Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Midweek Lenten Meditation on the "Dark Night" (not the Dark Kinght)

Satan answered the Lord, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” Job 1:9-11 

St. John of the Cross was one of the most stunning mystics of the Christian faith who wrote on the "dark night of the soul." He believed that this wasn’t due to unfortunate circumstances in life, but it was a state that mature Christians ought to seek. In that way, we learn to love God not because of what God gives us, but simply because of who God is

As he wrote,
The soul that is attached to anything however much good there may be in it, will not arrive at the liberty of divine union. For whether it be a strong wire rope or a slender and delicate thread that holds the bird, it matters not, if it really holds it fast; for, until the cord be broken the bird cannot fly.

In the end, the Christian life is not about “me, me, me.” It is about loving God. Through suffering (whether chosen or not), through pursuing the “dark night of the soul,” our love becomes purified.

The contemporary author, Philip Yancey, has written a similar reflection to St. John’s understanding of the dark night of the soul:
God wants us to choose to love him freely, even when that choice involves pain, because we are committed to him, not to our own good feelings and rewards. He wants us to cleave to him, as Job did, even when we have every reason to deny him hotly. That, I believe, is the central message of Job. Satan had taunted God with the accusation that humans are not truly free. Was Job being faithful simply because God had allowed him a prosperous life? Job's fiery trials proved the answer beyond doubt. Job clung to God's justice when he was the best example in history of God's apparent injustice. He did not seek the Giver because of his gifts; when all gifts were removed he still sought the Giver. 
 Are you in a dark night of the soul? Perhaps this is the the beginning of a prayer: "Gracious Lord, thank you for the ways you have used suffering in my life, always for the good."

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