Black Night

As we continue in our pilgrimage through the Jubilee of Mercy, I have been trying to jot down thoughts on mercy as they come to me. I will share one here a very personal reflection I wrote down in my journal last November on a Sunday morning:

Insomnia seems to be a Cross bound to parenthood. Sleepless with worry about your children, their future, the past, your failures. Such dark things plague the night. A friend who suffers similar night terrors told me she calls this not the “dark night of the soul” but the “black night of the soul.” She’s a mom of adult children and says she hopes it’s vicarious suffering, redemptive for her children. She said when she saw the Frank Darabont directed movie, The Green Mile, she thought: “God, allow me to carry my children’s burdens in that way.” A sort of hidden combat on their behalf. She rewrote Colossians 1:28 for her children: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, my children.” … Every night when I pray before sleep, I say to God: “Be a Father for them, supply for all of my failings and use them for their good” … For me it’s God’s mercy that saves me from sinking on those occasions into the darkness of despair. “Jesus, I trust in you” is my mantra. As I am at times assailed at night by the memory of evils, the terrible sight of failure, the sting of regrets, chaotic fears — I place myself within the fathomless sea of mercy and consent to drown … I looked at the crucifix last night, at His face, and wrote:

Mercy is the healing balm that flows from love slain under the blows of evil. I let go, succumbed to it, surrendered the blows to love. Being flawless is not the point. At once, Psalm 91:7; Psalm 131:2; Habakkuk 3:17-19; Matthew 6:25-34; Romans 8:28, 38-39 in succession washed over me, and all the darkness of my inner tomb was transubstantiated. Still dark, same sins and failures and regrets, just full of dark hope now. Paradox. Psalm 4:8 lulled me to sleep: “I will lie down in peace and sleep comes at once for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

The safety that nothing is lost in the Kingdom, where even the dross becomes gold. As I drifted off to sleep, the thousand holes torn in my soul seemed to spring with water out onto the parched earth.

I laughed with barren Sarah.

+ + +

Here are those Scripture texts:

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand fall at your right,
you, it will never approach — Psalm 91:7

Truly I have set my soul
in silence and peace.
A weaned child on its mother’s breast,
even so is my soul. — Psalm 131:2

For though the fig tree does not blossom,
and no fruit appears on the vine,
Though the yield of the olive fails
and the terraces produce no nourishment,
Though the flocks disappear from the fold
and there is no herd in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord
and exult in my saving God.
God, my Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet swift as those of deer
and enables me to tread upon the heights. — Habakkuk 3:17-19

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day. — Matthew 6:25-34

We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. — Romans 8:28, 38-39

10 comments on “Black Night

  1. Joanna Brady says:

    Thankyou ,Dr Tom,for sharing this,God has been leading me deeper into this sort of combat at night and though l know, oh l know he is with me in it, and through it,it’s good to know others go there too,and releasing to know it’s normal ,particularly in this Jubilee year of Mercy……called into the deep in so many ways ……May God Bless You….

  2. AMDG says:

    Oh these ‘black nights’! I had a little ‘light’ on this a few weeks ago. I was feeling the great weight of seeing the crosses and wounds my children bear that are the consequence of my sins and failings. In His perfect Mercy the Lord reminded me that HE is their Saviour (and that I never could be!) and that I can pray that their wounds be made glorious in His Love and their crosses be moments of communion with the Crucified. There has been consolation in this ‘light’, but mostly it has served to remind me what I most want for them is to be conformed to Christ their Saviour. My sadness has become a deeper longing and my prayer for them is different, less regret and more gratitude for His perfect love for them and ‘standing in the gap’ (like your friend) begging for mercy, glory, and longing on their behalf.
    (Here’s hoping this makes sense. )

    • AMDG: Thank you for that witness of hope and love. “my prayer for them is different, less regret and more gratitude for His perfect love for them and ‘standing in the gap’ (like your friend) begging for mercy, glory, and longing on their behalf.” What you possess is what I salute from afar and hope for…thank you for helping me see it in reality. I am SO grateful for the feedback I receive here. Pax!

  3. Jeane Bishop says:

    This (your blog) is often where I live. Almost all of our children are young adults now. What I wouldn’t give to have the solutions to their problems within my grasp at this point. I often think that I would prefer to have back the physical demands of baths and feeding, etc. instead of this . At the time I was doing all of that, I was exhausted but not so very worried.

    That being said, I love the life I have now. I love seeing the beautiful faces of my young grandchildren. I love the connection I have with my adult children as they know me in ways they couldn’t have before coming to the places in life they are now. I love that on a couple of occasions I have been thanked by them for doing hard parenting things that they did not appreciate at the time.

    I also realize that the illusion of control I had when my children were young is just that, an illusion. I see this more clearly all the time. Another thing that is more clear all the time is the extravagant and generous love our God has for each of my children. It is a fact that God loves them even more than I do.

    “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4, 6-7

    Jesus, I trust in you.

  4. WoopieCushion says:

    Holy ground. Pledge prayer for you in that place.

  5. […] Since Christmas, my spiritual life has experienced a severe “dry” period.  In a recent blogpost, Dr. Tom Neal, who regularly posts at his site, Neal Obstat, Theological Opining, and appropriately subtitled, Theological Thoughts on Current Happenings, spoke of the physical and spiritual effects of regular insomnia induced by the awesome nature of parental responsibilities.  Please see his ever-poignant discussion of this topic at: […]

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