Not all dark is dark

“Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope…For with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.”—Psalm 130

In last week’s class at the School of Healing Prayer, we discussed depression—how to discern depression from discouragement, how to pray for healing, when to refer to a counselor, and when medical help is required—and when all three is needed. Depression, a good Lenten topic, was the springboard for my thoughts this week, because there is, in the spiritual life, another time of sadness that may include some depression.  There may be triggers but most times there are not.  Followers of Jesus tell of having no feeling of God in their inner being-no sense of his presence, no consolation, only darkness and absence.  I have been here more than once and, maybe, you have, too—perhaps now.

My first experience of this did include actual depression. I didn’t believe God was anywhere around or that he wanted to be bothered with me. I didn’t know, yet, that God is always with us.  On a weekend retreat, one of the speakers said, “If you don’t know where God is, he is working so deep inside of you that he can’t be humanly perceived.”  I cried for the rest of the weekend because I knew that she spoke truth.  It took a while for God to finish that particular work in me but work he did.

Even though we most likely will not need medical or psychological intervention when this happens, it helps to have companions, soul friends or a spiritual director, who have been on this road before or who can, at least, understand and pray for you. Being kept in the dark is not always a bad place to be.  God is about the business of bringing a new, deeper healing in us so that there is more room for him and for others—more room for love.

Images of dark places came this week. One is of a baby in the womb—my granddaughter is waiting for delivery—a dark place, I would imagine, and a painful place at the end.  The baby doesn’t really know about the mother until the work is done and a beautiful new life is born. St. John of the Cross, while imprisoned in a cell barely big enough for his body and without light, composed the poem, Dark Night of the Soul, describing the soul’s journey to God.  Mother Teresa’s writings tell of her felt absence of God but her life shows Jesus dwelling within her for others. Ordinary saints, ordinary human beings.  We will celebrate the ultimate good arising from darkness very soon—Jesus’ crucifixion, when darkness descended for three hours.  No one could see God’s hand at work and evil thought itself the winner. Surprise!

I rarely have times, now, when I am unable to sense God’s presence, but there are times when I believe he is working deep in me where, in my senses, I cannot follow. I try to remember that this will pass. The master is at work.  “I wait for the Lord…and in His word I put my hope.”

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