Written By Madeline Twooney, Germany
Three years ago, l entered a dry season. Up till then, l had been a private school teacher for 14 years; l had worked 75 hours a week, including on the weekends and during school holidays. I was constantly exhausted and struggled to attend church and my home group regularly. To get in some God time, l tried to pray and read my Bible on my daily commute. In April 2016, my body and my mind gave out and l had a mental breakdown. Consequently, l was diagnosed with burnout and depression, and had to resign.
During the first weeks of my convalescence, l was optimistic that with a bit of rest l would soon get back on my feet. However, as time passed, it became evident that the damage to my health has been greater than what l had initially realized.
Completing everyday tasks overwhelm me. I get panic attacks in open spaces and have been diagnosed with agoraphobia. Severe headaches leave me bedridden, and l often experience stabbing pains in my left arm. I fall into deep pits of depression that last for weeks and have become a social recluse.
Although l regularly seek the advice of a psychotherapist and other medical experts, l believe ultimately in the power of God to heal. Thus, through prayer and thanksgiving, l lay out my petition of a full recovery to God (Philippians 4:6) every day. However, sometimes it feels like my prayers aren’t reaching God, because l can see only a little improvement in my health. In my darkest moments, l despair whether l will ever experience a healthy, joy-filled life.
However, after much struggling and griping, I have come to realize that God is using this journey in the wilderness to teach me to completely trust and rely on Him.
Here are three ways that has been helping me push through the dry seasons:
1. Keep my focus on God
The subject of God’s healing, in particular His timing in relation to it, is something l struggle with, and l know l’m not the only one. God says in Jeremiah 30:17 that He will restore health and heal wounds, but He doesn’t say whether that healing will take place in this lifetime; maybe it will occur when He calls us home, or when Jesus returns.
Instead of thinking about the “when”, l try and think about the “who”—I focus on God and l praise Him for all the times He’s helped me in the past and l thank Him for the time that He will heal me in the future, which l leave to His perfect timing. Praising God despite not seeing a definite change in my health gives me peace in my everyday life, because it keeps my eyes focused on God and not on my circumstances.
This season has also taught me that words have power. Instead of complaining and allowing my situation to control me, l show God my faith—l praise Him not only in my prayers, but l also praise Him out loud as l go about my day. It fortifies my trust in God and reminds me that God is bigger than my problems, not the other way around.
2. Keep studying His Word
During this dry season, there have been times when l have wandered around aimlessly as the Israelites did in the desert. I was confused and doubtful as to whether my circumstances would ever change. Like Job, l felt that God had left me alone to fend for myself (Job 23:8-9).
However, God has been with me the entire time in this arid wilderness—my mind and heart just weren’t attuned to hear His voice. Thus, instead of hoping for rain, l had to dig deep inside myself and ask Jesus to stir up His living waters in me (John 37-38).
Studying the Bible has been a revelation for me: It’s been like discovering a get-to-know-God manual (2 Timothy 3:16). Through His Word, God gives me courage when l am afraid (Isaiah 41:10), strength when l am weak (Isaiah 40:29), and corrects me when l mess up (Hebrews 4:12). On days when l feel disheartened, God meets me where l am (Matthew 11:28).
Studying the Word every day is now a fixed part of my morning routine, alongside prayer, worship, and journaling. It’s not always easy setting aside time every day for study, but the spiritual comfort and inner peace l gain from doing it motivates me to open up my Bible daily.
Knowing the Word helps me realize that l am fearfully and wonderfully made in Christ and that l shouldn’t believe the lies of the enemy that say otherwise (John 8:44).
3. Keep persevering in faith
Last summer, l started going to the gym. At first, l found it strenuous and my body felt stiff and sore after every workout. Nowadays, my body is accustomed to the physical exertion and l can see muscle definition forming.
Similarly, l feel like God is using this dry season to grow my spiritual muscles. When l get a panic attack or become depressed, l am learning to hand the situation over to God, instead of allowing it to overwhelm me.
Though it’s hard, l appreciate that God is using affliction to purify me of emotions that aren’t serving me, such as fear (Isaiah 48:10).
When l first became sick, l was convinced that this trial was designed to fail me. However, the further l push through this season, the more l see God cheering me on, as l learn to seek His face. Through this process, He has renewed my fallen spirit, given me a heart that is hungry for Him, and changed my mindset from that of a victim to that of a victor.
If you are experiencing a dry season right now, let me encourage you that your time in the wilderness is a temporary layover, it is not your final destination. Stay the course, keep your eyes on God and ask Him to show you what you need to learn from Him to move on through. Keep holding on, you’re going to get through this!