I find it disturbing that Protestant circles do not generally deal with what St. John of the Cross coined “the dark night of the soul.” In my search for someone who has lived with the pain of God’s silence – and somehow borne it – I have found that Catholicism and Orthodoxy make provision for this occurrence; such teaching even seems to have the expectation that every believer will face, even if fleetingly, the deafening sound of Heaven’s closing doors.
This is why I write this blog. I have within me a determination to be honest about my experience. Yet, at the same time, I fear exposure. Strangely, it is not the comment from unbelievers which gives me pause. Though God has placed me within the desert, I have no doubt that there is reason for it. My faith is not shaken by lack of faith in another. No. What worries me are those who share the same faith. Will you, gentle reader, look upon me through skeptical eyes when you see my face drawn with lack of sleep? Will you assume that I have turned from Him? Will you offer to walk with me, only to withdraw when you find the gaping precipice?
It is you, dear Christian, whom I fear. You are my sister, my brother, the kindred of my heart. To bear your shunning or your wonderment would add insult to the very real injury of God’s silence. Yes, it wounds. I see clearly now how vital and life-giving the Word of our Lord is. We are upheld, sustained, by it. Lest you rush to offer consolation, please know that I do not seek your words to fill the gap left by His. I want only your acceptance. Know that I love Him. Know that I pour myself out to Him. Do not question me.
“Examine me, O LORD, and try me; Test my mind and my heart.” – Psalm 26:2 (NKJV)
I have a picture within my mind: I see a desert. Wave after wave of dunes. I sit upon a large rock, its surface rough and unhewn by human hands. In the midst of this desolation, a temple sits. Its doors are closed, and remain thus. I am determined to sit right here, spirit attuned for the slightest hint of movement. Ears perked for the squeak of the hinge.
These are the questions I daily, momently, face: how does one worship God when the flow of intimacy has slacked? Can it be a one-way street? Is this what they mean by “sacrifice of praise?” Do I now abandon belief, when it looks most insane to cling to it? Or is this when genuine faith is forged?
Do I even know what faith is? Up until now, it’s been largely easy. I did my research. I made my intellectual assent. I eventually chose to give Him all I had. I have seen with my own eyes evidence of His working. I have heard the gentle whisper of His voice. What about now? When He has ceased to meet my expectations? When we aren’t “doing” this thing the way we’ve done it before?
“The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?” – Psalm 27:1 (NKJV)
Do I believe that? I answer with an unequivocal “YES.” What I fear is to be abandoned by Him. That is all. Even though I may fret and worry over others’ opinions, even though my enemy may try to give me great fright, the brass tacks of the thing is that the most fearsome, terrifying, lonely prospect is to never be within the Presence of God again. This is all that matters. I stand upon the unshakable belief that, though I cannot feel Him, He is there. HE IS THERE.
For what is in the desert by day, if not unending light?
“To You, O LORD, I call; My rock, do not be deaf to me. For if You are silent to me, I will become like those who go down to the pit. Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry to You for help, When I lift up my hands toward Your holy (sanctuary.” – Psalm 28:1-2 (NKJV)
Do you read that? Prayer in the midst of silence.
I lift my hands, my heart, my life to Him. Now, in this moment, I see clearly how great and deep my need for Him is. If I must live in the daily recognition of knowing that I take not one step without His strength, forever seeing my weakness laid out before me, then so be it.
I will not turn from Him.