By Deacon Derick Cranston
“What I show you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your
ear, shout from the housetops,” we are told in Matthew’s Gospel. But why does God speak so softly to us and only show hints of himself in the murky twilight of our understanding?
Because it is in the dark that our senses become more attuned to the world around us. Our eyes focus and intensify even the murkiest glimmers of light in the darkness. Likewise, it is through the darkness of suffering that our soul can intently focus on the light of Christ. It is through the eyes of faith in times of suffering that the light of Christ becomes more real.
But is it possible to keep your faith alive when the suffering becomes unbearable? If everything that you have ever known or loved is ripped from your life, will faith alone be able to sustain you and guide you through the darkness?
St John of the Cross wrote a poem titled “Dark Night of the Soul” to describe his struggles and spiritual journey when he was imprisoned by the Carmelite religious order he was trying to help. Writing while he was locked in chains in a jail cell, he essentially states that the “dark night of the soul” is necessary because it purges the soul of false attachments.
When you have been betrayed by your friends and have lost everything, this is the point when you come to realize the only thing you have left is God’s love for you. And this is when you take your first step on the path to divine union. It is only through suffering on the cross that you can experience the joy of the resurrection.
In horrible anxiety and doubt, Jesus asked his Father to take away the cup of suffering that awaited him. Like all of us, he wanted to avoid suffering if he could. And when he was dying on the cross he cried out in a loud and anguished voice “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani:” My God, my God why have you forsaken me. Jesus felt the same abandonment that any of us would feel when we have lost all hope.
This is huge! The Son of God felt totally abandoned by God. No one is closer to God than the Son, and there has never been a stronger human bond than the one Jesus experienced with the Father. The greatest romances, the bond between a mother and her newborn child or the bond between soldiers who have fought together in battle pales in comparison to the deep, intimate union the Son has with the Father. Yet in his last moments of agony, the time he needed God the most, he felt that God had abandoned him.
If you feel God has abandoned you and you become angry at God, it is okay. God can take it. God is still there even if you cannot feel his presence. “God’s presence is not the same as the feeling of God’s presence. He may be doing most for us when we think he is doing least.” observed C.S. Lewis.
Keep your heart open to God’s grace and do not give up no matter how desolate you may feel. Then, when the love of God once again takes root in your heart — and it will — shout from the rooftops what the Lord has shown you in the darkness and what he has whispered to you in your ear.
(Deacon Cranston is pastoral associate for St. Mary Parish in Riverside, Holy Trinity Parish in Richmond and St. Joseph Parish in Wellman. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)