Christian: Good Friday and Jesus’ Dark Night of the Soul

April 15

See the Glossary Post, “Finding Peace in the Dark Night of the Soul,” for a more detailed explanation of “Dark Night of the Soul”, including the difference between Dark Night and Depression.

Dark night of the soul is a human experience. In a real sense it feels like the death of God, or abandonment by God.

I see this human experience in the passion of Jesus. On Holy Thursday he prayed desperately to be saved from the cup of suffering, and found some peace in accepting the expected and inevitable unfolding of all the circumstances around his death.

Among other things, Good Friday is the death of the God who was believed to act in omnipotence. Instead, the God who suffers with us was revealed. Some teach that God turned his back on Jesus while Jesus bore the sins of the world. In my understanding, the cross says exactly the opposite. God cannot turn her back on her beloved, no matter what is our condition. Jesus suffered the dark night of the soul, feeling truly abandoned when he cried from the cross, “My God, my God. Why have you forsaken me?”

And yet I do not doubt that Jesus was also proclaiming his ultimate trust in God. Psalm 22 which begins with “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” proceeds to describe what would be Jesus’ crucifixion experience and turns mid-psalm to describing God’s faithfulness. “From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me,” writes the psalmist, “for You (God) did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; you did not hide your face from me but heard when I cried to You.” The psalm ends on these words of trust that defy the psalmist’s feelings of abandonment, “Future generations will proclaim God’s deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.” Regardless of what we think or feel, we are never abandoned by the One who loves us always and without condition.    

In dark night of the soul, we learn to see beyond our present circumstances with the heart’s knowledge of being the beloved. When we let go of our need to control the uncontrollable, we begin to experience peace; when we surrender even the good and pure desperate longings of our heart, we begin to trust in resurrection, both now in new life born out of brokenness, and at the end of our lives when we surrender our bodies in death.

Gratitude Prompt: Give thanks that, whatever I may feel I am never alone.