November 17, 2019

When the Dark Days Come

Dark days are hard to bear, but I'm learning that they're an important part of the cross-bearing life. The times of testing continue to come. Just when everything seems on the up-and-up and almost as a surprise, the bottom to falls out and whatever understandings I had experienced of God's goodness and grace go with it. My ego is purged and my heart purified. And it hurts! I'm learning that this is the interior life of a disciple. It is, for me, a hidden and invisible experience. It's the Spirit of Christ calling me from the shallows to the deep. 

I'm thankful the dark days don't happen very often. There have been many who have gone down the dark path before me. I'm not alone!  It's also reassuring to learn that growth-in-faith is not far away. The clouds may cover in darkness, but the sun shines through. Praise God! His mercy never fails and His steadfast love endures forever. 

God is working in the darkness. If I surrender in trust to this truth, I will find Jesus in a new way. It marks the beginning of a deeper life of faith, where joy and peace abound even in the darkness - the deeper life of faith that Jesus is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. The new way of finding Jesus is realizing that God is in the darkness. It is there I go to meet Him. It is there I pray in peace, silent and attentive to Him whose love knows no shadow of change. It is there I celebrate the darkness in the quiet certainty of my maturing faith. 

What happens to me in the dark day is simple. God strips me of my current understandings of His grace, so He can enter more fully into my heart. Maturing faith in Christ comes when I allow God the freedom to work His sovereign will within me, neither letting go of my attained life of prayer in frustration nor giving in to the distractions of the world. Prayer, humility, detachment and faith are beautiful graces, but I can only have them through the purging of God's grace. It's in this purifying process that I'm prepared to more fully receive God's gifts. 

I know, but often forget that the humility of Jesus is most clearly seen in His forgiveness and acceptance of others - even His enemies. In contrast, continuing resentments show that the cross-bearing life is not fully mine yet. The surest sign of union with Christ is my forgiveness and acceptance of others. Without this action on my part the dark day moves into the dark night, resulting in my troubled heart. Forgiveness is the key to everything.* Through my forgiveness the mind of Christ is formed within me and the darkness is prevented from becoming an ego trip. Forgiveness guards me from feeling so spiritually advanced that I look down on my struggling brothers and sisters. It's in humble forgiveness that we have the mind of Christ. 

The final repudiation of the ego is the surrender of our need for vindication, the handing over of the kingdom of self to the Father, and the forgiving in our heart of others. When we do this faithfully, we're not being afraid of the dark, but celebrating the light that shines though it and give us all life in Christ.

* From The Signature of Jesus by Brennan Manning

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