John of the Cross knows what he’s talking about. I read an excerpt from Dark Night of the Soul recently, and he discusses what happens when we stop getting any good feelings (he calls them “consolations”) from spiritual devotion. When we’re dry, when spiritual practices that used to offer joy or comfort don’t anymore. When the feelings are gone.
In the excerpt I read he specifically talks about different characteristics that lead people to respond in different ways to this change. For instance, pride–sometimes people think so well of themselves because of their connection with God that they look down others, judge the spirituality of others. And when that connection “feels” gone, or doesn’t give them the same joy it used to, pride keeps them from admitting it. To God or to others. Pride makes them try to keep up the act of looking super spiritual, and it makes the spiritual life something it shouldn’t be–done mainly for the sake of others or the self. He also talks about envy, anger, sloth-ness (is that a word?) and how these cause people to respond differently to losing those happy spiritual feelings.
And over and over, his encouragement is to live into this absence of “consolations”. Accepting what God would have us draw out of our life with God, and not desiring the spiritual life that others have or what sort of spiritual life we think we should have. Because ultimately, if our walk with God, the way we love, and our way of life are based on how we “feel”, it’s a weak foundation. Our feelings change! All the time. Dark Night of the Soul seems to offer the hope and encouragement that God calls us to a spiritual life based on something beyond our feelings or ability. And the affirmation that God is not only is the joy, God is also in the absence.
True that, John of the Cross.
Also, interesting fact: When you Google Dark Night of the Soul, the first hit is this. Hooray SEO. Sorry John of the Cross.