Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Dark Night and a Brighter Light

No matter where you are on your faith journey, I can promise you two things.

1). It won't be easy.
2). It gets better.

Having a relationship with God does not mean you will surrounded solely by rainbows and butterflies for the rest of your life. In fact, expect the exact opposite. Expect trials. Expect mockery. Expect darkness. Expect suffering. Believe it or not, God places these obstacles in your life because they help you grow closer to Him! 

In The Dark Night of the Soul, St. John of the Cross explain the necessity of periods of suffering and darkness in our lives. They are unavoidable, he claims, and unimaginably painful. He compares such times of abandonment to an infant that has been torn from his mother's chest. Sometimes we are too preoccupied with the sensual side of faith--feeling God's presence, feeling that heartbeat of His chest against us--that we are unprepared to walk alone. For our own good, God takes us from His chest and places us on the ground so we can learn to walk on our own two feet. The journey is unfamiliar and intimidating. We make poor decisions and stumble often without the security of God's close embrace. When we are in the midst of it, we catch only glimpses of hope that inspire us momentarily to keep going. Then we are once again sucked into the abyss, too focused on our trials to recognize God's presence. We fail to understand that we do not need to feel God to know He is with us. 

If the journey to God were easy, everyone would be eager to jump aboard. But it's not. It is not easy because God requires so much more from us than mere infatuation. We must be committed to trusting Him in good times AND in bad times. Loving God isn't about feeling good. It's about being good. When God empties our impure hearts, we must trust that He does so only to refill it once again with His pure, good love. This is faith.

We must be willing, also, to understand our smallness and God's greatness. He does not need us, but we are nothing without Him. Think about air. We need it to live, but when we're breathing it, we forget how crucial it is. Only when we are drowning do we recognize our dire need for it. Similarly, suffering is sometimes necessary to awaken us to our dependence on God.

Even the Israelites, God's chosen people, were forced to wander in the desert. They suffered, but it was all a part of God's plan. He would deliver them to the Promised Land, but they had, first, to endure this wandering. They had to endure the difficult times and trust that it would get better.

Only through the rough times in our journey are we brought even closer to true union with God. We experience these dark nights for our own benefit, because, according to St. John of the Cross, "God wills to lead [us] higher." We no longer take for granted God's presence in our lives. We no longer ignore our own impurities. Instead, we experience a peace that far surpasses any passion we may have felt before our dark night, before we put ourselves completely at God's mercy. Through trial, we come to know ourselves on a deeper level, and therefore come to know God on a deeper level, as well.

The journey to God is an uphill battle. Each step is difficult. BUT....each step leads you closer and closer to the peak of the mountain--to God, Heaven, and happiness.

"Unless He turned away from them they would not learn to draw close to Him." Remember St. John's words next time the going gets tough. Remember that though the journey is difficult, if you persevere toward Christ and fight the good fight, you will be brought into a more intimate and meaningful union with God. He will deliver you in His own time; you need only trust Him and trust that everything will get better. His light will  overcome the darkness.

"For I will restore you to health, And I will heal you of your wounds," declares the Lord, "Because they have called you an outcast, saying: 'It is Zion; no one cares for her'" (Jeremiah 30:17).

No matter what afflictions you are facing, keep pursuing Christ. The journey is not easy but the destination is worth it.

P.S. I would like to thank Carolina and Maria for very graciously reminding me that today is Wednesday and blog posting day.

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