On Those Days When You Feel Empty…
Lucinda Secrest McDowell
- I’m poured out like water.
- All my bones have fallen apart.
- My heart is like wax; it melts inside me.
- My strength is dried up like a piece of broken pottery. Psalm 22.14-15
This term, first mentioned by 16th century St. John of the Cross, has come to mean a season when one senses the total absence of God. Our prayers lack feeling and imagination. No insights carry us through the day; no sense of the holy emerges. It is an experience of dryness, darkness and emptiness.
And it can come to anyone. Even a saint.
A few years ago the world was shocked to learn, through the publication of her private letters, that Mother Teresa of Calcutta experienced a dark night of the soul, which tormented her even in the midst of her amazing ministry to the poorest of the poor. “Over time, a spiritual adviser helped Teresa realize that her feelings of abandonment only increased her understanding of the people she helped. Ultimately, she identified her suffering with that of Jesus, which helped her to accept it.”
The psalmist in today’s verse is experiencing deep emotional and spiritual trauma which manifests itself in his body as well, “All my bones have fallen apart.” One cannot read very far in Psalm 22 without realizing that these are the prophetic words of Christ’s experience on the cross. No other Old Testament passage provides such a full picture of His suffering, beginning in dark anguish and ending in soaring hope.
But even when Jesus experienced a life “poured out like water,” His passion was still to do the will of His Father, no matter how much it hurt, for the greater glory that would come.
If you are suffering, God is still at work in your life. In your soul.
My friend Cecil knows about dark nights: “For Christians, those dark times may be a time for us to look deeply within ourselves and to examine our hearts. They may push us to overcome our complacency or to become aware of our dependency on God, or make us yearn for an even deeper commitment. Because of my period of darkness, I’ve come to realize that whether I sense the divine presence or I don’t, it doesn’t say anything about the Lord. When we’ve examined our hearts and believe we’re as close to God as we know how to be, yet we have no sense of His presence, it may mean God is at our side, silently watching over us and always caring for us.” (Cecil Murphey, “Knowing God, Knowing Myself,”)
How do we find our way back into the joy of God’s presence?
“What do we do in the dark night? We do nothing,” suggests John Ortberg. “We wait. We remember that we are not God. We hold on. We ask for help. We do less. We resign from things, we rest more, we stop going to church, we ask somebody else to pray because we can’t. We let go of our need to hurry through it. You can’t run in the dark.” (John Ortberg, “Soul Keeping,”)
Friend, if these words in our Lenten devotion today resonate deep within your soul, may I assure you that God knows. He is with you and will never forsake you. And I am spending time in prayer this week for all who feel utterly poured out….
“Holy Spirit, Light divine,
shine upon this heart of mine;
Chase the shades of night away,
Turn my darkness into day.”
(hymn “Holy Spirit, Light Divine,”Andrew Reed, 1817)
under the mercy, Cindy
©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
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