Have you ever heard the phrase, “dark night of the soul”? It is actually based off a poem by St. John of the Cross, a monk from the 16th century, in which he describes the trials of this life and the glory of ultimate communion with Christ, the lover.
Currently, I am experiencing my own dark night of the soul with the loss of my wife, Jennica. She passed away in April from an unexpected case of brain cancer. I was with her for every moment of the most agonizingly long 18 hours of my life. She was diagnosed and re-diagnosed with everything from the flu to high anxiety from our tedious schedules of full-time work and school. It wasn’t until the last few hours of being at the hospital that we knew the possibilities were so bleak. Our families and I cried out to God for healing in faith because we knew that nothing is impossible with him. Yet, God chose a different way for us to walk in life. Why? I don’t know. I may never know. All I do know right now is that it hurts so much and that loneliness and depression are constant visitors to my mind, body, and soul.
I know that in death that there is sorrow and grief, but I also know that in death there is hope and a future with Christ. You may have caught my reference to Batman and the Dark Knight in my title, and here’s my caveat for including them in this post. Beyond being my favorite super-hero, Bruce Wayne, the Batman, has experienced his own tragedies with the death of his parents and other loved ones. Every villain that he encounters wants to destroy the city of Gotham and every time, Batman succeeds in liberating it. In the last movie in the trilogy, Dark Knight Rises (spoiler alert) he is prepared more than ever to give up his life for the city of Gotham because he believes that death will separate him from his pain and help the most people. My point is this, pain, whether it be mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual is a part of our broken world. You see, back to my original point, that in death there is sorrow and grief, but also hope and a future with Christ. In the final scene, as Bruce Wayne is laid to rest on his family plot, Commissioner Gordon reads from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.
I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss. I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy. I see that I hold a sanctuary in their hearts, and in the hearts of their descendants, generations hence. It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.
Am I happy in light of my circumstances? No. Although, I am joyful in knowing that in light of eternity and Jesus’ death and resurrection that I will see Jennica once again. I do wish that there was a way that all of this hurt and loneliness could go away, but I know that I will trust in God no matter what circumstances occur that are beyond my control because he loves me. As I go through the holidays I will continue to experience loss and grief in a new way, but I also believe that I will experience the joy of Jesus’ incarnation in his first coming and the advent of his second coming in new and refreshing ways. I hope that if you are going through a dark night of the soul that you are comforted by friends and family and have a counselor or grief group to go to. I know these pieces aren’t the “cure” but I do know they are helpful.
Not a day goes by that I don’t miss Jennica and wish for the return of Christ, for the redemption of our bodies, and the eternal fellowship that we will have with God and people in the New Heavens and Earth. The apostle Paul explains it this way in Philippians 1:20-24:
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.
This last week I was praying a lot and one of my prayers went like this, “God, I don’t ask for a long life, but a meaningful one.” I hope that this is the cry of your heart, for a meaningful and faithful life in Christ to share with others. If you haven’t made the decision to follow Christ and don’t yet have a hope for the future in eternity with him, please read this page that explains more about Jesus and having a relationship with him: http://wp.me/P1oVBU-6u
Here is an article from Christianity Today, written by the late Charles “Chuck” Colson, who died only nine days after Jennica. It is from 2006, but it describes even more the “dark night of the soul”: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/december/15.80.html?paging=off