Sometimes we struggle and struggle, and it seems that we aren’t making any headway. We work so hard to do the right thing—to read our Bible, to follow the Golden Rule, to practice integrity—but our lives yet appear barren. We want to be good, Christ-like people—but our lives still feel so empty of grace. Our anger gets the best of us, the frustrations pile up, and each morning brings more “learning moments” than joy. We go through the motions of the day, but our hearts yearn for someone who understands, someone who listens.
As St. John of the Cross called it, these are indeed “the dark nights of the soul.”
Or, as my second-class petty officer recently told me, these are the spiritual “deserts.” Those days, she told me, are when we are supposed to listen. We don’t need to have the answers.
We just need to listen.
Being the embodiment of impatience myself, I find this advice difficult. I can mentally tell myself that God is still there, that He hears my cries in the dark, but during long weeks aboard a patrolling warship with no end in sight, I feel His absence far more acutely than His assurances of comfort. In my loneliness, I need Him here and now. And yet, when I call out, He seems so … gone.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Jesus’ anguished cried ripped through the day. At Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, where the humanity whom Christ had come to save cheered the spectacle of bloody murder, Immanuel suffered. He felt the separation of God; he felt the utter desolation of betrayal. And then, in the pinnacle of his agony, “Jesus cried out again in a loud voice and yielded up his spirit” (Matthew 28:50).
Seems pretty grim, doesn’t it?
But we all know that’s not the end of the story; after descending into Hell, Jesus rises again for Easter Sunday. This is hardly news; this is, after all, the essence of the Christian faith. But how does it apply to us today?
Well, there are many applications, of course: it is our hope for tomorrow, our promise of forgiveness. In regards to the spiritual desert, though, one could view it as the hidden oasis. More to the point, it offers evidence of tomorrow. Our sorrow is not the final answer; our pain not the final victor.
Sometimes, we just need to listen.
Succor can come in unlikely places, but rest assured, it WILL come. Sometimes it may appear in the guise of a peculiarly apt devotional; in others, a particularly sassy engineering lieutenant. And yes, some days it might come when you finally allow yourself that rare moment of “me” time and respite (accompanied by popcorn and Oreos, of course).
The Spirit manifests itself in an infinite number of ways, unique to each individual. The important thing to remember, though, is that come it will, swooping down to pick us up from the depths of our despair. Yes, we may be in a desert right now—but that’s alright. Sometimes, we just need to listen. Sometimes, we just have to learn. But always—ALWAYS—we must not forget to hope.
About Brett Beeson
Brett Beeson, officially, is an ensign (officer) in the United States Navy, currently attached to DDG54 Curtis Wilbur out of Yokosuka, Japan. She graduated in 2014 from the United States Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science in Arabic and a minor in Spanish. Unofficially, she is the “evil twin” (one of Jory’s twin daughters), that annoying-friend-who-won’t-stop-calling, perpetual questioner, ice cream enthusiast, scribbler, roarer-of-laughter, and eternal student of God’s amazing mysteries. After extensive travel in Morocco and Oman, she has become passionate about furthering her/our understanding of the Middle East and Islam. To enjoy more of Brett’s writing, please visit Randomness with Brett.