Dark Night

One of my favorite things about this season is the transparency of the landscape. There is nothing more beautiful to me than a naked tree. When I look upon the starkness of their branches I often feel that the gangly limbs tell my story. I see myself in the bare, outstretched arms– reaching up, up…seeking.

This austerity is all the more beautiful against the palette of a clear blue sky. Every detail exposed, shamelessly put on display. I can see straight through into her heart. A tree in this state of undress can hide nothing. No secrets can be buried in her bosom. She is diaphanous and unassuming, waiting for her season of finery to arrive. Yet, in the absence of her trinkets and baubles, she reveals little of who she is, donning the disguise of anonymity. She is wrapped in a cloak of mystery.

But perhaps she is most beautiful to me when silhouetted against the approaching night…colors melting into one giant shadow of branching arms, beckoning me, calling me into the dusky colors of the sunset. She makes my heart ache with the way she stands so sure and proud.

I often feel naked and vulnerable as this unadorned masterpiece. I long to stretch my arms up and root myself to the earth, drinking in my nourishment from tiny tentacles; nursing dormant splendor, tending it until the time arrives for it to burst forth in glory.

But unlike the tree, my seasons are not so predictable. And I must be content to wait. For I know that when the tree appears to lie dormant, beneath the surface the roots are far from quiescent. This is the time of strengthening, the time of preparation. This is the silent labor.

St. John of the Cross calls this the dark night of the soul.

This seeming depression is an empty time. I search frantically for some feeling, some sense of connection with my God; but I seek in vain, for such has abandoned me in this season. But nature tells me I must not despair; I must not give up hope. To remain true to the tree…I must wait.

Richard J. Foster, in his book Celebration of Discipline, says this about this root strengthening season:

The dark night is one of the ways God brings us into a hush, a stillness so that he may work an inner transformation upon the soul…When God lovingly draws us into a dark night of the soul, there is often a temptation to seek release from it and to blame everyone and everything for our inner dullness. The preacher is such a bore. The hymn singing is too weak. The worship service is so dull. We may begin to look around for another church or a new experience to give us ‘spiritual goose bumps.’ This is a serious mistake. Recognize the dark night for what it is. Be grateful that God is lovingly drawing you away from every distraction so that you can see him clearly. Rather than chafing and fighting, become still and wait.

When I feel my spiritual growth is stunted; when my heart won’t be stirred by the Words I hold so dear…I smile. For I know God is doing a work inside of me. A work so deep that I cannot see its labor.

We must let our roots be nourished. We wait for the season of glory to burst forth. It may not be the time, but it will come. The blooms will burst forth in feathery grandeur. The dark shadow of night will be overtaken by the fruits of this labor of love. And oh, how beautiful the transformation!


  1. says

    Laura, how deeply you have touched me with this post. The truth and the profound beauty of this is nourishing places that need it right now. Thanks my friend. Just glorious!

  2. says

    Everybody keeps telling me that the longer the “dark night of the soul”/the root building time….the bigger the season of glory might be.hmmmm…working on 7 years of root building…interesting. As always you put into words what stirs deep within me that I often find hard to express.

    “When I feel my spiritual growth is stunted; when my heart won’t be stirred by the Words I hold so dear…I smile. For I know God is doing a work inside of me. A work so deep that I cannot see its labor.”….

    I’m so thankful I have come to a place of peace that this is where God has me for now…not what I was with NO CLUE what He will do…but it is fine…I’m with Him….and it is well….contentment is mine.

  3. says

    I cannot share what I am feeling from the words you typed out in this post.

    Beautiful is all I can think of and it is not adequate.


  4. says

    Truly! Laura!… very profound, very beautiful, very much appreciated… I like the picture you painted of you smiling when you realise God’s at work – that is so precious! You are a treasure. Have a blessed start to the week… Naomi x

  5. says

    Perfectly written, my friend, perfectly.

    I have been in the dark soul of the night for a long time. Sometimes I wonder why He has me hidden away. Sometimes it seems that who I am in this world is invisible… Sometimes I wonder what in the world He’s doing with me. I can easily blame people who I’ve tried to be friends with… But as with your words, I’m beginning to see that it’s not anyone… it’s Him. He is chiseling away all that is dead.. He is growing Himself in me. It won’t be long before the springs of life will emerge to reveal just how life-bearing this time has been…

    Someone asked me today what had been going on with me these last 3 years. As I stopped to consider ….I realized… MUCH has gone on in my heart.

    He is making all things new…..

    Love your heart… love you!

  6. says

    “We must let our roots be nourished…” HOW OFTEN we forget this!

    Beautiful post – thank you so much for your continued visits and encouragement at my blog. Your comment the other night about visiting my house and holding my baby to relieve my tired just made me want to cry. Isn’t it wonderful that God allows us to care like that over miles, never having met one another? I can’t tell you how I appreciate your care for me.

  7. says

    Oh Laura… I LOVED THIS PART:
    When I feel my spiritual growth is stunted; when my heart won’t be stirred by the Words I hold so dear…I smile. For I know God is doing a work inside of me. A work so deep that I cannot see its labor.

    These unseen things, are often some of the most important! I needed to be reminded of this!

  8. says

    I recall my dark night of the soul with clarity and a profound sense of wonder with it all. I suppose I’ve shared this with you before; forgive if I have, but it was literally a season of days and nights followed by a single night when all of heaven and hell waged battle for my soul. I remember it vividly, not as a participant, but as one on the sidelines watching the battle as it warred along. I was never in doubt who would win, but there was, indeed, a strong battle taking place. I’ve never written about it in detail, but in the morning, my chains were gone and my heart was free.

    It was a grace I’d never tasted before, and I thank God for the allowing me the privilege of knowing just exactly when and how it all came about.

    Love you friend. Praying that God continues to shine his light forth in our dark seasons, reminding us that with every shadow comes the witness of his brilliant glory!


  9. says

    I like that phrase, “dark night of the soul.” And I appreciate your ability to refocus a dehydrates spirit during those dark times – you know God is doing a good work. Good post.

  10. says

    “When I feel my spiritual growth is stunted; when my heart won’t be stirred by the Words I hold so dear…I smile. For I know God..” Because I have walked forlorn places before, I smile as well, for I know God is directing these times of darkness and light. Lovely words you share here!

  11. says

    So very true! How beautiful the transformation. Patiently waiting on that beautiful transformation within my heart and soul as well. Have glimpses of it approaching, and I am overjoyed. Beautiful post!

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