Friday, October 15, 2010

The Dark Night

~Published in the Charleston Gazette - February 7, 2010~

 "....the endurance of darkness is preparation for great light.”
                                                            ~St. John of the Cross 

Doctors call it depression. Anyone who has ever experienced it calls it misery.

It has no specific beginning. It sneaks up on you. You suddenly realize you have no interest in things that formerly interested you; in fact, you’ve lost interest in almost everything. You aren’t physically ill, but don’t feel well just the same. You walk around in a fog. People talk to you, but you don’t hear them; you don’t answer your phone or your e-mail; you don’t want to talk to anyone or see anyone. You literally “shut down.” I call it “stopping the world and getting off.” My son says it’s wallowing. He’s right… and that’s exactly what most of us want to do when we find ourselves in this unfamiliar place!

Your friends and relatives don’t understand what’s wrong with you, but they have plenty of suggestions about how to fix you. They say, “Get out, go somewhere; get a new hairdo; buy a new outfit; you’re just bored, take a trip; join a club – meet new people.” 

They try to call you every day and, when you don’t answer, they leave their well-meaning messages; but the truth is, nothing helps! You try to read, but can’t concentrate. The music you once enjoyed is dull and you soon learn that total silence is preferable. TV doesn’t help either. Right in the middle of a movie, you realize you’ve lost the plot because your mind has wandered. To what? You don’t know; it’s just not on the movie.

Once enthusiastic about Sunday’s church service and interaction with other believers, you no longer look forward to going – in fact you have to make yourself go. During the service, your mind wanders and you don’t hear the sermon… or the selection the choir sings. When the service is over, people smile at you and you smile back in an effort to appear pleasant, but you’re eager to reach your car as fast as possible and hurry home to obscurity.

Weeks pass and you wonder if you’ll ever be normal again. You don’t even remember what normal feels like. You pray but get no answers. God seems to be ignoring you. You feel utterly and painfully alone!

In his writings about “The Dark Night of the Soul,” St. John of the Cross presents a portrait – painted from his own experience – of one who progresses successfully through the struggles of the spiritual life. The “dark night” that he describes is not abandonment by God but special consideration from Him for those who desire to cleanse and perfect their souls. With a soul purified from earthly attachments, we can advance through the much quoted but often misunderstood “dark night of the soul” into harmony with God. By accepting the despair and difficulty of this process, the soul cooperates with God and opens itself to receiving and revealing more perfectly God’s glory.

After reading St. John’s description, you wonder if that is what’s going on with you. You almost hope it is because you know that when it’s over, you will be a much better person for having endured this agony.

You finally decide there’s nothing you can do. You continue to pray but your words seem hollow. Believing that God is far away, you accept your condition. You fear you may have to abide in this state of emptiness forever. So that’s what you do. You abide.

Then one morning, you open your eyes and the sun is shining; you feel wide awake and full of energy. You turn on the music. You dance; you sing. Life matters. People matter. You want to talk to someone – to everyone you know!  Total peace moves through your heart and mind, supreme ecstasy begins to infuse your spirit, a holy presence surrounds you. Your sense of self fades away. You are a new being. The anguish and suffering within you have been transformed to profound understanding and joy.

The dark night has passed. 

This story also appears in my book Somewhere in Heaven My Mother is Smiling~


  1. I understand this. You describe it well. I have experienced it once and was misesralbe.

  2. Thanks for this peggy. You make it easy to understand.

  3. Peggy I like your story a lot. Maybe it will help other people with drpression.