We all struggle with doubt in our lives. Whether it is really a worry over a challenge we are facing or second guessing a choice we’ve made, doubt has a way of creeping into our days.
But sometimes, people struggle with doubting their faith. While the some might consider it a path towards sin or the devil whispering seductive lies, the long dark night of the soul is more complicated.
What is the Long Dark Night of the Soul?
Some have even entered into what is called the Dark Night of the Soul, a period of time when doubt is magnified and you might not even sense there is a God.
This was first mentioned by St. John of the Cross, but even modern day religious like Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta have written of their suffering.
That we would not have a dark chasm that allowed doubts to be magnified and faith to either die or flourish.
When You Might Be Entering the Long Dark Night of the Soul
I believe that many individuals experience what they may consider the long dark night of the soul. Any type of mental, emotional, or spiritual anguish is labeled that way by some individuals.
However, one thing that religious experts agree upon is that this time is not the same as depression. With depression, all of our relationships are out of kilter. With the Long Dark Night of the Soul, it is primarily our relationship with God that seems to be off balance.
As a child, I was taught the Catholic faith. Through my entire life, I have never left the Catholic Church. I sense a truth which keeps me there.
However, I have experienced periods more recently where doubt creeps in. I feel disconnected from God and His Grace. I am still discerning whether it is an entry into this purification period or the side effect of sin in my life (as sin can separate us from God as well.)
Thankfully, the second option can be remedied through actively seeking forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Coupled with changing my actions and thoughts to be on the path God wants me to walk, I could find the period of disconnect come to a close. Or, it could be just one part of the path of spiritual purification.
Why The Long Dark Night of the Soul Can Be Good
Feeling disconnected from God is not something you may want to experience. However, that doesn’t make it a bad thing.
Rather, this time period is one of opportunity.
This time of darkness is one where you can better die to self.
In St. John’s writing he talks about our need to release the shackles holding us down. When we pass through a purification of our sensual and spiritual appetites we become open to God alone in love. After all, how can we fully embrace God’s love when our selfish desires get in the way?
And, selfishness is known to rear its ugly head a lot! Even in a life of sacrifice for my family, I have times when my ‘inner toddler’ showing up demanding to feed the self-centeredness.
Now, this process is not just so you can come out feeling more in love with God than when you entered it. Rather, it helps you to banish unhealthy attachments in our lives so that we can continue walking the path to sainthood. Because we are all called to be saints and that happens through our lives here on Earth.
Resources on The Long Dark Night of the Soul
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St. John of the Cross for BeginnersThe Collected Works of St. John of the CrossFire Within: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and the Gospel-On PrayerInterior CastleThe Autobiography of St. Teresa Of Avila: By St. Teresa Of Avila – IllustratedThe Life of Saint Teresa of Avila by Herself (Penguin Classics)The Way of Perfection (Dover Thrift Editions)Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of CalcuttaWhere There Is Love, There Is God: Her Path to Closer Union with God and Greater Love for OthersIntroduction to the Devout Life, 400th Anniversary EditionThe Three Conversions in the Spiritual LifeCatechism of the Catholic Church: Complete and UpdatedCompendium : Catechism of the Catholic Church
Have you or someone in your life experienced a dark night of the soul?
How does God call you to die to self?