Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dark Night of the Soul

A particular woman I know is bipolar. I have had the privilege of talking with her for the past two years as she served time in the local jail. Recently during one of her low emotional swings, she shared her despair, her aloneness, and dark feelings. She struggled with her spiritual dryness, equating it with a lack of faith. I could only relate what she told me from my experience with mourning.

This morning reading (again) from the book Celebration of Discipline, The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard Foster, I was struck by something Foster said concerning solitude. He describes a pilgrimage into the dark night of the soul as a tool for spiritual growth. His portrait of a 'dark night' reflected what my bipolar friend had tried to relate to me.

Although Foster was not talking about what we would call an emotional, chemical mood shift, his insight excited me. Society wants us to shun our dark dispositions, but Foster's thought is to accept them as gifts of God. These emotional and spiritual dry places are part of our journey. They are not places we must "get over it," but places we must sit and contemplate our point in this universe. Giving ourselves permission to walk through or even sit down in the valley of darkness gives us the freedom to become better human beings.

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