Spiritual dryness, and its various causes

August 8, 2021 • 4 min

From Introduction to the Devout Life, page 250
By St. Francis de Sales

As long as consolations may last, do as I have just now directed you, Philothea. But this fine and agreeable weather will not always continue; for sometimes you shall find yourself so absolutely destitute of all feeling of devotion that your soul shall seem to be a wild, fruitless, barren desert, in which there is no trace of a pathway to find her God, nor any water of grace to refresh her, on account of the dryness which seems to threaten her with total and absolute desolation.

Alas! how much does a poor soul in such a state deserve compassion: but especially when this evil is vehement; for then, in imitation of David, she feeds herself with tears night and day, while the enemy, to cast her into despair, mocks her by a thousand suggestions of despondency, saying, Ah, poor wretch, where is thy God? By what path shall thou be able to find Him? Who can ever restore to thee the joy of his holy grace?

What shall you then do, Philothea? Examine the source from whence this evil has flowed to you: for it is we ourselves that are often the cause of our spiritual dryness.

  1. As a mother refuses to give sugar to her child that is subject to worms, so God withholds consolations from us when we take a vain complacency in them, and are subject to the worms of self-conceit and presumption. “O my God, it is good for me that Thou hast humbled me; yes, for before I was humbled, I did offend Thee.” (Ps. cxviii.)

  2. When we neglect to gather the sweets and delights of the love of God at the proper season, He removes them from us in punishment of our sloth. The Israelites who neglected to gather the manna early in the morning could gather none after sunrise, for it was then all melted away.

  3. We sometimes lie on a luxurious bed, like the spouse in the Canticles; the Spouse of our soul comes and knocks at the door of our heart, and invites us to return to our spiritual exercises; but we put them off, because we are unwilling to quit these vain amusements and false satisfactions; for which reason He departs, and permits us to slumber on.

    But afterwards, when we are desirous to seek Him, it is with great difficulty we find Him: and it is no more than what we have justly deserved, since we have been so unfaithful and disloyal as to have refused the participation of his love, to enjoy the consolations of the world.

    Ah! if you still keep the flour of Egypt you shall not have the manna of heaven. Bees detest artificial odours; and the sweetnesses of the Holy Spirit are incompatible with the counterfeit delights of the world.

  4. The double-dealing and subtlety which we use in our spiritual communications with our director may also produce dryness, for since you lie to the Holy Ghost, it is no wonder He should refuse you his consolations. If you will not be as sincere and plain as a little child, you shall not then have the sweetmeats of little children.

  5. If you have glutted yourself with worldly pleasures, it is no wonder that you should find an unsavoury taste in spiritual delights. Doves that have eaten too much, says the old proverb, find cherries bitter. “He hath filled the hungry with good things,” says our Blessed Lady, “and sent the rich empty away” (Luke, ii. 33). They that are glutted with the pleasures of the world are not capable of the delights of the Spirit.

  6. If you have been careful to preserve the fruits of the consolations which you have received, you shall receive new ones; for to him that has more shall be given, but he that has not kept, but lost what was given him through his own fault, shall be deprived even of those graces which he had not, but which were prepared for him. Rain refreshes green plants, but it rots and destroys those that have lost their verdure.

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