How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
– Psalm 13:1-2
I have felt a longing which is difficult to put into words and yet which I can no longer restrain from articulating. It feels as though this longing has been with me too long. It feels like years long. It feels like a longing for the clarity of day, or for a satiating breakfast after sleeping in. I long for vision to see, imagination to create and courage to love. Perhaps it’s a longing for true intimacy, a longing for God himself, to be awakened by his Word, his Church, and his work in the world.
I know that God is not silent nor distant. But I, on the other hand, am deaf and blind, hearing only quiet tremors and seeing brief glimpses of his Kingship. I am listless, visionless, and shrouded in darkness. A deafening thunder and worrisome cloudiness drown out the tremors and glimpses of God’s person and work.
Do not be fooled, the Dark Night of the Soul lasts much longer than a night.
But, despite the failed attempts, the feeling of fatherlessness, the certitude of being unable to get through to God, the dark and the nights are for our benefit. St. John of the Cross calls it “sheer grace,” singing,
O guiding night!
O night more lovely than the dawn!
O night that has united
the Love with His beloved,
Transforming the beloved in her Lover
Prolonged night and darkness are meant to strip away the distractions that provide us with illusions of light and day—illusions of vision and hearing. The sights and sounds that we credit as meaning-giving are revealed for what they are—illusions. But with time, the illusions no longer satisfy the depths of our longing, or better, we realize that they never have.
So, God lovingly draws us into the dark night of the soul that we may see and hear him more clearly. And together with the Psalmist, we pray:
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
– Psalm 13:5-6