I have often heard people talk of having a “dark night of the soul” when referring to periods of struggle and pain. Some simply say they are in a “dark place.” I have been in those places personally and know people who are in that place as I write this. In these times, well-meaning people will try to offer simplistic cures or remedies. There are none. Darkness is a reality in the human experience, but it is not a place absent of God. In Second Corinthians, the apostle Paul uses the phrase “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” How can one be sorrowful, yet rejoicing? Because God is still present and that is always a joyful thing. Let me be clear that I am not speaking of giddy, bubbly, “skip in your step” kind of joy–the kind often seen on Sunday morning when the crowd is full of shallow, pasted on “just loving Jesus” smiles. I am talking about the kind of joy that provides a bedrock, a foundation that supports someone’s very being when it can’t support itself. The kind of joy that can cry out, “Where are you God?” while knowing God is still loving and good. It is the joy in knowing God is present even when it feels like He has abandoned. Sound familiar? I hope it does because this was experienced by the only one capable of providing that kind of joy: Jesus.
Jesus was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). Jesus understands pain, sorrow, grief, abandonment, and loneliness. At the end of his earthly life, he enjoyed a meal with his closest friends as most of us would likely do. Immediately afterword, his soul was “sorrowful, even to death” as he prayed for God to find another way (Matthew 26:36ff). And his friends slept. Really? Yes, they slept. Oh, the loneliness! For those in the darkness, the pain of no one understanding just makes the heaviness of darkness at times unbearable to carry. It is a dreadful place of loneliness. How does everyone else carry on when I can’t seem to get out of bed, much less get one foot to step in front of the other?
Even on the cross, Jesus cries, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). When darkness engulfs, we feel abandoned by God himself. This feeling is okay, though many well-meaning Christians may, in their ignorance, say otherwise. The feeling doesn’t make it true. Cry out to God and tell him about your pain. He knows what it is like to feel abandoned by friends and God the Father.
Are you experiencing a dark night of your soul and feeling abandoned by friends and God?
Remember, Jesus is acquainted with grief and sorrow. Nothing surprises Him. Jesus gets it; he’s been there and he ‘s still there in the depths of your darkness. He uses it to show himself in the deepest places within you.
It is His heart fusing itself with your heart. And it’s a beautiful and joyful thing.