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Friday, April 14, 2017

A Lenten Healing: 40 Graces for Forgiveness (Day 39: The Dark Night of the Soul)

For three days Jesus was gone. However, all four gospels skip straight from his burial to the morning the women found the tomb empty. I wish they hadn’t passed over that time. I’d like to see what the depths of despair and disillusionment looked like on the disciples.
Maybe the writers left it out because it was so ugly to witness.
I occasionally sink into melancholy. After more than four decades of living with myself, when the darkness slips over me I can usually recognize what’s happening. Sometimes it’s cyclical in nature—“let the reader understand”—but other times there doesn’t seem to be any reason for it. My psyche simply goes under and there’s no way I’ve found to get past it except to go through it. Fortunately it normally takes just a day or two of wallowing into and back out of the gloom and dejection. But if you read my psycho-chicken-scrawled journal entries on those days you’d swear I was about to off myself.
But even at my lowest, most despondent and disconsolate moments, I know that I have hope and a future, even if I can’t feel it. Because I know who Jesus is.
But the disciples weren’t sure they did. They heard their Lord cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” then they watched him die right in front of them. All of their hopes that the Christ had come were obliterated.
They must’ve been angry. And humiliated. They’d put their faith in Jesus, believed him when he said he was the Son of God, and gave up their livelihoods for him.
Then he died on them.
I suspect that despair has at its root some amount of indignation toward or dissatisfaction with God. When I am in a dark night of the soul, it can’t be that God has removed the light from me; he promises that he will never leave nor forsake me. If I am in the darkness, it must be because I have removed myself from God. I don’t understand why things are the way they are, so I blame God (consciously or unconsciously) for not satisfying my expectations.
This is not a case of needing to forgive God, however. God has never wronged me. Jesus did not wrong his disciples. He never asked forgiveness for having died on them. On the contrary, his death accomplished the work for their forgiveness.
They should’ve asked Jesus’s forgiveness for their days of despair.
So should I.
* * *

“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” – Psalm 22:1

* * *

God, I suspect that my recurring bouts of depression need some kind of meditative journey of their own. I know that’s not the way you designed me to be. Thank you for never leaving me, even when I can’t feel your presence. Forgive me for doubting your goodness. Help me recognize that I don’t need to doubt you when I don’t understand what you’re doing. Teach me greater humility, to be at peace with you and with myself and with those around me.

40 Graces for Forgiveness: a Healing Journey is now available in print. $6.49 at

With questions for personal meditation and space for journaling, this 40-day devotional series offers a deeper look at Christ's command that we forgive. For a personal pilgrimage, or as a resource for group Bible study,40 Graces for Forgiveness: a Healing Journey invites seekers of forgiveness and healing to the path on which God longs to meet us all. $6.49 at Find out more about 40 Graces for Forgiveness: a Healing Journey.

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