Christianity is based on relationship – with God and with others. Like all relationships, disillusionment will challenge even the strongest of souls. St. John of the Cross coined the phrase the dark night of the soul to describe the struggle and despair when faith is dry, prayer brings no consolation, and even the existence of God is questioned. The great spiritual writers describe the dark night of the soul as a time of purification, though this brings little comfort to someone who is spiritually depressed. Many of our greatest saints have experienced this darkest of nights. including Mother Teresa of Calcutta and St. Thérèse of Lisieux.
As with a love relationship, we cannot expect to remain in a honeymoon stage of faith. After a deeply spiritual time of retreat, we have to return to the messiness of everyday life. After an intense time of formation, we go forth to live our faith in action only to find our early ideals quickly shattered. Or maybe lethargy and boredom slowly creeps into our body and soul and drains us of all passion, drive and energy.
As with a love relationship, we need to pray for patience and perseverance during the dry times. We need to remind ourselves of why we fell in love (believed) in the first place. We have to work hard at nurturing our faith relationship when the warm fuzzies and emotional highs are gone. We have to keep the lines of communication (prayer) open – especially when we don’t feel like talking anymore. And, we should seek help from trained spiritual guides and counsellors.
These words ring of platitudes, and I apologize. A few words cannot do justice to the complexity of this topic, and words seldom bring comfort to the soul that is suffering through the dark night. Sometimes all we can do is wait and hope for the light of day to come soon. And, with it, the true joy of a stronger and more mature faith.