I am not sure those of you who read this have ever heard the term "dark night of the soul" or not, but it's a term I have often heard and even been through a few times in my life. It's a place where the night is long, the sky is dark and your soul is hurting. It's a place that you reach out for God, yearn for him, seek him, and sometimes, if you are looking, if you listen hard enough and long enough, you discover that he was there all along.
I have a friend travelling that road right now, he is fully entrenched in the night and can't seem to find his way out just yet. It has gotten me to thinking about my own time in that place, a time that while exceptionally painful was also so filled with love and joy that I would actually love to return.
I was in Austria, my fiance and I had broken up and I was left to really look deeply at myself and my relationships with others as well as myself and God. I had to go back in time and look at old hurts that needed to heal, I needed to ask for healing, I needed to accept healing. What a time! I just wanted to sleep, it was exhausting! I was so thoroughly entrenched that I couldn't do anything but spend time with God in conversation, sometimes yelling at him, sometimes just crying out to him and others, those wonderful moments when it dawned on me how much he loved me, all I could do was fully praise him. It was in this dark night that I really discovered JOY, not the happy happy joy joy, but true JOY. Where your heart is so in tune with your maker that nothing else matters, that you can be going through hell itself and still find a way to have hope in the midst of it. I found myself able to say two things for the first time in my life... 1) I love God, truly love him. 2) Bring it on, if this is what happens when pain comes, then I can take it, bring it on!
I remember one in particular, I was walking home and in the mountains in Austria that can be very difficult due to the darkness. You cannot see the path in front of you and the only way you can get home is to go with your gut and blind instinct (ahh, faith) or in my case purely by memory. I was looking at the ground, making sure I didn't trip on a root or stone (the walk took me from the castle down a mountain to the small town where I lived). At some point, for some reason that I am still not entirely sure of I decided to look up, what I saw took my breath away. Billions of tiny pinpricks of light, the night was black as black could be, but those stars were all the brighter for it!
Now, when in the midst of a dark night, I do my best to stop and look up because chances are there will be millions of bright shiny stars just waiting for me to view them!