From the greatest saints to the lowliest sinners, we will all go through a time of spiritual darkness. This is a period of time in our lives when we feel distanced from God. We feel like no one is listening, most importantly—that God isn’t listening.
St. Theresa of Calcutta went through such darkness where she felt like God didn’t even exist. It can last anywhere from a day or two to a few years. During Lent, we place a time of darkness upon ourselves as we contemplate Jesus’s path to the cross. While times of darkness can be difficult, there are some things we can do to keep our focus upon the cross and know that God is still there.
1. Turn on a light
No, literally, turn on a physical light. When we are sad or feel distance from God, we may want to stay away from any light and be in darkness. Just a simple light can help us feel a little bit better.
2. Continue going to Mass
When we feel abandoned by God, we may get angry and not want to give praise to him. But, by going to Mass you will be given graces, even though you may not feel it right away. When kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament, ask God to hear your prayer. Even say it out loud! God will hear you.
3. Make an examination of conscience
There may be a sin that is causing the distance in the relationship with God. When we sin, we lose sanctifying grace, or the friendship we have with God. Just imagine a time when a friend betrayed your confidence. There is a distance between you both until they said they were sorry. Go to Reconciliation. A priest told me that he loved restoring the relationship we have with God through the sacrament of mercy. If you haven’t gone in awhile or don’t know the “format” the priests will help you through.
4. Go to your Mother
Mary is the greatest intercessor. Luke tells us he “was obedient to [his parents]” (Luke 2:51), and in John 2, Jesus is coaxed into performing his first public miracle at the wedding. Ask her now to have Jesus respond to you and pull you out of darkness.
5. Send some “knee mail”
I know I’ve spent several hours on my knees before the Blessed Sacrament just crying. Cry, get angry, share your honest feelings. It is okay to ask God questions and share our disappointments with him, as long as we remain respectful and know he is still God. Just like a child explaining why school is so difficult for them, we can talk with God about how difficult our life is. He may not make it any easier at the time, but he will pour his grace upon you so that you can get through any difficult time.
6. Take a walk with Jesus
Sometimes we need to just go back to the beginning of creation. Go outside and take a walk. Don’t think about anything else, other than nature itself. Watch a squirrel find a nut, an eagle glide looking for its prey, or the wind blow the leaves. Find God in nature. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:26, “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Pay attention to how God provides for them, then know you are so much more valuable to God.
7. Make a list
Take out a small notepad or small piece of paper and start writing down good things in your life. Start small, like you woke up this morning, you took a deep breath, then move onto the bigger blessings. I’m going to guess you will run out of room pretty quickly. Go get a bigger piece of paper and keep writing. Everyday, read the list and keep adding to it.
8. Keep asking for help and accept it when it comes
We can do nothing on our own. The one lesson that the Israelites never learned is that they needed to always stay close to God. They would turn towards Him in times of trouble, but then as soon as everything was good, they would stray and turn away from God until they got so desperate they would “cry out for the Lord.” It’s never easy to ask for help, but God may also be sending you help through someone else. Don’t turn them away.
God does not want us to be in any darkness, which is why he send the Light into the world. He is always there to help, and sometimes this darkness is a way to help you to depend on him more. It could even be to help you grow closer by drawing you to him in your suffering.
If you are struggling with more than just spiritual darkness or a mental illness, please get professional medical help. This is also help that God is sending you to pull you out of the darkness.