As part of a recent team building exercise at work, I was asked where I see God at work in my life. I thought this was a great question. Still, in typical fashion it took me a while to respond. I knew God was at work, but I didn’t have the words to describe it. Eventually, an image came to me: In the dark night my soul is being excavated.
The phrase “dark night of the soul” is often used today to describe times of deep depression or devastation. However, a classical understanding of the dark night sees it as a hidden, secret, and mysterious process that happens beyond our conscious awareness or control. Psychiatrist and spiritual director Gerald May stated it this way:
The dark night is a profoundly good thing. It is an ongoing spiritual process in which we are liberated from attachments and compulsions and empowered to live and love more freely. Sometimes this letting go of old ways is painful, occasionally even devastating. But this is not why the night is called “dark.” The darkness of the night implies nothing sinister, only that the liberation takes place in hidden ways, beneath our knowledge and understanding. (as quoted in the Dark Night of the Soul)
“In the dark night my soul is being excavated” is simply saying that God is working on me in ways that are beyond my awareness. In excavating my soul he is digging deep and clearing away the rubble to free my heart for more life and love.
Though this can be a painful process, I am learning to rest and trust in the goodness of this night. This requires me to let go of my need to know, to perceive, and to figure things out; I like being able to predict and control the outcome of my life. In the dark night I am learning to truly walk by faith and not by sight. And it is here I’m being transformed, trusting the divine presence is with me in all of life experiences, both the suffering and the joy.
We may not always see what God is up to in our lives and that is okay. Trust him anyway. Even in the night when things are difficult to see, abide with him and walk by faith. He is a good Father and is guiding us toward greater healing, freedom, and love.
Read more on the Dark Night of the Soul by Gerald May.