Good quiet times promote spiritual growth. Surprisingly, this deeper growth can lead to unexpected dryness. When we move into a desert quiet time, there is a temptation to think that we have done something wrong. The desert quiet time is not a pleasant experience. It’s like living alone in a desert. There is a sense of empty loneliness. Our quiet times seem to dry up. If we feel anything at all, it is a sense of desolation. God seems absent.

A longing for God accompanied by an aching sense of his absence is common in Scripture. The psalmist writes in Psalm 42, “My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’ ” (Ps 42:3). David cries out, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Ps 63:1). In another place he cries, “I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God” (Ps 69:3).

Nothing seems right in our quiet time or any other area of life. Reading or study of Scripture has a sawdust-dry quality. The pleasure in study that we have known before is gone. Now the words on the page are nothing more than words.

Prayer is also flat. Our prayers for others seem to rise no higher than the ceiling. Worship and adoration seem mere formalities; songs that we might sing are heavy and laborious.

Emotionally, there seems to be nothing inside except an aching sense of emptiness. All religious affections seem gone.

Because a desert quiet time requires great effort, I find that it is practiced irregularly. (My eight-month lapse of quiet time referred to at the beginning of this chapter was due to a desert period.) There is a gnawing need to meet with God along with a frustration in his absence. This desire and frustration lead to an on-again/off-again cycle. It seems to make no difference whether we have a quiet time or not. If we don’t have a quiet time, God seems absent. If we do have a quiet time, God still seems absent.

Outwardly the desert quiet time and the occasional quiet time look similar. Both are erratic and inconsistent. But the two are different in nature. The occasional quiet time is erratic because God is not a priority. The desert quiet time is erratic because of an aching thirst for God that we can’t seem to satisfy.

Maintaining a regular meeting with the Lord is important during this time, despite the difficulty. When this phase is over, we will discover wonderful benefits. Many things that I know and teach about the Lord have come from desert times. — Stephen D. Eyre, Drawing close to God: The Essentials of a Dynamic Quiet Time: A Lifeguide Resource (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995).

This article excerpted from The Discipleship Course.

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