Awaiting a Superbloom in My Spiritual Desert

How I’m making the most of a spiritually dry season.

Oops, it’s been four months since I’ve written. Things went off the deep end soon after. Or rather, life became shallow. I slipped into depression, became irritable and hermit-like, and suffered from a rollercoaster mix of insomnia and sleeping all day.

This translated to a spiritually dry season; a long, dark night of the soul. Prayers were cast into the void, doubts cracked my heart, and in worship each lyric felt like a lie I flatly sang into the heavens. In my mentorship of youth, any Biblical wisdom I passed on felt scripted rather than from the heart. At night, I wrestled with my thoughts lots, besieged by darkness. 

I believe the cause of the dry season to be related to both medication side effects as well as burning myself out in excessive ministry work inspired not by God but my own ambition to please others (enneagram 2 probs). I believe the reason of the dry season to be that I needed to be taught some lessons.

I’m the guy who reads Lord of the Rings but skips all the songs and my style of reading the Bible ain’t much different, so I wouldn’t count myself a diehard fan of the Book of Psalms. Maybe I’d find songs less clunky in their original Hebrew or more comforting if David and other psalmists hadn’t been so addicted to militaristic metaphor. Yet, every once in a while I’m stuck in a context that charges a psalm to kick me with conviction or knead comfort into my heart. Psalm 13 comforts me in this time.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,

and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

David, beloved and deeply flawed David, feels rejected from God’s presence while darkness attacks him. Weeks ago, an intercessor prayed over me and felt God wanted her to convey just how much He loved me — deeply flawed me. I was overwhelmed at the way she passed on the message, though I’ll keep the exact words to myself. I left that prayer night feeling affirmed and capable; a child of God defined by spiritual royalty.

Then, just days later, it felt like He’d forgotten me. I felt hollow, humiliated. Many days, despite my head knowledge of God’s unfailing love and my continued vocalizing of His praises, I was afraid … afraid that I would be “stuck” in my dryness and forever removed from connecting with my church family. On these days, I feared my enemies would declare victory over frail me. I wondered why Christians experience dryness if the Spirit truly lives in them despite promises of living, eternal water.

While my heart stalled, I continued to pray and pursue, but I focused most energy on what is often considered opposite to the heart: my head. 

In spiritually dry seasons, I struggle to rely on faith alone. In these harsh deserts, I am pounced by challenging (and scary) questions of logic, ethics, and fact. Frankly, I’m peeved when Christians say apologetics don’t matter because “apologetics never saved a person” or that we shouldn’t question the Bible because faith means we don’t question God. When people like me are floundering, apologetics can comfort. When people like me return to the fold, we find that asking tough questions strengthened our faith. 

(Sidenote: Think about some of God’s most faithful servants. Job questioned God’s ways, Jeremiah questioned His goodness. God responds in two different but effective ways. These ways did not include striking the two dudes dead or rejecting them from His presence. They both got answers that added depth to their perception of God’s ways.)

In this season, I’ve been devouring books and articles on Biblical interpretation, apologetics, prayer, and loving well. I’ve been engaging in complex theological and philosophical discussion with the sharpest Christiana and agnostic minds I know. I’ve been reading my Bible more than ever before, highlighting so many cultural context and linguistics notes that my Bible is now more neon than white. I’m finding answers to questions I once feared to even approach, and that builds my faith.

I’ve also practiced more often the spiritual disciplines of solitude, silence, and stillness.

While my heart feels limp, I’m pumping my brain full of knowledge. It sounds contradictory considered my thin spirituality, but I have rarely felt more excited about God.

I remain confident that this seeking sheep will wander back to the flock to be embraced by his shepherd. When the sheep finds his home, he will be a more effective servant in ministry. He will know more answers, be more curious, and have more evidence that his shepherd is faithful. 

I stopped my medication about 10 days ago and it takes 20 days to leave the system. I’ve been resting, establishing boundaries and saying no for what feels like the first time in my life. I’ve tweaked my Twitter to follow wise Christian leaders and I abandoned my old Facebook that daily steeped me in negativity. I’m rejecting feelings of guilt and learning the difference between doing “good things” and “righteous things.” 

I’m feeling the stirrings during my prayer and worship time. I’m waking up at dawn for worship, prayer, and Bible readings. I’m discerning something that may be a difficult but exciting call to action (and sacrifice). It sucks to be in the desert, but that desert can become something beautiful — a superbloom. 

I hope that superbloom includes more blog posts (: 

Author: Brad Dell

I’m Brad Dell, a 26-year-old, deaf, lung-transplanted dude with cystic fibrosis. When not working to amplify rare disease patient voices at BioNews Services, I'm volunteering in church ministry.

8 thoughts on “Awaiting a Superbloom in My Spiritual Desert”

  1. Oh how I appreciate your transparency. Your struggle is real and words can’t convey my appreciation for you being honest and writing with such beauty. 🙂 hang in there …
    Lord bless you,
    Paula

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  2. We experience many seasons. The “dry” ones feel so isolating. When a person is overwhelmed ( with good and bad) i think it’s not unusual to step back so you can process.
    Remember it’s important to have a balance. No one can go, go, go and not end up spent which results in a withdrawal. Even if you experience a dry winter, remember that Spring comes next, a rebirth.
    Every morning, find one thing to be grateful for. Of course, i know you have a grateful heart, but sometimes we need to let one tiny thing or moment make us smile and allow it to move us forward.
    You are not alone with regards to a writing dry spell. Good to see your post. Be well 😉

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  3. Thanks Brad for always being so real.
    Honest, not ashamed. For looking into things you don’t understand and then sharing them with us.
    May the Lord lead all of us🙏🏻
    Take care

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  4. Brad,

    I appreciate your honesty and your willingness to share your spiritual journey. Dry and difficult times are a part of a normal, healthy christian experience. Job, David and possibly even Jesus were not exempt from these times of dryness. God uses spiritual difficulties and dryness to help us become attentive, receptive and teachable in ways that wouldn’t be possible when our lives are emotionally satisfying and noisy. If we allow it, spiritual dryness can create the life and soul conditions needed to be further shaped in Christ’s character even though we would all prefer an easier path.

    God’s timing is perfect, but it can also be uncomfortable and feel slow. Times of refreshing will come. Rest assured that your life and your ministry matter A LOT to God and to others even when you’re not “superblooming.” Keep up the good work you are doing in your own soul care, thinking, writing, and service to others … but also feel free to slow down and do less for a season. Allow good christian souls to walk through this spiritual valley with you. Your story, your life today, and your gifts as a thinker and writer have been a huge blessing to so many of us in spite of how you feel … including me.

    In his book Renovation of the Heart, Dallas Willard reminds us to subordinate our feelings to the will of God when he observes that “Feelings make excellent servants, but terrible masters.”

    The simple prayer of David comes to mind. Psalm 16:1-2. Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”

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