Dark Night of the Soul

In life there are times of darkness. Sometimes things are just not as bright as we would like, but at other times,  the darkness is complete, pervasive and overwhelming. As Christians we tend to deny the existence of such times as they challenge our faith and our hope. This failure to recognize the truth of dark nights, isolates those of us who suffer from such times. I suspect such sufferings, though denied, are actually universally suffered. If we could acknowledge the occurrence of such times in ourselves, perhaps we could better guide each other through them.

The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir has a song which proclaims the current Christian view on Dark Nights. It’s called “I Never Lost My Praise.” The song proclaims that despite bad times that hope, joy, faith, and praise were never lost. I think that’s a lie. I think we all at times lose our grip on hope, joy, faith and praise. We shouldn’t lie to each other about that. It increases desperation and loneliness in our brothers and sisters. It makes us believe that when we lose sight of such blessings, that God has somehow lost sight of us.

When Mother Teresa died and her uncovered writings revealed her own struggles with dark times, this was not used to encourage struggling believers. Instead, it was pointed to as evidence that this saint of God was not everything we had thought she was. I guess that made us feel better temporarily, but denied us the consolation that we all need.

Let me get the ball rolling. I have dark times. They don’t just occur at night. Sometimes, like today, they hit in the middle of a church service when I catch sight of something that brings a great personal loss to mind. A “dark night” can occur at 10 a.m. and in church.  I think they attack more frequently as we age, but the teenage suicide rate makes me think they are not unknown by the young. 

It can happen when a great memory is challenged as being mis-remembered. It can occur because the sky is gray or because it is crystal clear blue. It can happen when we feel ill or when there is nothing physically wrong. I think it can often happen when we are approaching a spiritual breakthrough or when our pride makes us think we are doing just fine. 

The truth we need to hang on to is that we aren’t alone. Our darkness is not evidence of our abandonment by God or the failure of our faith. It usually can be fought off if we can get our eyes off of circumstances and catch a glimpse of the bright river of God.  Even when the dark nights occur in the brightness of daylight, if we can hang on, the spiritual day eventually dawns. 

 

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