“John’s answer [John of the Cross] is not simple, but in the simplest possible terms, he says that the dark night is God’s best gift to you, intended for your liberation. It is about freeing you from your ideas about God, your fears about God, your attachment to all the benefits you have been promised for believing in God, your devotion to the spiritual practices that are supposed to make you feel closer to God, your dedication to doing and believing all the right things about God, your positive and negative evaluations of yourself as a believer in God, your tactics for manipulating God, and your sure cures for doubting God. All of these are substitutes for God, John says. They all get in God’s way. The late Gerald May, who wrote his own book about John, called them addictions. In many cases, he said, we should give thanks for them, because it is our addiction to some God substitute or another that finally brings us to our knees, by helping us to realize how far we have strayed from our heart’s true desire. …Those who have come through dark nights of their own, not just once but over and over again, often cannot find the words to say why they would not trade those nights for anything. ‘Yes, they were nights of great loss. Yes, the soul suffered from fearful subtraction. Yes, a great emptiness opened up where I had stored all my spiritual treasures, and yet.’ And yet what? ‘And yet what remained when everything else was gone was more real than anything I could have imagined. I was no longer apart from what I sought; I was part of it, or in it. I’m sorry I can’t say it any better than that, There was no place else I wanted to be.’” Barbara Brown Taylor
“Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God
shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator
in doing what is right.”
1 Peter 4:19
Moving From Head to Heart
- Do you see pain, loss and confusion as experiences God uses to make you more mature, loving, wise?
- Is it possible that in your life, your family, your nation–God is taking away idols, false assumptions, the sense of control–so that some profound “emptiness” can open up for you and others?
- The Biblical idea that one must go down to go up (downward mobility) is commonplace. As you read these words, do you feel like you’re “going down” (perhaps “for the count”)? Can you trust God in that now, even though you’re hurting and confused?
Abba, meet me in my pain. Shape me. Better me.
For more: Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor
Thanks for reading/sharing my blog! – Bill
“I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again….” Barbara Brown Taylor
“When we have hit bottom and are emptied of all we thought important to us, then we truly pray, truly become humble and detached, and live in the bright darkness of faith. In the midst of the emptying we know that God has not deserted us. He has merely removed the obstacles keeping us from a deeper union with Him. Actually we are closer to God than ever before, although we are deprived of the consolations that we once associated with our spirituality. What we thought was communion with Him was really a hindrance to that communion. …The theology of the dark night is simplicity itself. God strips us of natural delights and spiritual consolations in order to enter more fully into our hearts.” Brennan Manning
“The path of descent is the path of transformation. Darkness, failure, relapse, death, and woundedness are our primary teachers, rather than ideas or doctrines.” Richard Rohr
“…God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.” Hebrews 12:10
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- We might think we want a “deeper union with God” until we learn what God does to “remove obstacles” that hinder that. He may empty us of “all we thought important”, and leave us feeling deserted and deprived of pleasures we depend on. Our usual consolation in God’s presence and gifts may evaporate. Is your desire for deeper union with God greater than your desire to escape this painful “path of transformation?”
- Imagine how confusing and unpleasant this can be, especially for someone who is unaware of this necessity. Are you aware of the likelihood that such an experience is in your future? If you minister to others, are you warning them?
- We have probably learned and perhaps teach others that learning “doctrines” is the key to spiritual formation. Is this your approach? Can you see why this approach is not enough in itself? If so, what are the implications for you? For your ministry?
Abba, help me to want you more than the other things that compete for your place. Sustain me in the journey to deeper union with you.
For More: The Signature of Jesus by Brennan Manning
These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)
“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”