Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Don't Give Up in the Darkness

originally published in The Courier.

There are many stories of Saints fighting demons – sometimes even physically wrestling them! All too often, we see such stories as a piece of history, the “way it was then” and we don’t see the connection to our current world.
Do demons still exist? Are they picking fights with us? I would venture to answer yes to both questions; however, it is masked and covert. When we mentally wrestle with an addiction, when we fight off evil thoughts, when we are tempted to give to despair – there is a spiritual influence.
We are always responsible for the choices we make, but what might surprise us is that the temptation is not a sin. Whether we are tempted by impure thoughts, or feelings of hopelessness or self hatred, the temptation is just that – a temptation. Satan would like you to believe that he has already won just because you are tempted. He wants you to believe that you are defeated, dejected, and he welcomes despair.
Yet, hold on! Remember that when we walk with our Lord, when we serve Him and work to bring Christ's peace, healing and love to others, Satan is going to be furious. He will do everything he can to bring you down. 
In the swirl of temptation, sometimes the clouds of confusion and temptation and whisperings of lies in our heads are so noisy and the clouds so thick, we can no longer see the light.
What do you do when you can no longer see the light? When you can no longer feel God’s presence in your heart? When you only see emptiness in all spiritual directions? Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta answered us with her life. She went through years of spiritual darkness at the end of her life and do you know what she did? Exactly what she had done every other day. She served the poor; she loved them; she smiled at them; brought joy to her sisters. She wrote letters to silly teenage girls who wrote her with all their drama. She kept putting one foot in front of the other until she saw our Savior again.
A letter I received from Mother Teresa in response to one I had sent to her when I was 16. Only later did I realize that based on the date of the letter, she wrote this during her time of spiritual darkness.

Living out our faith is a challenge every day, but it is especially difficult when you are under spiritual attack and Satan is going for your jugular. By the time you read this, our March 29 retreat will be completed and I am certain it will have been wonderful for all – because Satan is working so hard to upset it. 
The first reaction you might have when you start thinking mean thoughts or having feelings of low self worth is “what is wrong with me?! Why am I so horrible today?!” And right there it could send you into another spiral of negative thoughts about yourself. What we need to do is set that emotion aside (and this is not easy), but set it aside and realize what is happening. “I’m not a horrible person; I’m being tempted; God, give me strength.” 
But you still feel awful! And you are in spiritual darkness! You are praying to get through the day and you might even refrain from answering the phone because you know you are going to sound short-tempered. Your friends' voices of compassion and encouragement echo like far-off murmurs in your heart; yet, it doesn’t break the darkness. But whatever you do, just don’t give in!
The darkness will pass and you will see the light again. With each new day, comes new light and a new vision and you see the silly temptations for what they were – empty nothings. 
Satan wants to keep you in that darkness; he wants to stop you from doing God’s work. Just – keep going. Keep doing whatever you were doing even if you don’t feel God’s love there. This is the surest test of faith – to believe, though you do not see or feel Him. 
Dawn is coming! The light of Christ breaks forth like the rising sun! It might be gradual or it might be all at once. God might use that one voice to break the darkness where all others were muffled. That one friend who speaks words you can hear and it is like lightening flashing through the night sky. You see a glimmer of hope. 
You may feel spiritually dry or just plain “blah” in prayer. This may not be a reflection of your sinfulness, but of your holiness – and to what lengths Satan is working to bring you down. Yet, if you can just hold on – what a glorious new day will dawn in your soul! A new level of unity with God and depth of love – just, don’t give up in the darkness … Hope and light are waiting for you just around the next corner! You are almost there! Just don’t give up! Christ is rising in your heart! He has already won the victory! Believe and rejoice! (Just, promise me, you won’t give up!)

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