St. John of the Cross, a Catholic Mystic, during the 16th century, wrote these gut wrenching sonnets during his life, explaining the absolute desolate experience he has come to call a “Dark Night of the Soul”, in which one is absolutely alone in their existence. Nothing nourishes their starving souls, God and his presence is absent. The point of these classic writings is not to discourage the believer in their disbelief, but, rather to endure the darkness of this season, because, the endurance in this season in which one walks through their own hell, is to serve as a severe refinement.
The Apostle Paul, in the second book of Corinthians, explains this absolute miserable experience he had, in which he was alone had received a thorn from Satan, which is described as something that absolutely tormented him. Paul asked God to remove the thorn three times, he did not.
For most of her life, Mother Teresa did not hear from God. In her memoir, Come Be My Light, she explains the absolute soul poverty she experienced for most of her life-
“Where is my faith? Even deep down … there is nothing but emptiness and darkness … If there be God—please forgive me. When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul … How painful is this unknown pain—I have no Faith. Repulsed, empty, no faith, no love, no zeal, … What do I labor for? If there be no God, there can be no soul. If there be no soul then, Jesus, You also are not true.”
While I am far from Mother Teresa or the Apostle Paul, I have recently endured this in some sense in my own life. Every day, I wake up at Five am, to enter into solitude. To listen and to see what God has for me in the morning. Vividly I enter this place, screaming for release from the thing that has plagued my mind, but, nothing enters. When, I pray for others, vibrant images and words appear before me. The colors and senses explode and the only relief I find in my day, is when I can experience this for them. Only to soon enter into the anguish of my own silent, voiceless existence. Haunted by images and memories, only to scream out to a God who won’t remove them.
While, I am not a strong man, as those closest to me have discovered through 3am phone calls sobbing, texts with hopeless endeavor, conversations that end up with me punching the ground until its indented, I believe that the Bible has some truth in it that wants to adhere to my soul. In the wrestle with his thorn God shared these words with Paul “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
And, in my agonizing silence that I live, I believe these words to be true. Every day I suffer through this, I know that God’s grace is done unto me. And, most days I want to quit, to resort back to my numb meaningless existence, I appreciate the comfort of these words, the strength of those around me, because, even in my solitude, I am not alone, despite how untrue that feels.