“This dark night is an inflowing of God into the soul.”
— St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul (1584–1585)
Few are privileged enough to travel that darkest of journeys—to the abyss, a dark night, residing in the belly of the soul. It is easy to read some sadistic sense of pride in these words, but these words are true, and they are the only encouragement for those few who journey with God on a journey where God seems invisible.
God, and the subject of Divinity, is wrapped up in enigmas of irony.
Mystical theology; that’s the mystery we now open up into.
The passage to spiritual cognisance necessitates the fullness of faith—to be faithful stewards of faith. But without a promise faith most often falls flat, as backsliding becomes the seductive option many choose in attempting to alleviate their pain.
Going deep in God often appears as a trap, as going the world’s way seems the way out. But this is the real test of faith: the more invisible and vacuous God seems, the more we are instructed, through the silentest of means, in the love of God. If we can endure it, our Christian maturity, compassion, humility, and patience are likely to grow exponentially, and, too, our closeness with God.
The Purpose of the Dark Night
Never-ending is the experience of the dark night. Taken down to valley depth, plunging deeper than we ever expect, we find ourselves in foreign territory in a flash. And we may be surprised to learn just how much lower we still have to go.
God doesn’t seem there are at all.
But by faith we can see that God is present and real many times more. The less we experience God, the more we may know about the faithfulness of God to be there with us, trusting us to remain, with no firm understanding of his Presence to fall back on.
True faith is moulded by the experience at the sheer depths, where all human poise simply vanishes out the window.
We may be taken deeper into his love, but we cannot possibly know it, unless by such a faith that rests in the knowledge that we must persist; that perseverance has power in it.
The purpose of the dark night of the soul experience is growth in God, and unless we see by faith we think God has abandoned us. The more faith we have the more we will be blessed.
Dark night experiences, where our experience of God vanishes for a time, are ironically steeped in God’s power, if we go there by faith. Through such a Spiritual inflow God deepens our access to and capacities for love. This way, we are made better for our suffering, not worse.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.