Editor’s Note: What happens when faith goes away? Explore one writer’s experience of the dark night and the return of faith.
The first three decades of my life I always felt God’s presence, and I am incredibly grateful for that. There were of course times when I felt closer to God, and other times when I didn’t feel as close, but those patterns often mirrored how active I was with my prayer life. The times when I struggled to make spiritual practices a part of my regular routine, God naturally seemed less a part of my life, but I knew God was always there waiting for us to spend time together.
I was in for a rude awakening when this previous pattern in my faith life came to an abrupt halt in fall 2018. God felt so incredibly distant and I was left feeling spiritually isolated aimlessly wandering in hopes of “finding God” again. I felt so numb in church and I felt like a shell of a spiritual being. I felt like an imposter as I led faith formation sessions to others – I could hear myself saying words that felt so foreign to my current experience.
After struggling with spiritual desolation for over a year, I attended a retreat at the Bon Secours Retreat Center in Maryland (I highly recommend it) called “Glimpsing God in the Dark Nights.” When I shared with the retreat facilitator that I was struggling to pray and didn’t feel God’s presence, he suggested I write a letter to God sharing my longing, afterward spend 10 minutes doing Centering Prayer, then pull out a new piece of paper and write a letter from God to me.
Below is the powerful love letter God wrote to me that day. It is incredible how the Holy Spirit can stir your heart and the words from God can flow right out. I have done a similar prayer exercise inviting God to write me a letter at different key times in my life, and each letter always brings me beauty, comfort, a new perspective and an outpouring of God’s love. Days, months and even years later, as I reread these letters, they continue to serve as spiritual guides, full of timeless wisdom.
My Beloved Child,
Thank you for being so vulnerable and sharing your deepest thoughts and emotions with me. I hope that by verbalizing and naming them that they gave you a sense of liberation. Being true to your own feelings and honoring them will allow you to discover your deepest self. I dwell there.
I am always with you. You will feel me dwelling within you – our incredible communion – when you allow yourself to discover, name and express what lies within your heart. I know it can be scary and intimidating at times, but the wide expansiveness of emotions that your heart can experience is a gift to be treasured. It connects you to me; how I can experience both deep sadness that you feel lost and distant from me, but also such deep joy in knowing that your desire to be in union with me is so strong and continues to propel you into persevering through the spiritual desert in search of the life-giving waters of my presence.
I am so grateful that your faith in me continues as you wander lost and feeling a sense of despair. Know that I too have felt that way when I was on Earth and was struggling with the cross that my father asked me to bear. Your emotions resonate like the singing bowl gong penetrating the depths of my heart.
Please continue to be patient and rejoice, like I am, that you are taking time to learn and practice how contemplative prayer can help you through this time of spiritual darkness. Know that you just need to look within and you will find my divine light shining brightly within you. Allow the torch that can illuminate the way through the darkness to be you!
As you dwell into the depths of your soul through centering prayer and rest in the peace that comes from being in communion with me, you will discover how bright your light is. That light is what will allow you to see in the shadows of the darkness and will allow you to navigate through it. Remember that gift. It never leaves you. You just have to remember to take the time to rediscover it and use it to illuminate your way. Centering prayer is one of the many ways that can help you access your light.
My beloved child, I love you so much and want you to be able to fully feel and receive my love again. Practice letting go of control and stability and whatever else is creating that imaginary barrier – yes, it’s all in your mind and you have the power to break it down. Slowly allow the dam wall to be lowered so your emotions can freely flow again. That is where you will discover the life-giving waters that will be your oasis in the desert.
Know that you can always find refuge in me. Just come and sit and dwell in my peace and love. Here I am. Rest upon me. Rest in me. Rest with me. No need to search for me since I am right here in your heart. Simply be. Be YOU.
Now let’s sit around the dancing campfire, warming ourselves in the glowing light and laughing in joy amidst this dark night.
I love you!
Love your dear friend,
How does your quiet or contemplative practice connect you to the Divine and deepen your love of self and others?