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Dark Night Of The Soul

Dark Night Of The Soul

“Where are You?”

I can’t help but ask this question of God. So many times in life, God is silent. There are times when He seems gone. There are times when everyone around me seems to be in communion with God, while I sit on the sidelines and watch everyone else enjoy being in His presence.

I sit and wonder why I don’t have what these people have. Often, I jump in with the group and fabricate my own spiritual experience. I guess I figure that if I am pretending to be in communion with God, it just might happen in reality. Unfortunately, I am always wrong. My spiritual facades always leave me with more hunger and loneliness than I started with.

And I am left alone once again. Alone with myself, and alone with the God who is silent. Once again, I ask the pained question, “Where are You?”

I see my friends’ passion for God and ministry. I see how they share openly about their faith. Their zeal consumes them. Their love for God dictates all they do. They tell me what God has revealed to them. It makes me wonder how they do it; how do they hear a voice in all that silence?

My faith does not die; I hold on to it with my life, with every ounce of strength I possess. I hang on if only because I don’t want to abandon the only thing that has given me a reason to live. I hang on, but looking around, I see many are letting go. They let go of faith, deciding that it is too hard—it is not worth the effort and the wait. It is not worth the silence. Still I barely hold on.

Where is God? Is it so hard for the One who parted the Red Sea and set the sky alight with a pillar of fire to speak to these people, if only in the softest of voices? How is it that He can watch people back away at His silence and say nothing? Silence is, after all, terrifying—we all fear the idea of being alone. Without some noise to assure us someone is there, we lose heart. He knows this. Why, then, does He not speak loudly and assure us of His presence?

There is pain and hurt in this world, and every person has wounds. Yet many are not tended. They are not healed. The wounds are gaping; the scars are many. How hard would it be for God to heal those wounds? How hard would it be for Him to come to people instead of insisting that they go through the darkest of valleys to get to Him? The valley is dark and full of sinister creatures. Why must pain be added to pain? Why heap on the burden? The yoke might be light, but the way is black and rough.

The valley is terrifying. The silence has such a horrible stillness to it. It’s so heavy that a person passing through can hardly breathe. Hands grope in the darkness, searching for the way. Travelers stumble to the ground. Yet some still crawl. Many do not. Many remain on the ground, motionless.

The tears flow like streams in the valley. Still, some persist in moving forward. Some crawl on through the mire. Their faces are battered and bloody, but something burns within, if only an ember. Their hands are cut up; their strength is all but gone. Many cannot see.

I have been there in the past, and I am there now. I know I will be there again. St. John of the Cross wrote of his time in the valley in the “Dark Night of the Soul”:

On a dark night, Kindled in love with yearnings—oh, happy chance!—

I went forth without being observed, My house being now at rest.

In darkness and secure, By the secret ladder, disguised—oh, happy chance!—

In darkness and in concealment, My house being now at rest.

In the happy night, In secret, when none saw me,

Nor I beheld aught, Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart.

This light guided me More surely than the light of noonday

To the place where he (well I knew who!) was awaiting me—

A place where none appeared.

Oh, night that guided me, Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,

Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover, Lover transformed in the Beloved!

Upon my flowery breast, Kept wholly for himself alone,

There he stayed sleeping, and I caressed him, And the fanning of the cedars made a breeze.

The breeze blew from the turret As I parted his locks;

With his gentle hand he wounded my neck And caused all my senses to be suspended.

I remained, lost in oblivion; My face I reclined on the Beloved.

All ceased and I abandoned myself, Leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.

The night is dark; the valley terrifying. But the painful reality of the valley tells me there is higher ground somewhere. By its very nature, a valley needs higher ground to exist. Otherwise a valley is naught but a plateau. In the middle of the dark night of the soul, I must hope for the dawn. I may weep and stumble, but always will I anticipate the rising of the sun and the light that will penetrate and wound my heart with its brightness.

The dawn is only beautiful because it is comes after the thick darkness of night. The summit of the mountain is only high and spectacular to one who has gone through the valley. Darkness, fear and loneliness surround me, but they do not touch my hope. Eventually, they will be swallowed up in the fire that consumes my heart.

Then I will laugh in the sunlight and run on the mountaintop. And I will hear Him speak.

I don’t hear Him now, but I will.






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