I said I would get back to say how this affects me personally, so here it is two weeks late.
Some Christians give what they think is good advice when people are having a tough time. “You will always find God’s peace in suffering,” they say. I say, “No.”
Even worse they say things like, “If you feel far from God, guess who moved.” The experience of many is that it was God who moved. God who hid himself. God who was absent when things were at their worst.
Even the maturest Christians (a group which does not include me) have times when God seems absent, so we can be excused, even when the lean times turn into years, or in the case of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, decades.
What has got me through is memory. I can remember God speaking clearly and acting decisively. I pray for those who have never heard God speak personally to them when they go through their dark night. It must be Hell.
Or more to the point I do not pray much at all. Sometimes I think what is the point if God is hidden, if God keeps his presence hidden, why bother? What will it achieve.
Psalm 4 verse 1 says:
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!
The RSV says Thou hast given me room when I was in distress. We need the room, we need space to vent, to cry out about injustice, to scream and to be angry.
Yes be angry.
Psalm 4 goes on to say Be angry but do not sin, and although the second part of the verse may be the most important part, do not sin, there is no escaping that here, and where it is quoted by St Paul in Ephesians 4, the Bible actually says be angry.
Do not push your anger down, well not for long, you may have to do it for a short time. But do not keep your anger pushed down and bottled up where it will fester, grow, turn into resentment and come out at inappropriate times. But when alone I let it out. I let God know how I feel. It isn’t pretty and the language is not something i’ll be publishing on this blog. But it keeps me from exploding with rage. Well mostly and the rage no longer lasts days. Part of going through my dark night has been learning to go through my anger.
God gives space to be angry. God is far more patient than anything you can imagine. I have started to come through. I am not the most vocal person in the prayer meeting, but now I do sometimes pray aloud. But it is a struggle.
I am starting to feel God’s presence again, but not in the same way. There’s no going back to the spirituality I had pre accident, God is not leading me backwards, though I long for the intimacy I had back then.
God was a god of the conscious mind back then. Now it is moving into the subconscious. I want to feel what God feels and imagine the things God imagines. Scary.
Those of ypu who have never been through the spiritual dark night, I am pleased for you, I hope you never will. It is a very uncomfortable place to be.
For those in their dark night still. Keep on doing the things you did. The Psalmist advises to make sacrifices, because that is how faith was expressed back then. Keep on trying to pray, keep on trying to read the Bible even though both are difficult. Keep on going to church even though others praising God when you are numb inside makes it feel like the worst place on Earth.
God is not absent, even though he may be hidden. He will give you the time and space you need.
Bible quotes from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.