In Catholic tradition, there are books on spiritual dryness (Dark Night of the Soul by st. John of the Cross is the most famous) and it is mentioned in Catechism of Catholic Church too. Eastern tradition has other books on this topic. But I wonder whether Protestants have anything more sophisticated than "Just hold on!" or "Read the book of Job, it's written for someone like you!" (or, in a worse case: "If you don't feel God, you must have sinned!").

Is there any Protestant doctrine on this topic? Is it accepted by most denomination, or only by a fraction?

EDIT to clarify what I mean with "spiritual dryness": I understand it as usually long-term (lasting for months, years or even decades) spiritual crisis, when a person doesn't feel "presence of God" or "God's grace" and it is hard to sustain faith. On the other hand, people experiencing this might be very good Christians bearing lots of fruits of Holy spirit. Mother Teresa's case is an extreme example, but many Christians experience some milder form of it and this experience often can't be attributed to a sin or a mental illness.

I never experienced real spiritual dryness (I'm too young in Christ for this, people rarely experience dryness just three years after conversion), but knowing people who experience it, reading books on it and being advised to prepare that it will probably come some day helps me a lot in my spiritual life - to realize that God's grace might become invisible one day is a good reason not to be proud of all that religious enthusiasm and nice feelings and to carefully try to build my faith on more solid ground than this enthusiasm is.

My protestant friends don't understand this; that's why I wonder whether concept of "dark night of soul" is unreflected and more or less unknown in whole or most of Protestantism, or just in some part of its Pentecostal branch.

  • Within Reformed theology, the traditional means of grace (the two sacraments, the word, and prayer) are one method of seeking fullness of life. Christian fellowship and deeds of righteousness (Heb. 10:24-25) can nurture life. (not prepared to give an actual answer, but this comment might be slightly helpful) Jun 21 '13 at 12:01
  • @PaulA.Clayton: what is your point? You just assure that grace and reply to it through deeds is enough regardless of whether a Christian feels God's grace somehow or not? Or do you maintain that if someone does what you say spiritual dryness is very unlikely or even impossible? The second idea was proven wrong by experience of many Christians (not only mystics, who usually experience the worst dryness), and of people from Bible like Job, or, according to some interpretation of "My God, my God, why have you deserted me?", even Christ.
    – Pavel
    Jun 21 '13 at 22:22
  • It was a comment, a hint at a __proto__answer--with a foolish hope that someone would be encouraged to provide an actual answer. My knowledge of official teaching is extremely limited, and I could not distinguish easily what I think, what I have been taught in Presbyterian churches, and what is widely agreeably derived from Scripture. My motivation for working on an answer is very low. I had thought of mentioning that the bit related to the Hebrews reference seemed reminiscent of a statement of T. of Avila (Life, I think) in which she counseled godly conversation when prayer was too hard. Jun 22 '13 at 2:20
  • If my comments here seem not to add anything, just give an indication and I will delete them--to avoid the need to bother a moderator. Jun 22 '13 at 2:25
  • 1
    The traditional recipie for dealing with Protestant dryness is to brine the chicken the night before the potluck, or when that fails, go to KFC. More modern evangelicals will substitute Chik-Fil-A. ... Oh, wait Spiritual dryness. The answer to that is to visit a charismatic church. :) Aug 29 '13 at 20:41

Joh 10:10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

Yes Kenneth E. Hagin who started Rhema and was a major contributor to the beginning of the Word of Faith movement has a series called "What to do when faith seems weak and victory lost". A portion of the doctrine is blame the devil, what does the word say, agree with the word, say the word and you're not supposed to feel anything.

  • A good example. Brief discussion of whether this view is known and more or less accepted by few denomination, broader current within Protestantism or most Protestants will earn +1 (and perhaps acceptation, if no better answer arrives in a week or two).
    – Pavel
    Jun 21 '13 at 7:53
  • +1 anyway, because this is a good answer. With that extension, it would have a good chance to be accepted.
    – Pavel
    Jun 21 '13 at 22:07

The Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA has exercises for its members to create environments in which the Spirit can flow. For instance "men's groups" which meet weekly usually for breakfast and to listen to a speaker - there is a Q&A. Many members are stimulated to give more attention to God, by meditation on the Word of God, and by mulling over things they are bothered about wrt God. There are retreats which consist of a week away from work, to think about God. We read books from those who have experienced God, and talk to those who have experienced God, in order to get encouragement. Of course, there is adult education on Sunday, which usually stimulates questions that need to be researched at home, and this often leads to a spiritual awakening. Giving time to nothing but thoughts about God always encourages the Spirit to bubble up with new revelations.

I was once stimulated by a religious teacher to explain Galatians. Knowing very little (I was a new convert of two years) I read it through three times and fell asleep reading. When I awoke I was inspired by the Spirit to begin writing. I sat at the computer for 18 hours non-stop and completed a commentary on Galatians. (It is on my web site under "Paul" if you are interested.) So, this has become a method for overcoming "dryness of Spirit" - to read and to sleep on it (usually in the chair) - and is what I taught in Episcopal Sunday school.

  • Your experience seems to be more temporary "tiredness" than long term "dryness". Anyway, this is plain "just hold on". The other answer is much closer to what I expect: it explains why spiritual dryness often comes despite of all the retreats and Bible meditation.
    – Pavel
    Jun 21 '13 at 22:06
  • Ah, well then I have never experienced it.
    – Waeshael
    Jun 22 '13 at 23:27

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