3. The dry years can be a time of internal growth and maturity. The Psalmist observed, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word” (Psalm 119:67). “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn your statues” (Psalm 119:71; cf., Genesis 50:20; Job 23:10; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Hebrews 12:11).
In his book, The Heart of a Champion, Bob Richards communicates these same truths. He writes, “I’ve never read the story of a great man without finding that at some time or another in that man’s life he went through days of hurt. And it was the molding influences of the hurt that made the man what he was. It’s a great principle for life. It’s the heart of a champion” (p. 42).
That sounds like the Bible, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2-3; cf., Romans 5:3-4).
“I walked a mile with Sorrow
And ne’er a word said she;
But, oh, the things I learned from her
When sorrow walked with me.”/1
4. Often times strength during adversity is drawn out of the resources generated during the “dry years.”
“John Bunyan, imprisoned in Bedford jail, wrote of his trials as a ‘pulling of the flesh from the bone.’ His experiences seemed to him to signal the end of a useful life. Out of those lonely years came Pilgrim’s Progress. Victor Hugo, at the zenith of his mental and intellectual power, came into disfavor with Napoleon III, and suffered exile for nineteen years. This was by him and his friends regarded as unmixed tragedy. They were wrong. Hugo’s biographer informs us that during these years ‘books that were far stronger than anything that had gone before came from his hand,’ and that during his exile, ‘he became twice the size of man he had been.’ Even Hugo commented, ‘Why was I not exiled before?'”/2
When civil war broke out between Israel and the tribe of Benjamin, the Benjaminites exhibited an unusual resiliency. The text says, “Among all this people thee were seven hundred select men who were left-handed; every one could sling a stone at a hair’s breadth and not miss” (Judges 20:16).
It is interesting to note that the English word rendered “left-handed” in the Hebrew means bound of the right hand. History suggests that when soldiers were captured in battle, they were often taken to an enemies’ camp where their right hands were then cut off. In a very real sense they were “disarmed.” It is entirely possible that these seven hundred soldiers had originally been right-handed, but had lost their hands in this gruesome fashion. If this is the case, then we have an inspiring Bible example of men whose “dry years” became the catalyst for greater physical skill and prowess.
Dear reader, take a long, hard look at those “narrow rings” from the dry years of your life. Are they indicative of regression and spiritual withdrawal, or do they identify certain perseverance and deepening faith?
1/ (Robert Browning Hamilton, Along the Road).
2/ Guy N. Woods, “The Blessings of Adversity,” Gospel Advocate, Oct. 18, 1979, 643.