For many of us, our first reaction to times of spiritual distress is to assume that we are spiritual failures. Our faith must be defective. Good Christians aren’t supposed to get this angry at God.
But spiritual distress is not necessarily an indication of spiritual failure. Times of spiritual distress are often the first steps toward spiritual healing and growth. They are often times when we realize acutely our desire to know and be known by God.
When we protest God’s absence, we are expressing our deep longing for closeness with God. When God seems silent, we learn again how much we need to hear God’s voice. When God seems distant, we realize afresh our strong desire to experience God’s presence. As a result of spiritual distress, our hearts may become better prepared to hear and receive from God. It is often in the furnace of spiritual distress that purity of heart is formed.
Times of spiritual distress are often an indication that healing is taking place deep within us. It should not surprise us that during recovery we uncover some major struggles in our relationship with God. We may be angry with God. We may doubt God. We may question God. We may long for God. All of this is emotionally painful, but it is the real stuff of real relationships. If we hide ourselves from these thoughts and feelings when they surface, we may be running away from some of the most important healing that we can experience — the healing of our relationship with God.
Spiritual distress is discussed in more detail in the following articles:
Spiritual Distress in Recovery by Dale and Juanita Ryan
Spirituality in Recovery by Dale Wolery
Recovery from Doubt: Experiencing God by Barbara Milligan
Spiritual Brokenness in Recovery by Dale Ryan