The most significant transformations that occur in our lives are often hidden by pain, as God carefully and purposefully carves our souls into His form. Painful events, shocking discoveries, and dark valleys offer us the choice to either trust God’s Word or ignore it. This past year, I wrestled with some of the deepest struggles I have ever encountered. I clung to resentments, clutched for control, ached with anxieties, longed for rest, and desired relief. Perhaps you, too, have had challenges, experienced anguish, and encountered a loss of hope. Perhaps you have felt that God appears absent, silent, unfair, and at times downright mean. Remember, significant transformations occur in our lives when we feel invisible or in pain or when God seems hidden.
As we begin a new year, I offer you a thought that may free you; after all, resolutions can be so binding. And when we fail to live up to such grand resolves, it just stinks. We focus on self-failure, self-loathing, self-whatever—forgetting to focus on what is eternal. Years ago, I read an excellent book titled The Dark Night of the Soul, by Dr. Gerald G. May. He writes of St. John of the Cross and Mother Teresa and shares profound insights from their lives. He writes: “When people speak of going through a dark night of the soul, they usually mean they’re experiencing bad things.” He continues: “A related misunderstanding is that the dark night is something that occurs once in a lifetime, that one gets through it and moves on to some permanent state of realized union and spiritual ecstasy.” Later, he writes that some habits, like “zealous self-sacrifice, may appear admirable on the surface, but devour us interiorly. . . . We cling to things, people, beliefs, and behaviors not because we love them, but because we are terrified of losing them.”[ref]Gerald G. May, The Dark Night of the Soul: A Psychiatrist Explores the Connection between Darkness and Spiritual Growth (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2004), 1, 9, 60.[/ref] (OUCH!)
What I’ve not shared before is my terror of releasing all of my will to God’s will. I’ve been terrified to let go of self-justifications, an unforgiving spirit, and impatience with God—a desire for God to hurry up or an attitude for God to step aside and let me help Him hurry up.
How about you? Does this resonate within your soul? Though we’re all different, we share the universal struggle of dying to self. We struggle to accept the grace made available to us by Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection. So, as we enter 2012, let’s set our focus on knowing the truth and allowing it to set us free.
We just celebrated the birth of Christ. Recall the exchange between the angel Gabriel and Mary (Luke 1:26–38). Pay careful attention to Gabriel’s encouraging words to Mary. These words reveal what must happen within us, so that we will be transformed for eternity—when our dark nights of the soul become noonday bright. I cling to the words: “Do not be afraid” (1:30), “For nothing will be impossible with God” (1:37), and to Mary’s answer: “Behold the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word” (1:38). For us all, as bondslaves of the Lord, fear not, and may God guide you in grace with His plan and His truth.
Oh, and happy New Year!