the gift of darkness (or, why being bored in church might be God telling you something)

the gift of darkness (or, why being bored in church might be God telling you something) October 20, 2014

St. John of the Cross writes, in his prologue to The Ascent of Mount Carmel:

“A deeper enlightenment and wider experience than mine is necessary to explain the dark night through which a soul journeys toward that divine light of perfect union with God that is achieved, insofar as possible in this life, through love. The darknesses and trials, spiritual and temporal, that fortunate souls ordinarily undergo on their way to the high state of perfection are so numerous and profound that human science cannot understand them adequately. Nor does experience of them equip one to explain them. Only those who suffer them will know what this experience is like, but they won’t be able to describe it.”

You can’t go forward by “knowing” in the usual way, but only by experiencing. At some time in your life, I hope you are so ambushed by God, that God catches you by surprise.

If you try to go by what you already know—John of the Cross makes it clear—you will pull God back into your pre-existent categories, and you won’t get very far. That is why most people stay with their childish faith.

When God leads you into a dark night, it is to deepen and mature your faith—which, by its very definition, “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

The gift of darkness draws you to know God’s presence beyond what thought, imagination, or sensory feeling can comprehend. During the dark night the tried-and-true rituals and creeds of religion no longer satisfy or bring assurances of God’s love. (So you might get bored with church services for very good reasons too, but that is not the same as mere spiritual laziness or a lack of faith.)

God is calling you into deeper and closer intimacy, beyond anything you could achieve with your most sincere attempts, closer than you could even dream.  But you must learn to proceed without any guarantees from your feelings or your intellect. That’s the only real way to grow in faith and divine love.

Richard Rohr

From Daily Meditation, October 20, 2014 [I reformatted the paragraphs]

Adapted from Intimacy: The Divine Ambush, disc 2 (CDMP3 download)

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  • Randy Hardman

    Needed this today…

  • fiona

    Wow, this is nice to hear! I just heard a sermon reminding that just before Psalm 23, there is psalm 22 : “My God, my God why have you forsaken me….” Jesus Himself said that! We can forget that! Having a relationship with God is like any other, we are allowed to feel a lack of assurance from Him at times! But He is still there!

  • Kim Fabricius

    As I keep telling people, you must be bored again to glimpse the kingdom of God.

  • One of the main reasons people get bored in church is because it IS boring, that might have almost NOTHING to do with God and a lot to do with the fact that evangelicalism has lost its ability to be creative. While I appreciate this article let’s not ignore that something can be supernaturally boring without Gods help…

    • Derek

      I tend to think one of the main reasons people get bored in church is because they have yet to experience the new birth and therefore find the things of God to be boring.
      I think we should preach the gospel, and have a simple devotion to Christ in Spirit and truth. In other words, feed the sheep instead of entertaining the goats.

      • Sure but what about us sheep who have been there and seen that for nearly 50 years? The very institution of church is BORING the way we have made it…I have a hard time believing that what we call “church” is at all what Jesus meant…here’s a test: If you really believe the message you preach from the pulpit then do not take up an offering or devote ANY of the meeting to collecting money…if the message has merit people will support it, if it doesn’t guess what? No more boredom.

      • S. Payne

        You are a follower of Christ by accepting and following his teaching which culminated in his self-sacrifice. The church service can still be a useful resource for learning his teaching, but you are not a Christian because you attend a church service.

        People get bored in church because week by week it is a passive and changeless system. This is not the system found in the early church. The early church gathered in more active and dynamic home groups that allowed each person to participate and admonish each other.

        Moreover, we shouldn’t even wait until home groups to do this, we should be caring for each other in self-sacrificial love in our every day lives just as Christ did.

        I recommending checking out these two books from Frank Viola:

  • Derek

    I love that picture though.

  • Alex Dalton

    This is so timely for me. My church service sucks. Great people there, and the fellowship afterwards is excellent. I actually have friends there and hang out with people, know them deeply, etc. – which is rare in my experience of churches. But the sermons offer nothing. Total snooze-fest. “Are you a lion or a lamb? Cuz Jesus was both! You gotta know when to be powerful and when to be gentle!” Blah blah blah. No substance. I was just sharing this post the other day with a friend who is also extremely bored with church.