Long, dark night of the soul

Readings: Psalm 42; Zechariah 8:1-17; Matthew 8:14-17, 28-34

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God…

When shall I come and behold the face of God?

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God. Psalm 42:1, 11


Not many experience it, and those who ask for the experience don’t know what they seek. It is the presence of an absence so profound that it defies explanation or sufficient articulation. A few saints and mystics have written about their long dark night, but I’d guess that most who go through that spiritual desert haven’t put pen to paper or led seminars to get the word out. It’s a path walked without the benefit of another person’s company and counsel. It’s a trek most of the faithful would rather not take, perhaps.

What happens when we can’t find a light to guide us home? When prayer fails, where do we turn? When none of our friends see what’s happening, because we can’t explain it or they can’t understand it, what is next?

I’m not far enough along my journey of faith to stumble into the long dark night. I’m not sure I will ever experience it in this life, and I’m not sure I want to. But I’ve been around long enough to know that spiritual growth in loving God, neighbor, and self comes at a significant cost. Who I am has to die for me to become who I am going to be – transformation feels like death before it feels like new life.

Isn’t that what this walk to Bethlehem is? A venture into the unknown, seeking the face of God without knowing what it might look like. Just a longing and a dark road that leads to God-With-Us, angelic choirs, and the light of the world. Isn’t that worth whatever journey my disquieted soul must take?

Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

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I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

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