Spiritual dryness can be lonely and exhausting. But God uses these moments to draw us nearer to Him, and we are never alone.
Getting little people into heaven is exhausting, and it doesn’t leave much space for our own salvation. Add in a child with special needs, and the journey toward those pearly gates has the potential to feel like a trek through a spiritual desert.
Your soul is dry.
Your prayer time is empty.
And every time your body longs to call out for Christ, your mind recoils at the thought of such intimacy.
It is easy – so easy – to feel alone and abandoned.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
I’m beyond pleased to welcome my friend Lindsey, a fellow special needs mom and advocate for neurodivergent children. She offers a beautiful reflection today on spiritual dryness, and the presence of God in that desert of grace.
Finding God in the Desert: the Gift of Spiritual Dryness
Life dramatically changes when you get married, and again when you have kids. Critical moments can contribute to feeling like your life has shifted and that you have changed. Despite these universal truths, I’ve been feeling melancholy about how I’ve allowed myself to be changed and swept up by life circumstances.
I’ve been in a desert season – a period of life where there are trials, tribulations, and spiritual dryness.
My pensive realization is that I’ve become a cactus in this desert. I’ve begun hoarding the water of life for myself, conserving what I can in a dearth of moisture and nourishment, drawing into myself. It’s a self-preservation-mode of existence that leaves me feeling like I take from the world around me much more than I give to the world around me.
I don’t like it, and I don’t like being that way.
Last spring I took a class on spiritual direction – specifically the contemplative method of spiritually directing others. It was a gut-wrenching (at times) and grace-filled (always) course that challenged and formed me in unexpected ways. We discussed a theoretical prayer situation in which a woman found herself sitting in the kitchen of her youth with God. God was kneading bread, but this woman didn’t engage for fear that God might ask her to help with the task at hand. This hypothetical woman felt burnt out.
This resonated with my own sense of living as a cactus. Not only was this self-defensive mode drawing me from the world around me, but it was also drawing me from God.
In my despair and fear of having nothing left to give, I was retreating not just from the world, but from the source of life, the very being who could give me rest.
In times past, when I’ve been at what felt like my breaking point, I’ve leaned into God and trusted His providence for my circumstances. In those times, God has provided the respite and grace to see me through; relief has come at just the right moment. When I have taken up the Son’s yoke, I have found the rest He has promised (Matthew 11:28-30). Dwelling on God’s past compassion for me reminds me of His present compassion and dispels the distortion of fear and doubt that weariness can so easily induce.
The other thought that occurs to me when I feel marooned in an endless desert is the oft-cited adage, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” While meditating on this idea – often shared in an attempt to bring comfort or hope to the person suffering – I felt God saying to me that this isn’t quite true. God does sometimes allow more things than I can handle because God wants to supply the grace to help me handle the circumstances.
In other words, God does not intend to allow more than we can handle together.
These desert experiences are an opportunity to trust and rely on God, whether that entails praying through more than I can handle, or having faith that God will not ask me to do when I feel as though there’s nothing left to give anyone.
God is a compassionate provider. He’s reminded me how unproductive it is to be a self-preserving cactus with God.
Are you struggling through a period of spiritual dryness? Could you use a little help and support? Read on, and sign up for my Catholic motherhood newsletter.
Lindsey West is a theologian in training, finishing her Master’s in Theological Studies by the end of 2017. She has been involved in youth ministry since 2004. As the mother of a child on the autism spectrum, Lindsey’s passion is to think, present, and build bridges that will bring interculturation with the Catholic faith and Church and the autism community. She blogs at Uniquely Catholic; please join her on Facebook and Instagram.