The results of a study on the experience of "spiritual aridity" among members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Central Europe have now been published in the "Journal of Religion and Health" (JORH). The study was conducted by university professor Dr. Arndt Büssing, together with Lorethy Starck and Klaus van Treeck.
Aim of the study
From April 2019 to December 2019, 620 Adventist church members took part in an online survey on their personal spiritual life. 54% of the respondents came from Germany, 27% from Austria and 19% from France, Belgium and Luxembourg. The transnational Adventist church leadership (Inter-European Division/EU, Bern) with its national church leaders wanted to know how often and to what extent church members and full-time and part-time staff experienced spiritual crises or periods of "spiritual drought". The answers should help to better understand spiritual crises and to offer support in these crises at all levels of the church.
Results of the study
According to Pastor Klaus van Treeck, who initiated the study, Adventists experienced periods of "spiritual drought" just as frequently as Christians of other denominations. Women (45% of participants) experienced spiritual drought significantly more than men. Younger people experienced it more than older people, and members without a task in the local church more than those who have a task. However, these differences would lose their weight if other factors were added. The "experience of God in everyday life" influences times of "spiritual drought" most strongly. "Those who feel God's presence in everyday life, every day, find strength in faith, feel inner peace, experience the closeness of God, feel God's love and are often touched by creation, experience significantly fewer times of ‘spiritual dryness’, and also experience [droughts] less intensely," says van Treeck.
Those who find the expectations of their faith burdensome, who pray only routinely, without real joy or personal involvement, or who read the Bible, experience more frequent periods of "spiritual dryness". Happiness and good humour, peace and relaxation as well as perceived freshness and curiosity after sleep protect from “spiritual dryness”.
38% of the participants in the study felt encouraged to help others frequently or regularly after periods of spiritual dryness. More mental clarity and depth after periods of spiritual dryness was experienced by 42% regularly or often.
Ways out of "spiritual dryness”
The most common strategies for overcoming spiritual aridity are as follows: personal prayer/meditation/writing, openness to whatever may come, talking to others (family and friends), and self-care (leisure, sports, and holidays). Less important are avoidance strategies and consultation with a pastor and/or a psychotherapist. Adventists who do not have a task in the church community have fewer strategies for overcoming “spiritual dryness” and overcome it less frequently and lastingly. Those who have fewer strategies for overcoming “spiritual dryness” also have higher values in their experience. The reverse is also true: high competence in overcoming these times is associated with low experience of drought.