There are times when the spiritual journey we are on takes us into the darkness. As a metaphor, ‘darkness’ expresses those experiences where the way forward is unclear, and the real meaning of what we are (or are not) experiencing isn’t immediately apparent to us.
We can resist these moments and imagine that they are a sign that things aren’t as they should be. As someone said to me once: ‘I made a deal with God: I believe in him and he makes sure I have a nice life’. So when his ‘nice life’ began to evaporate, my friend thought it only fair that he should stop believing in God…
The problem with this approach is that God is not our ‘get out of jail free’ card. It is not God’s primary concern to rescue you and me from the ups and downs of life. In fact, God only has one thing on his mind when it comes to each of us: how can he gently invite us to freely choose to give ourselves to him. For that is what salvation is: responding to God’s invitation to receive the free gift of life that God is offering. If, along the way, we have a wonderful life or a difficult one (and often elements of both) is neither here nor there when it comes to our ultimate destination.
Tips for your faith journey
Learning to love, and to see beyond what God can do for us, is the path to spiritual maturity. You don’t really love someone if you’re fixated on what they can do for you. It is in fact offensive to do so. And yet we relate to God in this way all the time. This is not only true for individuals but for the Church as a whole. A glance down our 2000 year history reveals that there have been many occasions in which the Church has had to go into the darkness, to learn again the real meaning of having a loving relationship with God.
We are going through another such period of darkness now, as we come to terms with the fact that some in our community have so failed God’s call to protect the vulnerable, that we have deservedly become the object of derision. There is only one way forward: turn back to God, repent of past failures and ensure these things are never allowed to happen again. Life is not a now-and-then rendezvous with God. It is making God our constant dwelling place as we journey through the dark into the light.
This article is part of Faith Journey, a newsletter from the National Centre for Evangelisation.