The Dark Night

A few weeks ago I preached a sermon about God being at work even in desolation and darkness. I illustrated this point by telling of my discovery of a pot of dirt that had been stored in the garage since September’s hurricane, which had begun to show green shoots. I thought at the time it was a great metaphor for starting the Lenten journey and I brought the pot inside and placed it in a window with Eastern exposure even though I had no idea what it was.

Naturally it has been flourishing with direct sunlight and proper watering. Every day when I come downstairs to start my day, the sun is showering these shoots with warmth and love and the fuchsia green fronds always catch my eye. It is a wonderful talisman of the hopefulness that is available to us when living an intentional life with Christ.

That said, as I write this I am aware of many of you who are struggling. You are struggling with your own health or someone you love. You are struggling within your family and with your children. You are struggling with relationships at work, with friends and neighbors. You are struggling with finances and uncertain futures and regrets in the past.

As a result, many of you are secretly ‘not into’ Lent. You want to be. You are just overwhelmed or bewildered or even wondering where God is in the midst of your struggles.

This is what John of the Cross refers to as “the dark night.” But some people confuse what John was speaking about: “the dark night” with what some refer to as “the dark night of the soul.” They are in fact two different kinds of spiritual struggle. The “dark night of the soul” is a time when one’s pain or suffering far outweighs one’s ability to act or even trust that God is present in our lives. In short, the feeling that God has abandoned us.

“The dark night” that John of the Cross referred to is ‘oscura’ or the obscuring of what God is doing. This is God’s intention because it’s just not time to reveal it all, right now. That’s not great news for anyone who is currently in the dark night and really bad news if you are also not particularly patient.

Perhaps you may think it is easy for me to talk about this and it is in part, because I am not currently in “the dark night.” But trust me, I have been there many times before and am sure to be there again. I will also surely experience “the dark night of the soul” when life’s suffering again blinds me to God’s movements and presence.

Again sadly, I know quite a few of you who are struggling in your lives and with your faith, and wondering when is God going to show up and answer your prayers. You wonder when is God going to take away the burden, the guilt, the shame, the worry, the anxiety, the depression, the lost feeling, the confused feeling, the frustration, the hopelessness???

The answer? I don’t know WHEN but I know that God WILL.

The proof you ask? Well I could tell you to come and participate in the many Lenten activities we have in the hopes that you will find some insight, comfort or even answers.

Or… I could simply remind you again about the mysterious plant that I found in my garage that had been growing even without any water or light since last September. The very one that is now growing in the warmth of my house facing East.


Well…It turns out that the plant is not mysterious any more…

It’s actually an Easter Lilly…

Waiting for the Resurrection
with you in Christ,

About Jen

Rev. Jennifer Van Zandt is the 13th pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Boonton, NJ. She has a Masters in Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary.