Saturday, March 03, 2007

Dark Night of the Soul

Marie over at Spirituality and Mysticism has posted a insightful meditation on the need to go through dark times--times that take away our comfort and security--in order to mature.

I think this is one of the ideas behind Lent that so many don't see. "Giving something up" is not some sort of futile exercise in suffering for its own sake, but it is to help us begin to let go of our comforts and lean on God.

The modern tendency to chase away all distress at any cost, is a false spirituality--one of the so-called "angels of light" which are really demons in disguise set to give us the false security of comfort in this life, inhibit our spiritual and personal growth, and prevent us from becoming holy enough to enjoy the Presence of the Perfect God in the next life.

If we are always spared from all discomfort, we will never make the necessary changes to advance spiritually and personally; we will remain an infant, demanding that our needs be met at the cost of our own, and others' spiritual growth.

This idea of the necessity of suffering, although unpopular in many circles today, is an ancient one. Mystics in many religions have recognized the necessity of suffering to change and growth.

Ancient myths talk about the need sometimes to "descend into the underworld", to live in darkness for a while, to sit in ashes so as to move to a deeper place inside of life; the mystics talk about "dark nights of the soul" as being necessary to bring about maturity; Ignatius of Loyola teaches that there is a place for both "consolation" and "desolation" in our lives; the philosopher, Karl Jaspers, suggests that the journey to full maturity demands that we sometimes journey in "the norm of night" and not just in "the norm of day"; the Jewish scriptures assure us that certain deep things can only happen to the soul when it is helpless and exposed in "the desert" or "the wilderness" and that sometimes, like Jonah, we need to be carried to some place where we'd rather not go "in the dark belly of the whale"; and, perhaps most challenging of all, we see that Jesus was only brought to full compassion through "sweating blood in Gethsemane" and then dying a humiliating death on the cross.
The entire original is worth reading, especially during Lent.

Christianity is one of the ancient religions which recognizes the reality and necessity of suffering in an imperfect world.

All things work together for good, for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.

~Romans 8:28


Micki said...

A good choice of words....discomfort and suffering. Love the idea of changing to enrich our spiritual growth. I don't think anyone but the saints actually want suffering...but it's always good to remember the benefits of it.

Staying in Balance said...


Autumn said...

Thank you for your insight, and such a helpful entry!

AutumnRose xx

Anonymous said...

Dymphna - that was both beautiful and edifying! I have sent a link to my son's GF who is in RCIA.

Staying in Balance said...

Thank you, Autumn and Angela. It is nice to know that someone reads and benefits from the blog.

Anonymous said...

I think what is meant in the piece by Ron is also about spiritual darkness.....The moments we all go through at different times.

The Saints and Mystics of the Catholic Church in days gone past also suffered this way but unlike us they had NO prozac! Where would we be without their masterful works...St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, St Edith Stein and so many more.

Please keep me in your prayers. I am suffering a great deal of pain in my face which has my Doctor and Dentist totally confused as it has nothing to do with my teeth. It is agonizing. Thankyou.


Staying in Balance said...

Prayers, Marie!

mk said...

damn- i'm right there. (can u cuss in the under world?) seriously, i agree, and it was a great post. i am laid up in pain, not allowed to lay down, be=athe etc.....can only read w/ one hand so thats hard to do. i am right there.

Innocent said...

Really profound!

Please pray for me.

P.S. Pardon me for asking, but I am curious because of the title. Did you ever go through depression? If so, how did God reach out to you and help you out? I'm not asking this merely out of curiosity. I'm feeling pretty down these days.

Yours in Christ,

Dymphna's favorite quotes

"Slavery ended in medieval Europe only because the church extended its sacraments to all slaves and then managed to impose a ban on the enslavement of Christians (and of Jews). Within the context of medieval Europe, that prohibition was effectively a rule of universal abolition. "— Rodney Stark

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