None of us who commit to prayer and the spiritual life enjoy those periods during which prayer, liturgy, or spiritual reading seem dry or dull. But such moments are necessary—or so it would seem—for God permits them. If something were always pleasant, we would not be sure if we loved God or merely the pleasantries. An old saying asks if we love the consolations of God or the God of all consolation. It is the dry and difficult times that help us to determine the answer.
There are other reasons for dryness or “aridity” and they are well stated by Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange:
We must allow ourselves to be led by the path which our Lord has chosen for us. There is, to be sure, the common and indispensable way, that of humility and conformity to the divine will.
But on this common road, one part is shaded, the other has nothing to protect it from the burning rays of the sun; one section is flat, followed by long steep hills that lead to high plateaus where we may enjoy a marvelous view. The good shepherd leads his sheep as he judges best.
He leaves certain souls for a rather long time in difficulties in order to inure them to the struggle … [But] if aridity is prolonged we should [determine] that it does not spring from lukewarmness, provided that we have no taste for the things of the world but rather concern for our spiritual progress.
Aridity [in this case] … is very useful, like fire that must dry out the wood before setting it ablaze. Aridity is needed precisely to dry up our too lively, too impetuous, exuberant, and tumultuous sensibility, so that finally, the sensible appetites may be quieted and may become submissive to the spirit (Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Vol. 1, Tan Publications, pp. 459-60).
Yes, indeed, in overstimulated times like these, our passions and senses are “off the chain” if something does not help to moderate them and limit their ever-growing demands for something newer, brighter, glitzier, and more exciting. In this case, “aridity” can help us to slow down to the pace of life that God has intended for us. A little silence, a little waiting, and little experience of the passing quality of earthly thrills is good for the soul. It is the parched soul that best appreciates water.