“My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning. O my God, I cry by day, but Thou dost not answer; and by night, but I have no rest.” (Psalm 22:1-2)
How closely do you identify with those words of David, king of Israel and psalmist extraordinaire? By today’s standards he had a pretty successful career. He rose from insignificant shepherd boy to triumphant warrior and then king over all of Israel. His reign lasted forty years and he died at a ripe old age.
Yet David had seasons of despair and he often poured out a heavy heart of sorrow, depression and deep loneliness. Really, not unlike many of us today if we are to be completely honest.
Maybe you can more easily identify with Mother Teresa, a modern day saint, who was more intimate with the dark night of the soul than most anyone suspected while she was alive. A biography of her private letters is touted as “the secret life of Mother Teresa” or some such language. All along you thought of Mother Teresa one way and now a whole different person is revealed. And what exactly is her secret?
Doubt. Discouragement. Wrestles with faith. A black dark hopelessness for nearly all of her life since her call from God to serve the poor in India. We are expected to be surprised. We are expected to be shocked. What I think we should feel instead is encouraged and hopeful. Yes, and grateful to know that God’s saints are real people and most of us share more emotionally than we realize.
Actually, it is not uncommon for both giants and midgets of the faith to wonder about the God that they serve but rarely see or hear from and to long for more than they experience in brief transitory moments of touching heaven.
The encouraging part is that challenges of faith do not prevent the call of God from being fulfilled in a person’s life. You can make it through triumphantly whether you feel like it or not. The letters that Mother Teresa wrote to trusted friends and counselors in contrast to all she accomplished make that perfectly and wonderfully clear.
This dear lady specifically asked that all her correspondence be destroyed when she died. She wished to remain private in the area of her deepest thoughts and feelings. Surely she had that right but if she felt strongly she should have done it herself. No one else was about to honor that dying wish.
I have to admit I’m glad they didn’t. Her life was lived in the cause of Christ and now even her death continues to serve his purposes. What a great legacy. She no longer suffers the dark night of the soul but for any saints still here who suffer similarly, here is hope to help finish the race with the same victory.
Now what about you? Are you suffering your own black night of the soul? What do you do when darkness falls? Please, no platitudes. Listen instead to the words of those who have gone before you and realize you are not alone. Darkness is not the end. “Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)
“I am weary with my sighing; every night I make my bed swim, I dissolve my couch with my tears. My eye has wasted away with grief; it has become old because of all my adversaries.” (Psalm 6:6-7)
“My heart is in anguish within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me; and horror has overwhelmed me.” (Psalm 55:4-5)
“Will the Lord reject forever? And will He never be favorable again? Has His lovingkindness ceased forever? Has His promise come to an end forever?” (Psalm 77:7)
“O Lord, why dost Thou reject my soul? Why dost Thou hide Thy face from me? I was afflicted and about to die from my youth on; I suffer Thy terrors; I am overcome. Thy burning anger has passed over me; Thy terrors have destroyed me. They have surrounded me like water all day long; they have encompassed me altogether. Thou hast removed love and friend far from me; my acquaintances are in darkness.” (Psalm 88: 14-18)
“My sorrow is beyond healing, my heart is faint within me!” (Jeremiah 8:18)
“I am the man who has seen affliction because of the rod of His wrath. He has driven me and made me walk in darkness and not in light. Surely against me He has turned His hand repeatedly all the day. He has caused my flesh and my skin to waste away, he has broken my bones. He has besieged and encompassed me with bitterness and hardship. In dark places He has made me dwell, like those who have long been dead. He has walled me in so that I cannot go out; He has made my chain heavy. Even when I cry out and call for help, He shuts out my prayer. He has blocked my ways with hewn stone; He has made my paths crooked. He is to me like a bear lying in wait, like a lion in secret places. He has turned aside my ways and torn me to pieces; He has made me desolate.” (Lamentations 3:1-11)