I have been in a lot of pain in recent months. This has made me ponder the mystery of suffering again. When we talk about personal suffering we almost always hear about the dark night of the soul. We hear the phrase “dark night of the soul” more and more these days. It seems to mean any time of suffering or pain. I’m not so sure that is what St. John of the Cross meant.
The dark night that St. John of the Cross wrote about isn’t just the pain that comes from sickness or loss. It seems to be a spiritual darkness that God puts us through after we have progressed along our spiritual journey. Even Jesus had to go through it.
At His baptism there is a voice from heaven and Jesus came to know that He was a “beloved son”. He knows it through and through. The Holy Spirit has come upon Him. Immediately the Holy Spirit drives Jesus out into the wilderness to face the devil.
We all have two wildernesses we must face. One is the wilderness of the world. The darkness here comes from our own stupidity, sinfulness, ignorance, and selfishness, along with all the circumstances of our fallen world such as illness, disaster, and death. We all must go through this form of darkness. There is, however, another darkness. A holy darkness. It is the darkness that God leads us into. Yes, God leads us into darkness, but He also leads us through it, and eventually out of it.
This darkness is necessary for the journey. It teaches us to go deeper into our faith. Most of us are happy keeping our faith on a surface level. This is before our faith is tested, not by circumstance, but by God. Whatever it is that we perceive to be God’s grace seems to vanish. The light of God seems to be eclipsed by darkness. It feels like He has forsaken us. This is the dark night of the soul. The lesson is that you have to live without knowing.
I wish that this only happened once. I am stubborn. God has had to lead me into this darkness again and again.
It is said that once St. Teresa of Avila was very sick. She suffered greatly. In her pain she cried out to God, “why, oh Lord, do you make me suffer so?” God replied, “This is how I treat my friends.” Teresa then said, “That is why you have so few friends.”
Have any of you ever gone through anything like this? How has it effected your relationship with God? Did it make your faith stronger, or weaker?