dark night of the soul

4 Things on God's distance and absence

distanceThere are moments in every honest believer's journey when God seems distant. It can be hard to sort out. Sometimes knowing with your mind God is omnipresent makes the sense of his absence all the more painful.

Those moments it feels as though your prayers bounce off the ceiling and walls only to return to you, we lose touch with the sense of God's intimate tenderness as we once knew. These are moments and periods of time when we ought to know a few things.

1. Every honest believer has known this place. Every believer has or will come to a point when God feels absent or distant at best. It is important off-the-bat to know you are not alone.

2. Do not assume you made this happen. Do not assume you have done something wrong to drive God away. While our sin does separate us from God, that is not always the reason for this distance. There are times when the experience of distance is simply part of the experience of limited beings attempting intimate connection with a limitless God.

3. God has the freedom to come and go. What kind of god would you have created who answers your every beck and call? What limited god would you have created who only comes and goes as you wish? If God appears at your beck and call, it is not likely the Biblical God you are relating to. God will not be formed in our image. He is free to come and go at His will; not yours.

4. The experience of absence is not the absence of experience What might God be doing with you in this time? St. John of the Cross wrote about this part of our journey, calling it "The Dark Night of the Soul". He says there are two "purifiers" at play during this time. One, you are learning not to depend on external things as proof of God's presence. We can move further within ourselves to know the truer senses of spiritual connection. The second purifier is stripping us of our interior dependence. We are forced to challenge what we really believe about the character of God. Is God truly good and loving? What things have I created in my own image to demand God to do in order for me to believe he is good or loving? These times of feeling absent or distant make me truly realize God does not have to fit in my limited understanding of goodness and love.

I am forced to let go of my stipulations and come to know the God whose love is a reckless raging fury I cannot form as I wish. Then, I can finally let go and trust.

Adjusted Blindness

blind John of the Cross calls it "The Dark Night of the Soul". But we all know how it feels. If not, you will experience that time eventually.

I think about it this way. If you have some experience where the lights are turned out for a considerable amount of time, your eyes adjust to the darkness, but you know the light that was present just before they were turned out. You enjoyed the light greatly, but now you came into the darkness and your eyes have adjusted to the darkness. Now, the feeling I have been talking about...what John calls "Darkness of the Soul" comes when the lights are turned back on. Glorious light! Finally you have gone from light to darkness, and now back to incredible light. This whole time you have been in the dark room longing for light.

You knew ABOUT light. You recalled everything ABOUT light that you knew before. But, o happy day, you get to actually EXPERIENCE the light after so long spent thinking ABOUT light. Glorious....right?

Not necessarily! As soon as you experience light after being in that dark room, you are temporarily blinded because you go immediately from dark to light, and your eyes cannot take the sudden change. You must now learn to adjust. For so long you knew ABOUT light. You even proved very confident in your knowledge about how light operates, but now in full EXPERIENCE of light, you are thrown into a temporary blindness. You cannot take all of it, and now you must adjust. It still seems dark for a second, but you have EXPERIENCED the light you had only known ABOUT before.

We are believers who know a lot about God. We have become excellent at how much we have learned about our phenomenal God. We see great things, and we know God has shown these things to us. But now, we are beginning to actually see God. We are at the piont of entering into truly experiencing the God we have learned so much about. We are entering intimacy with the heart of a relational God.

When Moses got closer enough to God, he "hid his face", and he was terrified. The closer to God he got (and he got closer to God than we will ever know), the more darkness he experienced. Darkness came in ways of fear, anxiety and confusion. Now that sounds very familiar to our darkness of soul, and Moses knew much of God, and yet still faced himself in darkness when he experienced God.

After all we have seen, we all the sudden become blind. But it is because we are in the midst of a great transition into experiencing the God we have always known ABOUT. This God we know so much about now becomes "absent"...or at least appears absent behind our exposure to a light our faith cannot handle. God is not actually absent, but we have become temporarily blinded by the purity and glory of God coming into a closer relationship with us.

The question is:

WILL WE ADJUST OR GIVE UP AND CLAIM HE'S ABSENT?