Grief falls into many categories – and
none. You may be neither bereaved, nor divorced, nor even, God be
praised, burnt out, yet you find yourself assailed by overwhelming
sadness, perhaps even by all but compulsive urges to give up. Many
of the greatest saints have experienced prolonged seasons in which
they have felt all but completely bereft of any sense of God’s
Unlike the other griefs that we have
considered in this book, the “dark night of the soul” can descend on
us without any external loss or trigger. There are no words to
describe the agony the soul passes through, when, for what may prove
to be a prolonged season, we are more aware of His absence than His
Although this is essentially a
private grief, the Lord has caused the struggles of many who have
experienced this seemingly inexplicable phenomenon to write it down
as an encouragement to us to persevere.25
Do not all the best love stories
include episodes of inexplicable separation? When we are in a
“desert,” we miss the comforting sense of God’s presence – not to
mention the excitement of seeing His Spirit moving in power. When it
feels as though nothing is happening, and our hopes and dreams lie
buried in the sand, there may be nothing that we can do to bring
these desert experiences to an end. As Corrie Ten Boom reminds us,
||“When the train is in a
tunnel, don’t get out of your seat:
sit tight and trust the driver!”
When we lose our “usual”
sense of God’s presence, what is in our heart becomes
crystal clear. Strong temptations we thought we had long
since conquered return to torment us, and self-will once
again becomes a major issue. The question comes down to
this: how hungry and thirsty are we to honour the Lord? Are
we prepared to use the darkness as a goad for seeking to
honour Him more?26 Or will we give in to our doubts and
disappointments and turn to other things to fill the vacuum?
Truly, these times when the light of the Lord appears to
burn low test our soul.
The Lord once gave me an insight into
the scales that God uses to weigh and calibrate these desert times.
He uses criteria that are so utterly different from our own that we
would not even necessarily recognise them as scales at all. Be
reassured: the Lord is still weighing our situation carefully. As
Sebastien Valfrey puts it,
||When it is all over, you
will not regret having suffered;
rather you will regret having suffered so little,
and suffered that little so badly.
Reflect and Pray
Reconcile yourself to wait in the darkness as long as is
necessary, but still go on longing after Him whom you love.
The Cloud of Unknowing
Lord, where emptiness has scoured my
make my faith resilient and
my heart more full of trust.
For You created great swathes of desert
– steppe and glacier, veld and dune –
and You know how to sustain Your children
through desert doubts and droughts.
In the Name of Jesus, Who
neither sensed nor saw the Father’s love
in Gethsemane’s darkness, yet still obeyed –
and made the treasures of darkness
available to all. Amen.
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