love can be tried and the measure of it known.
There are many, who when they experience meltings of heart, shedding of tears, and other sensible delights, imagine that they are favorites of the Almighty and that they truly possess Him, and so pass all their lives seeking after those pleasurable sensations.
But they should be cautioned lest they deceive themselves; for these self-admirings hinder them from discerning the true light or making one step towards perfection.
No sooner shall we have given ourselves up to serve the Lord than He will begin to purify us and try our faith, in order to draw us nearer to Himself.
And, for this purpose, He will lead us through the paths of dryness and desertion; so that, when we endeavor to fix our minds in silence, in order to feel after our God, we will not experience the comfort and refreshment we expected; but, on the contrary, will be more than usually beset with a multitude of troublesome imaginations.
Insomuch, that we shall begin to think that we labor to no purpose, and that prayer is an attainment to which we need not aspire, seeing that our imagination is so ungovernable, and our minds so void of good. But this state of dryness is very profitable, if it be suffered with patience.
The Lord makes use of the veil of dryness, to the end we may not know what He is working in us, and so may be humble; because, if we felt, and knew, what He was working in our souls, satisfaction and presumption would get in.
We should imagine we were doing some good thing; and this self-complacency would prevent our spiritual advancement.
TRUE PRAYER CONSISTS IN ENDURING AND PERSEVERING
And, though in prayer we may feel ourselves to be in a dry and comfortless state, not being able to get rid of our troublesome thoughts, nor experience any light, consolation, or spiritual feeling, yet let us not be afflicted, nor desist from our undertaking; but resign ourselves at that time with vigor, and patiently persevere as in His presence; for while we persevere in that manner, our souls will be internally improved.
We must be aware that nature is always an enemy to the Holy Spirit, and that when she is deprived of sensible pleasures, she remains weak, melancholy, and full of irksomeness. Gal. 5:16-17.
Remember, that “...they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31.
This kind of prayer may be well typified by that wrestling, which the Scriptures say the patriarch Jacob had all night with God, until the day broke, and He blessed him. Genesis 32:1-28.
Wherefore, the soul is to persevere, and wrestle with the difficulties that it will meet with in prayer, without desisting, until the Sun of internal light begins to appear, and the Lord gives it His blessing.
REQUIRED TO BE HUMBLED
If you go to prayer with the spirit and intention of praying, so long as you retract not that intention, although, through misery and frailty, your thoughts may wander, you will, nevertheless, pray in spirit and in truth.
Almighty Power, in due time, will help you to overcome all your difficulties; and when least you think, will give you holy purposes, and more effectual desires of serving Him. Distrust not Him, therefore, but only yourself.
Remember that, as the apostle saith, “He is the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort.” II Cor. 1:3. His comforts are sometimes withdrawn, but His mercy endureth forever. He hath deprived you of what was sweet and sensible in His grace, because you required to be humbled.
PERSEVERANCE, FAITH, PATIENCE
Be of good courage then, and though it may seem to you that you toil without gaining much advantage, yet you must recollect we must plough and sow before we can reap.
If you persevere in faith and patience, you will reap an abundant reward for all your labors. Would you be so unreasonable as to expect to find without seeking; or for it to be opened to you, without your taking the pains to knock?
As well might the husbandman expect to see fields waving with grain, without his having been at the trouble to put the seed into the ground.
It is no hard matter to adhere to God while you are in the enjoyment of His comforts and consolations; but if you would prove your fidelity to Him, you must be willing to follow Him through the paths of dryness and desertion.
The truth of a friend is not known while he is receiving favors and benefits from us; but if he remain faithful to us when we treat him with coldness and neglect, it will be a proof of the sincerity of his attachment.
Though Almighty Goodness hath no other love and we seek Him, yet He frequently conceals Himself from us, that we may be roused from sloth, and induced to seek him with more fidelity and more love!
But, with what abundant goodness doth He recompense our faithfulness! And how sweetly are these apparent withdrawings of Himself succeeded by the consolations of His love!
David saith, “I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God....” Psalms 40:1-3.
In one case God left Hezekiah, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart. II Chron. 32:31.
The Lord led the Israelites forty years in the wilderness, to humble them, and to prove them, to know what was in their heart, whether they would keep His commandments, or no. Deut. 8:2-3, 16-18.
Be sure your heart is right with God, and with everybody. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Psalms 66:18.
“And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
“But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” Mark 11:25-26.
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