Thoughts on the Dark Night


Douglas Steere wrote some very helpful books in the last century. Below is a quotation from one of them on the theme of the dark night of the soul that I found helpful.

“Teresa of Avila and her great companion, John of the Cross, have both written of a stage on the mystic way known as the dark night of the soul, where all the light of warmth and joy in their spiritual lives seemed quenched, and where in their desolation they seemed destined to go on wearily plodding through the darkness, forsaken by every comfort and consolation, and despairing of ever finding light again. To those who flung themselves on God and went on, however, they give ardent testimony that this state passed away and a new sense of their utter reliance on Him and His bounty emerged. Now they were tested. Now they knew at first hand that nothing, “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38, 39). Until this has taken place the estate of rapture is still young and [immature] and in a way is not yet theirs. Only as they work through it, incorporate it, lose it, and by faithfulness regain it again do the deeper stages of contemplation come to them.” (Steere, Douglas. Work & Contemplation. New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, p. 133-34).

It seems absurd or at least self-congratulating to say that this resonates. So much of my recent journey for so long, probably mostly because of my own weakness and dullness, has felt dark to me. More recently, perhaps as a fruit of the level of personal and relational honesty that has come from the counseling process I’ve been in since April 2008, I have felt an occasional lightness, freedom, peacefulness, hopefulness and energy that most definitely does not feel sourced in myself. It feels like something rising up from deeper places within me where God has come to be more at home through Christ and by the Spirit. (I said this sounds a little arrogant, but it’s how I feel and what it seems like to me).

I feel like God had to prove, by experience, that nothing could separate me from His love by allowing them all to try to do just that. It hasn’t been much fun (which puts it in the mildest possible language). This sense of my experience of God being so easily lost has been a cause of humble longing for greater and simpler dependence on Him. There is a subtle shift from focusing on my experience of God towards my experience of God. The words are exactly the same but the emphasis is completely different.

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Making Room For Peace


An edited journal excerpt from June 1991

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).”

I’ve been reading more in The Dark Night of the Soul by John of the Cross. The page I started with was so rich that I never turned it.

Simply put, he suggested that when God seeks to put within us a deep peace that is truly beyond our comprehension, He has to remove all traces of the peace that we can sense. When my circumstances are anything but peaceful, when conflict enters my life, when my heart is tempted to worry and concern, this is the very place where I can receive a peace that transcends all understanding.

Paul is not talking theoretically. He speaks with credibility from his prison cell. He isn’t talking about peace from a seat on the beach. He is talking about peace from a no-peace environment.

It seems God will not give us a peace beyond understanding until he removes the peace that we have come to understand. It may well be when I feel the least peace that I have opportunity to learn the deepest sort of peace in God.

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A Good Word: Spiritual Sunrise After a Dark Night


“Teresa of Avila and her great companion, John of the Cross, have both written of a stage on the [journey] known as the dark night of the soul, where all the light of warmth and joy in their spiritual lives seemed quenched, and where in their desolation they seemed destined to go on wearily plodding through the darkness, forsaken by every comfort and consolation, and despairing of ever finding light again. To those who flung themselves on God and went on, however, they give ardent testimony that this state passed away and a new sense of their utter reliance on Him and His bounty emerged. Now they were tested. Now they knew at first hand that nothing, “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38, 39). Until this has taken place the estate of rapture is still young and [immature] and in a way is not yet theirs. Only as they work through it, incorporate it, lose it, and by faithfulness regain it again do the deeper stages of contemplation come to them.” (Steere, Douglas. Work & Contemplation. New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, p. 133-34).

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