As I read about a pastor’s response to assist a family come to terms with the loss of their eight-year-old son, accidentally hanged in their backyard, I choked back tears for their loss. I know something of their pain, but any parent, whether they’ve lost a child or not, knows the irredeemable sting of death in this life. (Sure, death has lost its sting for all eternity, but a parent must still work out their salvation, here, without their dead child.)
As I checked on myself, having willingly entered into grief for this family, I noted a flatter-than-normal demeanour. Charting the previous years, perhaps nine or more, and maybe nearly thirteen, there had been a series of dark night seasons that had come to punctuate our lives. Not that our lives are probably any different to yours.
Christian faith is no ticket to ride the theme parks of the world; it’s a ticket to ride the crucified, yet resurrected life.
That probably won’t win many converts, unless those would-be-converts have hellish lives, which many unfortunately do.
Faith is no immunity from a season of hellish life, but it is an inoculation from such a season’s hopelessness.
The dark night of the soul is an experience popularised by Saint John of the Cross. It depicts the faith life of a devout man who senses God’s Presence had left him.
There’s not a genuine journey of faith with God that doesn’t endure some sort of dark night season or experience. That, I hope, is an encouragement to you, who may feel like giving it all away, as if God’s promises were a lie.
Beyond clichés, and being so tired of them, you look again into the heavens and bellow as the Psalmist did:
“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?”
— Psalm 13:1 (NRSV)
I know this sentiment very well. You’re not alone, and neither am I. We come together as members in a community of faith, knowing that others are enduring their lives too.
So when dark night comes, have faith to fight, because soon enough victory will come into sight.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.
Postscript: if verse 1 of Psalm 13 spoke to you, go now and read the remaining five verses!