Trusting When We Cannot See
One summer, when our boys were just little guys we took them to explore Meramac Caverns, a local cave and popular tourist attraction in our state. As you’d expect the cave was dark, but our tour guide carried a large luminous flashlight and the walkway itself was well lit. At one point in our exploration we came to a place where there was no lighting and only the guides flashlight lit our way. The guide stopped, gathered our small group together and began to talk about the great darkness of the cave without all of that artificial lighting. To dramatically illustrate his point he shut off his flashlight, and instantly immersed us in a pitch black darkness that was simply profound. You quite literally couldn’t see your own hand in front of your face. Our then 6-year-old shocked everyone by piercing that profound darkness with a high pitched blood-curdling scream. At the top of his lungs he shouted, “Mommy! I can’t see you! I can’t see you! Where are you!” and then proceeded to let out another blood-curdling scream. Immediately, the guide came to the rescue by turning his flashlight on and breaking the darkness. “Everything alright, ma’am?” he inquired with a look of almost fatherly concern. I scooped my little boy up in my arms to comfort him and as soon as he could see me and felt safe and secure, all was well once more in his world. That old memory reminds me of the pitch-black darkness that God sometimes allows to descend on us. I call it a divine darkness – a darkness God allows in our lives for the good of our soul. A darkness that begs us to trust when we cannot see.
I believe most Christians — or at least those that wholeheartedly choose to follow Jesus — will or have experienced this dark season at some point. It is the silence of God. It is a time when God seemingly withdraws His presence from us. St. John of the Cross called it “the dark night of the soul”. A.W. Tozer called it “the ministry of the night”, and Charles Spurgeon preached about “the child of light walking in darkness.” Put simply, it is an excruciatingly painful season when we feel utterly abandoned by God. I’ve often likened it to hell on earth. There is nothing but this feeling of emptiness. Prayer that once gave so much consolation now gives none. Heaven seems to have gone silent no matter how anguished our cries for help.
St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta spoke movingly about God’s silence, and the agony of the dark night in her diary:
I call, I cling,
I want—and there is no One to answer—no One on
Whom I can cling
For a good 50 years she felt no consolation from the God she so loved and served daily, and she was in good company because nearly every major man or woman of God in Scripture has also experienced the dark night. It is something Abraham experienced when he stood waiting for God to accept his sacrifice (Gen. 15:12). Moses experienced it on the mountain waiting to receive the Commandments in the “thick darkness” where God was (Duet. 5:22), and Job when he “looked for good” and “evil came” (Job 30:26). Then there was David when the bottom seemed to drop out of his world. Even Jesus, the Son of God experienced this darkness and feeling of abandonment by the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Luke 22:42. It will come to you too, should you decide to give your heart, mind and soul over to Jesus Christ.
If we want to become saints – if we want to stand before God – not only can we not do wrong, but we can’t even want to do wrong. We must be purified. That purification is not only in our lives but in our hearts. Our attachment to sin must be broken. We must desire only to please God and do His will. This desire to please God and seek only His will needs to be out of love for Him and not because we are afraid of hell. In order that we might learn to avoid sin and pursue virtue, God uses in part, the dark night of the soul as a way to purify our desires and thus prepare us for heaven.
So, what can you do to lift this darkness? Absolutely nothing. This isn’t a darkness that is caused by sin, something you have or haven’t done, or even caused by the devil himself. This divine darkness is a darkness God has put you in. Understand it is a darkness given by God for His purposes, and here there are treasures that can only be found in the darkness — things you will learn about yourself and God that you cannot learn in any other way. “I will give you the treasures of darkness And hidden wealth of secret places, So that you may know that it is I, The LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.” (Isaiah 45:3) No, nothing you do will lift it. Only God can do that when its accomplished it’s work in your soul. But while there is nothing you can do to make the dark night pass, there is one thing you must do — keep walking.
St. Mother Teresa is a perfect example for us to follow. She never deterred from her work daily ministering to the poor, homeless and suffering, and her work went on to produce much fruit. While she felt only emptiness, fellow sisters and others that she spoke to came alive and grew in the experience of God’s love. She kept walking … she kept ‘keeping on’ as they say. She kept trusting Him when she could not see. So must we.
Whatever you have been given to do by the Lord — whatever you were doing before the darkness descended upon you — keep doing that. Keep praying. Keep up with your spiritual reading. If you are Catholic as I am, keep your weekly devotion to spend time with Jesus before the Blessed Sacrament. Keep serving God, loving God, and seeking God, even if you feel nothing but dryness in prayer. This is also a good time to draw from your own memory all the wonderful, incredible and awesome things God has done for you in your life, and there find hope. There is a verse from Lamentations (3:20-21) I often go to that I’d like to share here. I particularly love the way it is given in The Message, “I remember it all—oh, how well I remember— the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope.” For me, that “one other thing” is the moment the Holy Spirit fell upon me in prayer and I experienced His presence in a life-altering way. Never forget in the dark what God has shown you in the light. He is still that same loving Heavenly Father that has blessed you over and over again.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrew 13:8
The season of the dark night of the soul is one I am familiar with, and so, I speak from my own experience here. I know the excruciating pain of seeming abandonment by God. I know how hard it is to keep going day after day, and in my case year after year amid that emptiness. But I also know now that if we keep seeking and loving Him throughout, that God can in an instant lift that darkness. That’s what He did in my life when the healing miracle fell upon me. I think part of the purpose for God withdrawing His presence is to see if we will still love and serve Him in spite of the emptiness, His silence, and His seeming abandonment. Will we persevere in our devotion to Him or give up cursing Him? If we allow it to and we keep loving and seeking Him we will grow closer to Christ.
“How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will you hide Your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2).
Again, from my own experience I can absolutely tell you that God is working on your behalf in and through the dark night. We all know the tunnel is dark and frightening, and whether your passage through it
In closing today I have created another video for you. ” I Cannot Walk In Darkness” is a worship song from my new CD: Songs of Praise And Worship Inspired By The Memoir Little Girl Crying. I wrote this on the other side of my own personal long dark night of the soul. It is a message of hope and encouragement that I pray will bring you strength and courage to persevere no matter how deep or dark or long your personal dark night prevails.
In Christ’s love,
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