PARADOXICAL

The faith chronicles

Monday, March 10, 2014

 

Lent 2014 reflections: Day 5: Dark night


It's a comfort to know that even saintly people -- especially saintly people -- get their version of the Christian blues, or dark night of the soul, Christianity's version of depression that is non-clinical. Maybe it's safe to describe it as some kind of psychospiritual torment that is especially impossible to define medically and psychiatrically, for empirical tests would give normal results.

If these obviously good people go through hell on earth, how much more a sinner like me?

In my life as a charismatic, I noticed that the instances of going through the night of the soul are quite numerous compared to when I wasn't that active in Church. Further, I notice that these attacks happen whenever there's some major spiritual shift happening, like an upcoming Empowered Christian Life Program or a Young Adults activity. It's as though I was being invited to suffer again and again, to sacrifice for a just cause.

Needless to say, a dark night is unbearable. I never welcome it, though I have an internal barometer to detect it when it is about to come: I get a sense similar to what I feel whenever a new school year is about to start. It's both exciting and fearsome. Like entering a new grade, it feels like being invited yet again to step up, to level up, in the spiritual journey. I know the night is beneficial in the long run, but it is always a terrible experience to go through.

Let me make a distinction, though, for fear I might be misinterpreted as assigning myself to the level of the saintly. My night is more of a purification process perhaps, instead of the levels of ascent of Mt. Carmel in St. John of the Cross or steps in St. Teresa's "interior castle." Nevertheless, I need all the strength I need to go through it again and again.

The worst part of my night is going through the pain of being misunderstood or misinterpreted by my 'confreres.' In my case of having problems with anxiety, palpitations, panic attacks, I can easily be written off as someone lacking in faith and courage, someone cowardly, etc. This one almost has zero consolation, except for one stray soul or two telling me the right things. I think, as nights go, this hardship is part of it, and I just have to go through it. Maybe the secret lies in focusing on the prize: the eternal, spiritual glory in exchange for the short bout of the pain and humiliation.

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