When No One Knows How Sad You Really Are…

  • I’m poured out like water.  
  • All my bones have fallen apart. 
  • My heart is like wax; it melts inside me.  
  • My strength is dried up like a piece of broken pottery. Psalm 22.14-15

Are you perhaps experiencing a “dark night of the soul?”

This term, first mentioned by 16th century St. John of the Cross, has come to mean a season when one senses the total absence of God. Our prayers lack feeling and imagination. No insights carry us through the day; no sense of the holy emerges. It is an experience of dryness, darkness and emptiness.

And such an experience can come to anyone. Even a saint.

A few years ago the world was shocked to learn, through the publication of her private letters, that Mother Teresa of Calcutta experienced a dark night of the soul, which tormented her even in the midst of her amazing ministry to the poorest of the poor. Over time, a spiritual adviser helped Teresa realize that her feelings of abandonment only increased her understanding of the people she helped. Ultimately, she identified her suffering with that of Jesus, which helped her to accept it.”

The psalmist in my opening words today is experiencing deep emotional and spiritual trauma which manifests itself in his body as well, “All my bones have fallen apart.” One cannot read very far in Psalm 22 without realizing that these are prophetic words foreshadowing Christ’s experience on the cross. No other Old Testament passage provides such a full picture of His suffering, beginning in dark anguish and ending in soaring hope.

But even when Jesus experienced a life “poured out like water,” His passion was still to do the will of His Father, no matter how much it hurt, for the greater glory that would come.

If you are suffering, God is still at work in your life. In your soul.

My friend Cecil knows about dark nights: “For Christians, those dark times may be a time for us to look deeply within ourselves and to examine our hearts. They may push us to overcome our complacency or to become aware of our dependency on God, or make us yearn for an even deeper commitment. Because of my period of darkness, I’ve come to realize that whether I sense the divine presence or I don’t, it doesn’t say anything about the Lord. When we’ve examined our hearts and believe we’re as close to God as we know how to be, yet we have no sense of His presence, it may mean God is at our side, silently watching over us and always caring for us.” (Cecil Murphey, “Knowing God, Knowing Myself,”)

Sadly, some strugglers lose their battle with hope. Twenty-three years ago this week my lifetime best friend (a Christian counselor and pastor’s wife) ended her life and left me a suicide note thanking me for our 42-year friendship and saying she was sorry she never shared what she was going through. Because of this deep loss, I appreciate that September is National Suicide Awareness Month, and it is especially important as the emotional fallout from six months of pandemic is taking a toll. A recent article in the Washington Post states that “one-third of Americans are showing signs of anxiety or clinical depression.”

If you are emotionally desperate, please share with someone. Reach out. Here is a toll free number with someone who cares on the other end – National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

These issues are very complicated, but I do believe that there are some practical steps we can all take to find our way back into the joy of God’s presence.

“What do we do in the dark night? We do nothing. We wait. We remember that we are not God. We hold on. We ask for help. We do less. We resign from things, we rest more, we ask somebody else to pray because we can’t. We let go of our need to hurry through it. You can’t run in the dark.” (John Ortberg, “Soul Keeping,”)

Friend, if these words resonate deep within your soul, may I assure you that God knows. He is with you and will never forsake you. And I am spending time in prayer this week for all who feel utterly poured out….

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity & Strength”

©2020 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Lucinda Secrest McDowell is a storyteller and seasoned mentor who engages both heart and mind while “Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity & Strength.” She has authored 15 books including “Soul Strong – 7 Keys to a Vibrant Life” and “Life-Giving Choices – 60 Days to What Matters Most.” She writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England and shares encouragement at LucindaSecrestMcDowell.com

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  1. Maggie Rowe on September 9, 2020 at 11:17 am

    With two suicides in our extended family in the last 9 months, we understand this only too well. Thank you for this important post, Cindy.

    • Lucinda Secrest McDowell on September 9, 2020 at 2:13 pm

      Oh Maggie, you have had waaaay too many losses this past year. Those two were especially tragic and my prayers continue with your family.

    • Ginger on September 18, 2020 at 12:20 pm

      Oh, Maggie, my heart grieves to read of your recent heartbreaks due to suicide in extended family! Prayers of healing and comfort to you all,

  2. Thomas Michael McDowell on September 9, 2020 at 3:24 pm

    Excellent word for us all and very appropriate for this time of the Pandemic when millions are hurting so much on so many levels! I have found clinging to Christ and weekly receiving Him in the Eucharist, as well as humbling myself in Confession, as well having the prayers of the saints on earth along with the the Theotokos (Mary who bore Christ our God in her womb) and all the saints in heaven . . . that great cloud of witnesses, renews my hope each day. Glory to God for all things.

    • Lucinda Secrest McDowell on September 18, 2020 at 11:56 am

      Thanks hon, yes, Glory to God in all things!

  3. Joan Skrobat on September 10, 2020 at 1:57 am

    Dearest Cindy: Glory to Jesus Christ! Thank you for your words, your wisdom, and your writings. Just a question for you. Have you ever read “The Blue Parakeet” by Scot McKnight? It’s about rethinking how you read the bible. If you have read it I would appreciate any insights you have in the writing.

    • Lucinda Secrest McDowell on September 18, 2020 at 11:55 am

      Hello Joan, so great to hear from you. I have not read Scot McKnight’s “The Blue Parakeet” but have read other books of his that I loved. Thanks for keeping in touch. Stay well. I think you would enjoy both “Holy in the Moment” and “Soul Strong” so be sure and enter the giveaway.

  4. Ginger on September 18, 2020 at 12:22 pm

    I love the quotes you shared from Cecil Murphy and John Ortberg. These are dark days our world faces. You make a difference by sharing light in the darkness. Thank you:)

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