walking through the dark night of the soul

I give thanks to my Jesus for making me walk in darkness, and in this darkness I enjoy profound peace. I only desire that my darkness may obtain light for sinners.

St. Therese of Lisieux


Blessed Mother Teresa struggled for more than 40 years. St. Therese the Little Flower struggled too.

St. John of the Cross rooted his meditations in the spiritual interpretation of the Song of Solomon, likening eros to agape, or at least recognizing one as the tutor for the next.

The philosophical discussion of St. John of the Cross in his classic work, Dark Night of the Soul, begins in poetry.

  1. On a dark night, Kindled in love with yearnings–oh, happy chance!–I went forth without being observed, My house being now at rest.
  2. In darkness and secure, By the secret ladder, disguised–oh, happy chance !–In darkness and in concealment, My house being now at rest.
  3. In the happy night, In secret, when none saw me, Nor I beheld aught, Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart. (St. John of the Cross, 33-4)

Often morose, there have been murky periods of my life that were clouded with the haze of depression…but the dark night, what is that? On the surface, it may feel as a type or resurgence of depression, or difficult situations;  instead, it generally comes on the heels or  toes of a sincere desire and quest to grow closer to God.

In the beginning of a relationship with Him, He often seems so close that you share the same breaths. He is there to listen to you, respond and applaud your efforts to live a holy life. But, after a while, as you crane to hear His voice, there appears to be nothing in return. It is the nothing and the many days of nothing that open the door to the dark night.

It can be difficult to fight the feelings that we have done something wrong, especially when the quiet lasts months or years. On the contrary, we are not doing anything wrong at all and despite our inclinations to think otherwise, God is very much present!

When we are learning to walk, our mothers and fathers stand in front of us, to catch us and watch our every move. As we stumble, take our first steps and begin to run, our parents may be around the corner, or just out of reach–as little babies, we panic, but are exultant when we see them once again.

Often this dark night or spiritual depression, (not physical depression) is an opportunity for healing and a chance to purge sin or pain from the soul. While it seems counterproductive, it is important to immerse yourself even more closely in prayer –and similar to a baby looking for his mother or father, we need to constantly search for the heart of God.

If we can align our longing, our suffering and our loneliness with the Cross, we can give this anguish a purpose–and that purpose is to help alleviate the sufferings of others. It isn’t easy, but Our Lord will reward the desires of our heart and give us the grace to endure each day and and bless us with resounding peace.

It is always better to give than to receive –and God can use each of our small efforts to share His love and compassion for others.

After all, It was never about us anyway–it has always been about Him.


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