Have you experienced the Dark Night of the Soul?

We can experience two types of “being lost.” Both types can be spiritually dangerous. All of us have experienced the loss of something—-wallet, money, car keys. I remember boarding a plane in Tel-Aviv, Isreal and not seeing my wife who was just behind me. I stood in the plane frantically looking for her thinking if she misses the flight, how will she get back? I felt i had lost her. Lost is seperation. We, until our born again experience in Jesus Christ, are seperate from God in terms of an intimate covenant relationship.

The second type of being lost is what St.John of the Cross called “the dark night of the soul.” John was a Spanish Carmelite monk (1542-1591), a student of philosophy and theology. St. John defines the ‘dark night.’ “The ‘dark night’ is when persons lose all the pleasure they once experienced in their devotional life.” The experience feels like God does not exist.

St. John suggests that God wants to wean us from depending even on our own consciousness and experience of God. This is pastorally challenging territory. Some folk just cannot fathom the dark night of the soul and end up jettisoning their faith. Had they the will to persevere, the God on the other side of the dark night would be closer, bigger, much more loving. We’ve produced an American infantile spirituality that requires God to be our security blanket. What if God “disappears”?maxresdefault (1)

 

St. John of the Cross describes new believers as eagerly devoted to Christ and rigidly disciplined in spiritual practices. In their following Jesus they develop a “secret pride.” They become “too spiritual,” condemning others who are not as spiritual as they are. They stay disciplined in order to be esteemed by others. They begin to avoid confession because confession may ruin their image. They become more spiritual for their own sake, not for God’s. Enter the dark night. The dark night is a purging work of the Spirit. John writes, “For the truth is that the feelings we receive from the devotional life are the least of its benefits.

The invisible and unfelt grace of God is much greater, and it is beyond our comprehension (emphasis added). …For true spirituality consists in perseverance, patience, and humility. …No soul will ever grow deep in the spiritual

life unless God works passively in that soul by means of the dark night.” The dark night is called dark for a reason; it is an inner darkness that makes one feel like he or she is wandering toward the inky abyss.

In short, if the Dark Night (DN) of the senses is the move from loving God for pleasures sake to loving God for loves sake (God turns out the light on our sensual spirituality), then the DN of the soul is the move from the love of God for loves sake to the love of God for *Gods* sake (to paint w/ a Broadbrush!).

Ironically, “consolation,” Gods “felt presence,” is for the less mature/younger believers to *encourage us & reinforce behaviors; “desolation,” Gods “felt absence” is for the more mature believers to “‘expose behavior (Spirit takes us deeper into the “putting off’ process-­detachment). We cannot get rid of the self unless we through the self!!!

In the DN of the spirit/soul (love of God for loves sake to love of God for *Gods* sake alone) the Spirit begins to purge us not only of our vices, but now also our virtues we developed as non-christians & young believers.

Most 15,20,40+ year old believers in the faith, if they are honest  will tell you that deep down when trials come we instinctively, & autonomously, tend to appeal more to our own intellect, character formation, will, etc we have accumulated over the years than opening to the Spirit from beginning to end. “Apart from me you can do…”

This does Not mean we get rid of all the *wonderful* important, foundational attributes we have gained over the years! On the contrary, God Himself begins to “darken” these deep parts of the soul in order to bring Deeper dependence on the Spirit’s wisdom in the moment (& ultimately bring more profound insight as they are subordinated to God).

Sanctification nurtures the same psychological soil as justification, “I can’t do it!” only in much deeper places. God also moves us from trusting in our own character to deeply abiding in the Vine. During this process, a DN indeed, anxiety, fear, worry, guilt, shame, etc are *God’s* invitations (idiot lights on the dashboard of our soul) to journey deeper With Him leading the dance & not appealing to our own autonomous “gifts.”

Its been said that feelings are lousy leaders. Absolutely! But they *are* Excellent windows into the soul as well.

The louder they scream will constitute how deep our (disordered) attachments reside, and *that* is when we need to lay down our defensive (often unconscious) shield of acquired wisdom, character, willpower, etc & go with God  as He Lovingly invites us to the spiritual discipline of listening to our hearts (where the Triune God resides!) & to the call of God that echoes*deep* in the heart of every emotion. God Himself will do this in the DN of the spirit/soul.

This was Very brief but hopefully helps a little. There are many signs & temptations that accompany believers here and a good spiritual director/pastor familiar with this terrain is needed.

 

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