Have you ever had a season of doubt or a dark night of the soul in the path of faith? What steps did you take in that season? change to how you over come it?
Have you ever had a season of doubt or a dark night of the soul in the path of faith? What steps did you take in that season? change to how you over come it?
For all of you…I’ve been in the Dark Night of the Soul, or what I call ‘the Singularity’ (black hole) for nearly 21 years. It happened after I sought God, after I begged and threw myself on the mercies of Yeshua HaMashiach…and it’s never gotten easier. It gets more difficult year after year. The only thing I’ve really noticed is that I am not as self-reliant as I once was, not as quick to set my own plans/dreams above what God might want. Not as quick to anger, lust, rage, revenge. The real struggle for me now is anxiety and the question others have posed, ‘is it really worth it if God could do all this with a proverbial snap of his fingers?’ I don’t know what to turn around and tell you friends and fellow pilgrims. Maybe for some of you there will come a day when it ends, whether after a few years, few months, or decades (two for me now). Hard to say. Just dig in and hang on, set your camp and don’t move until you really think/feel/hear/believe God says to. I don’t agree that the Dark Night is sin-based. If that was the case we’d stay in it perpetually for we all sin…everyday. Even the Apostle Paul admits this in Romans…the Dark Night is where God strips us of all desire but to know Him above all things. And that is where my twenty plus years have brought me…where all I want is to behold him, no questions, no accusations, no requests, just look upon him and be glad (as the psalmist says). I also think this post left out that the Dark Night is also at times answers to our prayers to know God/Yeshua better. It’s the lengthier process of Abraham’s vision of horror in Genesis. So, I end with this advice: cry as much as you need to, mourn, grieve, howl, weep, scream, and allow yourselves to experience all the ‘negative’ portions of this experience…and maybe, like me, you’ll strangely find yourself beginning to hum little songs of praise in the midst of hell itself…love to all from a Dark Night wanderer…
My son is 16 years old and he’s being suffering from the dark night of the soul for a year and half. Everything stared when he was younger , he was watching girl made a pact with the enemy on her birthday on a Japanese carttoon. He got scared because he was not expecting such thing in cartoons . He forgot about ,but going forward a few year that memory can back with vengeance when it was almost time for his birthday. Thinking that he was going to do the same , he stared to get mortifying about the thought. Now the thoughts of him not being good or close to God really worries him. My proud part comes from where the moment he stared to feel like this and to hear this voices telling him that he was bad and he was going to do it , he prayed to God for help and he told me about it. I see him praying all the time. He kneels and pray in frm of the crucifix we have at home, he confesses every month , does the rosary everyday , fast every Saturday and many things that can help with his struggle . He also has days of desperation where if could take his head off for a little bit he would. My son is young and going thru this , plus everything else that naturally happen at this time for a teenager can be really thought. As a mother it breaks my heart but I also tell him that only God knows why he is allowing you to go thru this and that even if he doesn’t feel his presence God is the closes . He comments sometimes that he feels num , my answer is that it’s normal in the situation that he is in. I’ve being doing a lot of reading about the dark night of the soul just to give my son a little bit of counselation that he needs to keep going until God decides that he’s work is done within my son. Pray for us because my husband doesn’t understand and he can be cruel to our son. God bless you all.
When the soul comes out victorious from the preceding trials, even though it may stumble here and there, it fights on valiantly, humbly calling upon God, “Save me, I am perishing!” And it is still able to fight on. At this point, however, the soul is engulfed in a horrible night. It sees itself completely abandoned by God. It feels itself to be the object of His hatred. It is but one step away from despair. The soul does its best to defend itself; it tries to stir up its confidence; but prayer is an even greater torment for it, as this prayer seems to arouse God to an even greater anger. The soul finds itself poised on the summit of a lofty mountain on the very brink of a precipice.
The soul is drawn to God, but feels repulsed. All other sufferings and tortures in the world are as nothing compared with this sensation into which it has been plunged; namely, that of being rejected by God. No one can bring it any relief; it finds itself completely alone; there is no one to defend it. It raises its eyes to heaven, but is convinced that this is not for her - for her all is lost. It falls deeper and deeper from darkness to darkness, and it seems to it that it has lost forever the God it used to love so dearly. This thought is torture beyond all description. But the soul does not agree to it and tries to lift its gaze towards heaven, but in vain! And this makes the torture even more intense.
If God wished to keep the soul in such darkness, no one will be able to give it light. It experiences rejection by God in a vivid and terrifying manner. From its heart burst forth painful moans, so painful that no priest will comprehend it, unless he himself has been through these trials. In the midst of this, the evil spirit adds to the soul’s sufferings, mocking it: ‘Will you persist in your faithfulness? This is your reward; you are in our power!’ But Satan only has as much influence over the soul as God allows him, and God knows how much we can bear. “What have you gotten out of your mortifications,” says Satan, “and out of your fidelity to the rule? What use are all these efforts? You have been rejected by God!” This word “rejected”, becomes a fire which penetrates every nerve to the marrow of the bone. It pierces through her whole being. The ordeal reaches its climax. The soul no longer looks for help anywhere. It shrinks into itself and loses sight of everything; it is as though it has accepted the torture of being abandoned. This is a moment for which I have no words. This is the agony of the soul.
Jesus i trust in you!
We must keep one thing in mind: that God is all-knowing, all-powerful , and all-good. Let’s face it. He’s God! So, nothing happens outside of his knowing about it. Nothing happens that is beyond His power. And nothing happens that is not somehow foreseen by Him which He can use for some good. In short, nothing happens that is outside of God’s providence.
Another thing to keep in mind is that there are only three possibilities for our souls after this life: heaven, purgatory or hell. And purgatory is only a temporary stop en-route to heaven. There is no such thing as being somewhere in between or being somehow “lost”.
Now, as Catholics trusting in the Lord’s Divine Mercy, we place our hope in salvation, so as we consider your husband, let us proceed based on that hope: that he is either in heaven or purgatory.
Now the question is: what is happening here? It could be
a) Your husband’s soul really is appearing to you and your family, or
b) He’s not, but your experiences are leading you to think that he is.
If (b), the important thing is that the Lord is somehow allowing you to experience this. It may be the result of the trauma of losing your husband and the children losing their father. Dreams of him are not unexpected. Nevertheless, God, in his providence, is allowing you to experience this for some reason. It could be your own “dark night” experience (as described in the above article) in which the Lord is drawing you closer to Himself by allowing your faith and hope to be tested.
Now, let us consider (a). Some people do seem to experience real appearances of the deceased. Usually, it is either (1) a positive experience, where the decease person comes back to say, “I’m okay” or “thank you for your prayers.” Or it may be (2) a negative or fearful experience in which the deceased person seems to be suffering. In this case, it may be that a soul is in purgatory and is requesting more prayers for himself or for others. St. Faustina experienced souls in purgatory or near death who appeared to her and asked her for prayers. If this seems to be what you are experiencing, continue to pray for your husband, especially using the chaplet of Divine Mercy, or have a Mass offered for him. And have confidence that our Merciful Savior (with Our Blessed Mother’s intercession) can free your husband from purgatory and welcome him into heaven.
And as for yourself, know that God, in His providence, is allowing you to experience this trial for some reason. The way through it is to place your trust in the Lord with the words, “Jesus, I trust in You.” The Lord can also provide you with the healing, consolation and peace that you need during your time of grieving, so continue to ask Him for that too and even to thank Him for the trial (if you are able), knowing that it is all a part of God’s loving providence.
I hope this helps. My prayers are with you, as well.
For me, it’s fitting that a solar eclipse occurred this week. Twenty years ago, in the spring of 1997, I experienced an eclipse of God. And twenty years ago this week, light dawned in my darkness (Psalm 112:4).
I had been asking for it, though I didn’t know I was asking for that. We often know what we want, but when we ask God for it, we usually don’t know what we’re asking for to receive it. I was disturbed at the difference I saw between my experience of satisfaction in God and what I read in the Bible. Specifically, when I read how the apostle Paul, in the face of very possible death, the earthly loss of all things, cried from his heart, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). I believed that truth abstractly, theoretically. But it wasn’t really my heart cry.
Wonderful, Disturbing Life
I was 31, married to my dearest friend on earth, and had a precious baby boy. I was leading a new and rapidly growing ministry, working alongside a mentor and friend I loved and esteemed highly. We were part of a growing, healthy, vibrant church that was reaching its local community and sending people to the far reaches of the globe with the gospel. My wife and I were involved with my brother and his wife in the gestational stage of what would become an inner-city, truly multicultural church plant reaching hard-to-reach and hardly-reached people. Life was mostly ministry, and mostly wonderful.
And that’s what disturbed me: that my life could be mostly ministry, and mostly wonderful, to the point that gaining Christ Jesus my Lord through death did not feel surpassingly worthy to me (Philippians 3:8). I knew I wasn’t wrong to treasure God’s gifts, but I also knew that as long as his steadfast love didn’t taste better than life to me, my heart’s affections were disordered and idolatrous (Psalm 63:3).
So I began to fast and pray that God would do in me whatever it took so I would not turn his gifts into idols, that I would love him supremely. Due to his past dealings with me, I had learned to trust him. I believed he would only answer in ways that were best for me. But I remember praying something that struck me odd even then: “Lord, just don’t let me lose my faith.”
God Went Dark
And my God answered. The details are too complex to include here, and not crucial to the point. But suffice it to say, one day that spring an eclipse of God occurred in the sky of my soul. If the eclipse had a corona, I couldn’t see it. I suddenly couldn’t see God at all. I suddenly saw the world as if God didn’t exist.
This was a new experience for me. As a very young boy, I had an awareness of God’s existence and experienced his intervention at certain remarkable points. I was born again somewhere around age 10 or 11, when I first really understood the gospel invitation. I was earnest about my faith from the beginning. I didn’t waver through my teen or early adult years, as I grew in grace. I was engaged in active gospel ministry from high school on. I had numerous experiences that confirmed to me the New Testament reality of the work and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Yes, I battled doubts off and on, but they never seriously shook my faith.
Until that day. That day I was seized with a Grand Doubt, and scales, rather than falling off, filled my heart-eyes. God disappeared from my spiritual sight for the first time in my memory.
It took no time for the void of God to produce in me the void of meaning. The vanity, emptiness, and striving after the wind that the preacher proclaimed I understood as never before (Ecclesiastes 1:14). Everything appeared hollow. Work appeared meaningless, rest appeared meaningless, leisure appeared meaningless, the cosmos appeared meaningless. Life appeared meaningless.
The hopelessness all the existential philosophers describe raged through me. I cannot capture in words the depths of despair I experienced. For months I had a constant low-grade headache from the dissonance of conflicting beliefs in my head. I remember the terror of realizing that if I embraced this unbelief, the wonder of my wonderful wife and child would disappear, for whatever “love” I felt toward them would be nothing more than some genetic illusion to encourage and protect reproduction.
The bleak darkness was horrible in its truest sense. I did not wish to commit suicide, but I knew I could not endure this darkness indefinitely. And whatever secret envy I had ever harbored for unbelievers, who seemed free to pursue whatever sinful pleasures they wished, was gone. The bankruptcy of that deceitful fantasy was fully exposed.
Flying by the Instruments
However, due to God’s past dealings with me, I had learned to trust him. He had taught me in other ways to trust his promises over my perceptions. So, although God appeared absent to me, and at times I seemed a hair’s breadth away from believing it, I didn’t. The meaninglessness seemed at once compelling and untrue at the same time. I determined that God, not my doubts, deserved the benefit of my doubt.
And I determined to do something aircraft pilots must learn to do: fly by the instruments. When a pilot flies into a dark cloud and loses his points of reference, it becomes a dangerous thing for him to trust his physical perceptions. He might feel like he’s flying straight, when he is actually descending toward the ground. So he must learn to trust what the plane’s instruments are telling him, not what his thoughts and feelings are telling him. His life depends on it.
So I began to fly according the instruments of God’s word and not my perceptions of the world. I kept my habit of personal devotions, despite how Teflon-coated my soul seemed. I kept in church fellowship and involved in our inner-city ministry. I kept my hand to the vocational plow God had given me, and sought to keep providing for my wife and child.
I held nothing secret from those closest to me and those who needed to know. And they were mercifully patient, kind, and surprisingly hopeful and encouraging to me — especially my saintly wife. And I remember my pastor telling me, “The Rock under your feet will not long feel like sand.” I loved him for saying it, but it felt so unlikely, especially when the eclipse lingered week after week after weary week.
The Night Light Dawned
And then light dawned. It was Saturday, August 23, 1997. In the afternoon, my wife and child were running errands, and I was alone in the house. I threw myself on the living room floor and pleaded with God for light and deliverance.
And then I prayed something very specific: “Lord, if you just somehow whisper to me that you’re still there, and I’m your son, and all this is for your good purpose, I think I can endure anything. Just whisper to me I’m your son!”
About 9:30 that night I received a phone call from the new worship pastor at church. He told me the elder who was scheduled to read the sermon text the next morning was in the ER with a sudden illness, and asked if I would be willing to step in and read.
I wanted to say, “No, absolutely not!” And I wondered why he hadn’t called another elder (I wasn’t one). But having just joined the staff, this pastor knew nothing about my spiritual crisis, and I wasn’t going to try and explain it to him then. Feeling a bit forced into it, I agreed.
God’s Discipline and Love
About an hour later, as I got into bed, I opened my Bible to Hebrews 12:3–11, the text I would read the next morning (italics mine):
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
I sat in bed stunned, remembering my living room prayer. As suddenly as the eclipse had come, light now dawned. And though it would take a long time for my weakened soul to recover fully, the night was over. I read the Scripture the next morning before the pastor preached with a heart full of trembling awe.
My God Answers
A year later, on Saturday, August 22, 1998, my daughter was born. During the latter months of pregnancy, we had pondered many names. But about three weeks before her birth, we came across the name “Eliana,” which means “my God answers” in Hebrew. I had never heard the name before, but as soon as I saw it, I knew God wanted us to give her that name to remember his deliverance.
The day after she was born, I was in the hospital cafeteria eating breakfast and having my devotions. As I thanked God for Eliana and a safe birth and how God had answered me, I got to thinking, “It was about a year ago the Lord answered my cry. In fact, it must have been right around this time.” So I got out my journal and looked and was stunned again: Eliana was born on the 365th day after God answered me — on the exact corresponding Saturday a year later. I worshiped.
Our God Answers
I write this article as a memorial stone twenty years later. My God answered. He answered when I was disturbed by the idolatry I saw growing in my heart and asked for deliverance. He answered when I asked that he not allow me to lose my faith altogether. He answered by staying imperceptibly near when I feared he was gone forever. And he answered with light when the time was right.
For the past twenty years, I have been feeding off the peaceful fruit resulting from the loving, fatherly discipline of the Lord. I claim in no way to perfectly value death as gain, and with Paul, I’m pressing on to greater realization (Philippians 3:12–14). But I can say this: that dark night of hopelessness revealed to me, like nothing else ever has, that God in Christ is the Joy in all the true, pure joys that exist. He is the source and fullness of all things, and without him, all joys, all loves, all pursuits are hollow and meaningless.
So I bless God for this gift of discipline. And it has only emboldened me all the more to pray, “Whatever it takes, Lord.” For I’ve learned repeatedly that the joy and hope he offers are worth whatever it takes to receive them.
When Eliana was six, I wrote her song that included these lines:
You, Eliana, remind me each day
That God does answer the prayers that we pray.
And when the night falls and we cannot see,
He will bring light, when the time’s right for you and me.
Yes, he will. If you find yourself in a spiritual dark night, trust him. Wait for him. Ask him. Throw yourself on the living room floor if you must. Our God answers.