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Dark Night of the Soul

The 'dark night of the soul' is a very specific thing with a specific purpose. It is an experience of isolation from the world around you whilst you are hidden within the silent soul of God. It transforms us.

Despite being as hopeful as usual at the beginning of last year, it brought stresses and strains that we did not anticipate. Like the ups and downs of a roller coaster, too many times we couldn’t quite grasp things coming “out of left field”… but we also birthed the new, took ground, and won amazing battles. Unexpected. Confusing. Surprising. Extraordinary.

However, many of us lived through mystery. We experienced the disconnection of a ‘dark night of the soul’ with impossible odds and ridiculous challenges, without knowing that disconnection has a purpose. It isn’t as vague as it seems. It’s intensely precise. Through experiencing disconnection we recognise connection.

The dark night of the soul is a very specific thing with a specific purpose.

The ‘dark night of the soul’ is not depression, but we do feel unexplained sadness. It is not anxiety, but we do feel friction. It is not an obsession, but we do feel out of focus. It doesn’t get fixed; it transforms us.

In contemporary use, the “dark night of the soul” describes a crisis of faith or the painful despair and fear associated with the difficulties of life, and although apt, it differs significantly from the original meaning and context of the phrase.

In his treatise Noche Oscura, the 16th-century mystic poet St. John of the Cross describes The Dark Night of the Soul as a phase of passive purification of the spirit, when everything seems dark and lost, that follows after the illumination phase, in which God’s presence is felt but is not yet stable. It comes just before revelation and the new life that is needed. The breakdown before the breakthrough. It is an annihilation of all that you believed in and thought that you were in order to renew your soul – renewing your mind, will, and emotions.

It is an experience of isolation from the world around you whilst you are hidden within the silent soul of God. During times of such hiddenness, life can seem meaningless. Imagine what that caterpillar is feeling! You are in metamorphosis. You are hidden within His cocoon while you shed off the old and search for the new. It is a place of transformation.

It is a stage of growth at a fundamental core level between you and God, and no one can enter that space. Just as an outside force cannot break open the cocoon without destroying the butterfly. Your strength is built in that secret place.

Do not despise the ‘pupa’, it is a very valuable stage of growth that you cannot do without. It is a time of trusting what you know, rather than what you feel.

Be gentle, kind and quiet with yourself. You will come out of the ‘dark night’ in a form perfectly designed for a new way of life.

Presence – Illumination – Purification – Revelation

And all the while, we never stop painting through this growth. God is so good; He keeps the paint flowing.

The canvas remains His resting place.

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