When we experience seasons (the more Christian-y way of saying a period of time) where God doesn’t seem close, when we feel lost, it can feel like a Dark Night of the Soul.
St John on the Cross was a 16th-century Spanish monk in the mystic tradition whose poem – Dark Night of the Soul- is the origin of this phrase. He lays out a painful but necessary time of questioning, doubt, confusion.
I remember the day Mother Theresa died, and how in the following weeks and months we learned more about her. Only after her death, when many of her letters were made public did those of us outside her inner circle learn she seemed to have been living a ‘dark night’ for much of her adult life.
These Dark Nights (not to be confused with The Dark Knight of the Batman movie franchise) can be hard to get through.
We want clarity / solutions / direction / progress.
Instead we get confusion / questions / darkness / waiting
We usually pray for solutions to what are the visible problems.
Give us direction in this problem
Take away this sickness
Stop these people from making my life hard
Show me which job to take
In the New Testament, we find what Paul often prays in the midst of problems is that people would become more like Jesus, and reveal him more accurately to others. Not specifically that the problem be taken away.
This is what Jesus prays in the Garden also – take this cup from me – BUT IF NOT – then let your will be done.
We believe that feeling unsettled, having real tension in our soul is the problem – it shows discontentment. Maybe it does – maybe it does not.
We often don’t see pain, suffering, darkness, confusion as a way to get closer to God -but a sign that he is moving away from us.
Those Dark Nights can be times of immense growth if we allow it. Maybe a better prayer is not for God to take away the thing causing us discomfort, but to show us how to become closer to him because of it.
Are you going through something hard right now? Really hard? Have you just made it through something?
Look not at what you’ve suffered, but how you’ve grown. How have you gained an understanding of God, of love, of grace?
In what ways are you closer to God because of what you endured?
We often don’t understand what you’re doing,
When really hard times come.
But you have experienced them all.
When we endure Dark Nights,
Help us to become more aware of you,
Closer to you,
More like you.