My life was badly off track, and I knew I needed God. My husband and I were separated, my 6-year-old was depressed and acting out, and I was in a painful on-again, off-again relationship with my supervisor “John.” In frequent prayers, I asked God to take away everything about me that wasn’t good, including my attachment to John.
Things got worse, and I thought God wanted me to try harder. Scripture says to think about good things and pray without ceasing, so I memorized prayers and Bible verses and repeated them silently in my head. Scripture says to be perfect, so I tried. When I failed daily, I blamed myself and tried even harder, day after day, week after week.
Months went by with no sign of God. I was tired and sick and often missed work. Thinking I was being punished, I wrote obsessively in my journal about reasons, making lists of sins from as far back as early childhood, asking forgiveness for each one. Waves of despair sometimes wiped out my faith, leaving me fearful that God didn’t care or even exist. Sometimes in the night I sat rocking back and forth, crying in a way that hurt like retching, thinking of suicide. Sometimes when alone in the car, I screamed.
Once in awhile, I heard a voice say, "Stop trying,” and I was sure Satan was trying to lead me astray.
Not long after I started hearing the voice, I dreamed I was using a copy machine that exploded. Light bulbs flew through the air and shattered on the floor. The dream seemed like a warning, and I yelled at God that I’d never be able to please Him, that I was tired of trying and didn’t care anymore. The voice said, “Stop Trying,” and this time I knew who it was. Suddenly, unmistakably, Jesus was present, and His voice was clear.
For several days, I was comforted by Jesus’ voice and presence. He called me Sister Child and told me that He is always with me, even when I can’t sense His presence. He said it wasn’t my fault that I didn’t feel loved, and He told me something good about my early life that no one had ever told me (which proved to be true).
I was euphoric for days, but my unhappiness and anxiety returned.
Several months later, I was led to end the relationship with John. Life improved, but I was angry at God. Why hadn’t God led me to end the relationship earlier? Where was God during the months of despair? How could a powerful encounter with Jesus turn me into the opposite of a good Christian? My natural warmth and friendliness were rarely in evidence. I no longer tried to please God or anyone else, and I had strong feelings and reactions that made relationships difficult. How could these things be? Confused, I turned away from introspection, outward to the world.
Now, after many years and much healing, I see the Dark Night as a precious gift. . . a time when harmful beliefs were tested and shed. . . a time when God was at work restoring my inner landscape, clearing weeds, preparing the soil, and planting seeds of experience that would slowly become new images of God and self.
– Sally Gillette