The Dark Night of the Soul

Has anyone experienced the feeling that your soul was tied up in a kind of gridlock?  Like a traffic jam of sorts where you just can’t move.  I don’t know if anyone else has felt this, but that’s the best way I can describe where I’m at in this moment.

The past year has not been good to me. I’m struggling, and I have been for a while. A wide array of situations right now seem to be forcing my head under water, and my own demons seem to be keeping me there. I feel like my heart has been poured out into the dust, and I am frightened and anxious because I don’t know how to get it back. And God seems to be frustratingly quiet through the whole thing…

I am feeling every emotion; grief, anger, sorrow, despair, pain, fear, confusion, mixed with some hope, determination, love, trust, and so on. But it’s all mixed together and the emotions bleed into each other like watercolors. It’s a royal mess, and one hell of a headache. So many paths are laid before me, and I don’t know what to do. I feel the temptation in my heart, an inclination toward rage and to withdraw so as to ensure my heart will not be hurt again. But it contrasts directly with what I feel God has asked of me.

I’m torn.

Torn between the desire of my flesh to save itself, and between the need to let myself be saved.

Some days there’s no sleep, no appetite, and no hope. All is a dark night and I can’t see the coming joys. All I can see is the destruction of what my heart was. I look at the rubble, and I fail to see what is being built in me.

The first is whether, when a soul finds no pleasure or consolation in the things of God, it also fails to find it in anything created; for, as God sets the soul in this dark night to the end that He may quench and purge its sensual desire, He allows it not to find attraction or sweetness in anything whatsoever.”

Then there’s days of rage – red hot anger that burns in my heart, something deep within that wants to fight the change, the vulnerability and the unknowns. These are probably the days that frighten me most because it feels like I am not only falling away from my God, but am losing the battle in myself. Those are the days I walk away from scarred.

The second sign whereby a man may believe himself to be experiencing the said purgation is that the memory is ordinarily centered upon God, with painful care and solicitude, thinking that it is not serving God, but is backsliding, because it finds itself without sweetness in the things of God.”

And some days I just take cover. I hide quietly and wait and pray for a miracle that’ll wake me up from the dream and return the security I had before – and the only prayer I have the strength to summon is one word: mercy. I force the pain from my mind and let the hours come as they are. I come out of them shell shocked and a bit numb – shy of anything that might hurt me again, but I bear the weight anyway and say nothing. And I am just: tired.

The third sign whereby this purgation of sense may be recognized is that the soul can no longer meditate or reflect in the imaginative sphere of sense as it was wont, however much it may of itself endeavor to do so.”

But some days I can see a shadow of what will eventually come – but only if my heart is quiet. I can see the new creation that God is rendering from that rubble within me. I feel the hint of a new confidence in myself that has never existed before. He’s fixing a faulty foundation – forcing me to look at myself and having me see the cracks. He’s turning the lies into truths and showing me a worth that I’d never seen before and the possibility of an even more fulfilling future than I could have previously imagined.

And I am coming to a point of realization: it is not my job to retrieve my heart from the dust.

But I can honestly say that all these extreme emotions have my heart and my soul sealed into a sort of gridlock. I feel like I can’t move, for I am being torn in too many directions at once – all of which require the fullness of my heart and soul, which I can’t do. There are too many paths set before me, so I’ve stubbornly sat down in the middle of the road and I am waiting for the traffic to clear.

I’m exhausted.

But maybe that’s where I’m supposed to be. Even though it’s hard to pray, and I am at times angry and confused, I am still growing in faith even though my heart, soul, and mind are weak. Especially in the moments of quietness – oddly enough, it is the moments where I am doing absolutely nothing that I am most peaceful.

“It gives the soul an inclination and desire to be alone and in quietness, without being able to think of any particular thing or having the desire to do so. If those souls to whom this comes to pass knew how to be quiet at this time, and troubled not about performing any kind of action, whether inward or outward, neither had any anxiety about doing anything, then they would delicately experience this inward refreshment in that ease and freedom from care.”

The verse, “be still and know that I am God” has never meant more to me.

Because that’s all I can do, is be still, grow in faith, and wait.

It is just as if some painter were painting or dyeing a face; if the sitter were to move because he desired to do something, he would prevent the painter from accomplishing anything and would disturb him in what he was doing.”

                                    Excerpts from the book “Dark Night of the Soul” by Saint John of the Cross