Tuesday, July 21, 2009

the dark night of the soul

There are times that for us are dry and barren, seemingly empty times. In the Christian tradition they have been called "the desert," "the wilderness", or "the dark night of the soul."

This is likely referring, not to God's chastening hand on someone due to some sin they have fallen into (as seen here). It is more referring to God's hand on a life in Jesus, for change.

Most change in the Christian life is gradual, like the growth of an oak tree. There are times, however, when God knows there needs to be some serious change. Not unlike the pruning Jesus refers to of all who as branches are in him, the true vine. And during those times there may indeed be growth spurts.

In our evangelical Christian tradition, it is indeed hard for us to understand and accept the notion of any "dark night of the soul." We tend to think all should be light, and blessed as in happy.

But if we are willing to really go on into the deepest depths with our Lord and Savior, Jesus, then we'll submit to God's dealing in our lives in ways we cannot understand. And we'll endeavor to be faithful by God's grace and with the wise support of others, through those times. Otherwise we will simply choose to bail out, and live as we did before. A life of knowing God by faith in Jesus, but one that does not mature into the Christ-likeness God has for us in this life.

What would you like to add to this?


Lanny said...

I wish I could mail you and Deb some of my sweet peas, I oft think of my deep thinking friends when I am out among them harvesting or watering, their perfume is deep and healing and remind me of the "lilies" where St. John leaves his cares forgotten. (My lilies do the same I suppose but for me the sweet pea is more tender and gentle.)

"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."

Final stanza of Dark Night, St John of the Cross.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks for sharing that from John of the Cross, entitled, "Dark Night of the Soul", if I'm not mistaken.

Deb says, "Thank you!" We'd certainly enjoy your sweet peas! Deb has some very nice flowers and plants, and we have onions and some sort of good berries (can't pull it out, right now). Not bad for the small lot we have in a suburb.


Maalie said...

>Otherwise we will simply choose to bail out, and live as we did before.

Ted, for me it happened the other way round. I was a "believer" until into my 20s and then realised my delusion. And so I chose to "bail out" into a life of reality. It felt I was born again, as if I had been released from the burden of dogma and I have been so much happier. I just get on with my life in the best way possible.

Ted M. Gossard said...


I think your conversion from religion to atheism, and the way you describe it is pretty common.

It does remind me of A.N. Wilson, who recently returned to the faith of his childhood. I think his conversion to atheism felt the same as you describe. He said going back to Christianity was slow and halting for him, but that he won't make the same mistake again. Interesting.

For me God is as much a part of my existence as the breath I breathe, and just as important, in fact more so, since my existence is dependent on God.

Someday God will be all in all. That is part of the vision that is brought in Jesus.

Maalie said...

Ted, that does not mean I do not adopt many of the teachings attributable to Jesus. There is much in the bible that establishes a good an proper way to live. It is just that these principles seem to be universal, even among people who have never heard of, or do not care about, Jesus (and I suspect that is the majority of hunamity).

Ted M. Gossard said...


The gospel in Jesus Christ, bringing in the kingdom of God and the new creation is radically different than anything else. It is seen in the account of Jesus in the gospels as well as especially from Paul- in the New Testament. And it is a fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham.

Maalie said...

Ted, I understand, but the Muslims use exactly the same words in relation to their book, the Koran.

There is nothing specifically "Christian" about social behaviour. Most people are not "good" because the read the bible. They are good because it makes sense to be like that.

nannykim said...

Ted, I like what John Timmerman says in his book called --A Season of Suffering__ "I understand that our suffering points us to a suffering so rude, so obscene it beggars the imagination. It is a stark cross thrown like a grotesque cry of pain against the sky over Golgotha. Then I see the man on that cross, with his arms open wide. I see him more clearly for having looked to him in suffering, begin to understand more clearly the reason for his suffering."

Ted M. Gossard said...


That reminds me of Paul's expressed desire to know Christ and participate in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. Something we need to aspire to in this life.