“Darkness” is often a metaphor for something problematic, painful or negative. We speak of being “in the dark” when we are confused or kept out of the information loop. We might admit to a dark side, or “shadow side,” of our personality. We experience those “dark emotions,” like anger and grief. “Darkness” can also have sinister connotations, as in “the powers of darkness.” A spiritual crisis can leave us feeling that God, if God even exists, is hidden away in deep darkness.
For the Psalmist, however, darkness is not devoid of God. On the contrary, God is found in the night: “even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you” (Ps 137:12).
Some of the great spiritual writers through the ages have spoken of “the dark night of the soul.” This is often experienced as a sterile, painful crisis of faith and spirit, when we might feel desolate and abandoned by God. In fact, this dark time can be a gracious time of cleansing and growth, when God works obscurely within us to free us from unhealthy attachments and habits, and to turn us toward patience and trust. The outcome of the dark night of the soul usually is a new capacity to be more loving toward God, others and ourselves, and a new sense that we are God’s beloved children.
Brief reflection on the theme of “darkness that blesses” will be part of our Taize worship service of hymns, chants and readings on Sunday evening, August 26.
An ongoing challenge in the life of faith is to listen attentively to how God might be speaking to us in our darkness. And then, when God is silent, to wait with patience and trust for the darkness to give way to the dawn.