Spiritual Darkness

As a child, I used to wonder why we called Good Friday good. As I get older and grow more and more in love with God, days like those of the Sacred Triduum have become a time of deep adoration and contemplation. Not only did the God of the universe become incarnate in the womb of a poor, young virgin, but He also eventually suffered, died, and rose again to save us. The paradoxes of our faith enable me to embrace the often-perplexing mysteries of everyday life.

[Tweet “God works through weakness.”]

In my fifteen years in my religious community, I have had the opportunity to go to other countries a few times. I found myself in a very difficult interior space during one of these times abroad. My family and friends back home also seemed to be enduring storms, and it was difficult to be so far away from them. Amid all of the interior and exterior difficulties, my body started to react in a way I had never experienced before. I had, up to that point of my life, been blessed with good health.

I noticed myself feeling more and more physically weak, and I tried to become more mindful of eating well and resting enough.

But one day as I was going upstairs, I noticed that I was gripping the banisters on the staircase and pulling myself up. I was shocked when I realized I was trying to divide my body weight between my legs and my arms to get upstairs. To this day, I am profoundly grateful for the compassion and help of the Sister who was in charge, and to this day, that period of my life and the physical challenge is a bit of a mystery.

Although you and I have probably never put our hand into Christ’s side, we do have opportunities to draw near and experience the power of His love. The compassion and goodness of others is a marvelous gift. This Sister who was in charge was drawing from her own experience of inexplicable sickness and difficult moments in her life to walk with me, and she taught me the power of gentle goodness that day. Her smiles, gentle jokes, listening ear, and calm presence illustrated the Lord’s way of patient love and loving patience.

I am confident, from experience, that God never fails us and that God’s mercy is indeed, as our Blessed Mother said, “From age to age on those who fear Him.” (Lk 1:50) But I am sure He can periodically lift the clouds in our souls to encourage us as we take up our cross to follow Him.

God always gave enough in those months. Enough interior strength, enough friends and supports, enough grace. One day as I walked into our community chapel, I felt the Lord speak in my heart, “I am with you.” These words consoled me so deeply that they illumined the darkness and the pain of being so far away from my friends and family who were suffering.  These words reawakened me to the strength of God’s ever-present but quiet grace in my soul.

I felt known and understood.

He was accompanying me, and so my heart was in harmony with those powerful words of Saint Paul, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” along the sentiment of the line in the Anima Christi, “Passion of Christ be my strength.

The darkness of Good Friday gives us the light by which to decipher the next best step of the present moment. I regained my physical strength only gradually and perhaps will not see the same level of energy again. But the Lord clearly and decisively gave me the grace to know that my task was: to lovingly do whatever He was going to put under my nose in each present moment.

This became enough for me because He was enough for me.

The Lord allowed Himself to feel the darkness of feeling like the Father was distant: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Although in our brighter moments we know God never abandons us, sometimes we go through dark nights where we feel forsaken. These words of Sacred Scripture spoken by the Divine Word Himself are sweet courage for me today. They remind me that it’s okay to tell God when I feel weak because then I can discover like Saint Paul that in Christ “[W]hen I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:10)

Good Friday is good because on Good Friday God teaches us His way.

God draws nearest to us with compassion and love, especially when we feel we have nothing. God’s power, then, is not so much a mightiness that causes us to shudder in fear and trembling, but a sweet desire on God’s part to use His almighty presence to encourage us. God changed my heart through the experience that I had and has allowed me to ask for the grace to not be afraid of weakness and darkness either in myself or in those I serve.

He has shown me what the Psalmist prays: “The darkness is not dark to you, and the night is as bright as day.” (Ps 139:12)

Written by Sr. Maria Kim-Ngân Bùi. Find out more about her here.

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1 Comment

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    April 14, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    Today in church I heard something that I think I have forgotten about, or perhaps I never fully grasped it: that the cross, although it’s full of suffering and pain, is also a sign of God’s love for us. “I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” Isaiah 49:16 . This means that even though today is about thinking about Jesus’ suffering, it should also get us closer to the mystery of God’s great love for us. Maybe this is obvious, it seemed obvious once I wrote this down but often I forget just how much God loves us and focus only on what I can see when I look at the cross, forgetting about how much joy Easter really should bring.

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