Thursday, September 28, 2006

Dark night of the soul

Recently, a blogger wrote, "Is faith really available to everyone? I have a long history of psychological problems, including chronic depression and and very disrupted thinking. I try to make myself open to God and the development of faith in a Catholic environment. I participate in the sacraments, go to Mass, and pray. But I'm left empty and I feel ultimately that my emotional problems make connecting with this impossible. There are tons of people with problems like mine, and much worse. How do we get in?"

Thanks, Anon, for your personal and inspiring post. It is inspiring because despite all of the difficulties you've experienced in trying to follow Christ, you are still following Him. On behalf of Him and His Church, thank you for being a witness of faith, hope, and love in the midst of trials. I'm very sorry that you've had to endure all of this, and I appreciate the fact that you have brought your situation to our forum.

There is an aspect of the spiritual life that speaks to your experience. While its causes are not normally psychological, its effects are similar to what you are describing. It is called the "dark night of the soul". This is where the soul feels tremendous emptiness and dryness in the spiritual life even though it is reaching out to God in great ways. Some of the greatest saints have experienced this; Mother Teresa, for example, spent years with serious doubts about God's very existence!

Another saint who endured the dark night was St. Teresa of Avila. She was very honest with our Lord about the serious struggles she had in following Him. Her famous quote is, "Lord, seeing how you treat your friends, it's no wonder you have so few of them". As ironic as it sounds, the dark night is a sign that you are a great friend of God's. He doesn't let just anyone go through the darkness and pain that his own Son experienced on the Cross: "my God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"

So, you are definitely in (the spiritual life); in fact, you are way in. I would suggest that you do two things: 1) be honest with God on a regular basis, and 2) remain faithful. As long as you remain faithful to Christ in prayer and in the sacraments (especially the Eucharist), you will get through to the other side of this, and it will be amazing! Just as Christ had to go through Calvary to get to Paradise, so you (and any other saint) have to go through your own darkness to reach the light. It will be the light of joy, peace, happiness, and life that you have never known! It will be the light of Christ.

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