“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”
Romans 8:26-28 (The Message)
“26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Roman 8:26-28 (NIV)
If you can’t tell by today’s scripture, or the title, this post is going to be a bit melancholy. I told you at the beginning of this series (40 Day Lent Journey) that I was going to be excavating some not so pretty and shiny areas of my life and faith journey. My hope, in doing so, is that I can re-ignite my spiritual passion, deepen my faith, and do some needed soul restoration. I also hope that by sharing this journey, God will work through my words to reach others who are in similar situations of the soul; broken, doubting, angry, ambivalent, hurting, lost, or anywhere in-between, bringing hope and restoration.
What has happened in the 26 days I have been on the journey so far?
I have been amazed at the ways God has spoken to me through his Word, and begun the needed excavation and restoration of my mind, body, and soul. I have had words of encouragement not only for myself from others, but also that God is working in similar ways with those who are sharing in this journey. It gives me great hope and I give all glory to God for the work he is doing.
However, if you have ever done restoration work, or seen something excavated, or watched a make-over show, you know that before the reveal of the newly restored/made-over person or item, there is the time of having to strip things down and clean them up. Its dirty work. It often uncovers ugliness and things that have been lurking unseen beneath the surface. It is a process that involves tedious effort and real digging, scraping, peeling, and prying. If it is not done however, and you just slap a cover or new coat of paint on, eventually there will be cracks, creases, and possibly more damage that will make its way through in time.
At just past the mid-point of this journey, I find myself knee-deep and covered up to my elbows in the grime God is helping me uncover in my soul restoration. It’s been tough work, and I haven’t even been doing the heavy lifting. God has. While there have been great moments of joy, insight, and celebration as I have unearthed something beautiful, I am still digging, and still uncovering; having to work through the ugly to get the beautiful.
This week has been especially tough, and I can’t even give a specific reason, other than knowing it is part of the process. I am weary; soul weary.
If I were writing these words on paper, the words might be smeared from a tear or two. I know that when my soul gets to this place, sometimes the only and best thing I can do is to let the tears flow, and cleanse and renew. I pray by crying. As the scripture says, the spirit intercedes with groans on my behalf. God knows what I am saying, even when words fail, and all I have to offer is tears.
I knew coming into this journey that I was in the midst of what many call, a dark night of the soul. I knew that this would not be a pain-free journey, nor an easy one. I knew I would need to rely on God’s strength, and His provision of the Holy Spirit’s comfort to see me through. I knew there would be times of darkness, doubt, confusion, anger, and pain. I knew God wouldn’t leave me alone as I waded and waited through these times. Experiencing a dark night of the soul does not mean that I have lost my faith and left God, but rather that, as I struggle with the restoration of my soul, I struggle, and I often FEEL alone.
The term, dark night of the soul, comes from a 16th-century Spanish poet and Roman Catholic priest, Saint John of the Cross. Here is an excerpt from the Wikipedia page:
“The term “dark night (of the soul)” is used in Christianity for a spiritual crisis in a journey towards union with God, like that described by Saint John of the Cross.
Typically for a believer in the dark night of the soul, spiritual disciplines (such as prayer and consistent devotion to God) suddenly seem to lose all their experiential value; traditional prayer is extremely difficult and unrewarding for an extended period of time during this “dark night.” The individual may feel as though God has suddenly abandoned them or that his or her prayer life has collapsed. It is important to note however that the presence of doubt is not tantamount to abandonment—as there is a strong Biblical tradition of authentic confusion before God. Psalms 13, 22, and 44 display King David, the ‘man after God’s own heart’ undergoing serious confusion before and anguish with God, yet this is not condemned or mentioned as being unfaithful, but rather as the only measure of faith that David could have in the face of such withering apparent abandonment.
Rather than resulting in permanent devastation, the dark night is regarded by mystics and others as a blessing in disguise, whereby the individual is stripped (in the dark night of the senses) of the spiritual ecstasy associated with acts of virtue. Although individuals may for a time seem to outwardly decline in their practices of virtue, in reality they become more virtuous, as they are being virtuous less for the spiritual rewards (ecstasies in the cases of the first night) obtained and more out of a true love for God. It is this purgatory, a purgation of the soul, that brings purity and union with God.”
As I make my way through, and hopefully out of this dark night, I am being drawn closer to God and the person He has designed and called me to be. As I purge the ugly from my soul, I find it slowly restored to a work of beauty and grace. I am becoming a masterpiece of God.
For now, I journey on, endeavoring to excavate with God’s leading and help. I take comfort in the spirit, knowing God is waiting for me to continue on, as he honors his promise to work good in and through my life.
I pray for those who are on a similar journey, or experiencing their own dark night of the soul. Stay the course, and let God guide you.
As for me, I will be taking a small break this “weekend” to rest my soul. I am going to read some Scripture and other blogs sharing hope, play with my son, hang out with the hubs, and maybe go on a couple dates; one with a friend I am missing like crazy, and the other with Aaron (aka the hubs!) to see the Hunger Games. I will be posting Days 27 & 28, but they will be short and include some poetry I have previously written. I hope you will indulge me this break with understanding! Thanks for bearing with me on this darker post.
I hope you will find time to rest this weekend, and then continue on the journey with me. Let me leave you with some hope:
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13 (NIV)
*If you want to read more about the dark night of the soul, I came across a blogger over at Dark Night of the Soul: When the only way is up, who covers this in depth. I am not saying I agree with everything shared on this site, but it is another insight.*