As Christians, we share in a rich history of men and women of faith who have gone before us in traversing this journey of spiritual development. In stumbling through our own spiritual journey, it is often helpful to look to the spiritual giants of the past, and learn from their own life of faith.
With this in mind, I invite you to travel with me as we visit the late 16th century. Allow me to introduce you to St. John of the Cross, the Spanish mystic, as he writes about the means of God’s loving discipline for our spirit. The following excerpt is taken from the first of his two part work, The Dark Night of the Soul:
How marvelous is His ability to raise from within us a crop of righteousness-virtues that are exactly the opposite of the thorns and tares which once grew rampant in the miserable depleted soil of our soul. He uses His “tool” of trying circumstances to crack our hard ground. He plants His Word of light in our deep darkness. He pours the living water of His Spirit on our dryness … and the soul softens.
This is how He roots out anger and generates a harvest of humility in us-so that we come to rest in God’s providence and power and not our own, which also makes us gentle, kind, and respectful toward our neighbors. It is how He destroys envy-that unhappy disturbance that rules in us when we decide that what we are and what we have is not as good as what God has chosen to give others. And by His actions, He raises a harvest of joyful obedience in place of our complaining nature-that is, our desire to quit the spiritual life when, day by day, we must behave as children of God, set apart for His use, when everyone else seems to get by with such ungodly behavior.
…I urge you: Quiet the complaints of your soul, and put down its rebellions, for it will naturally want to turn back to its old pleasures and demands. God will, He must, bring this utter dryness upon your soul in order to kill these deadly roots of sin. When all within you is dry, when your soul is begging and tempting you to turn back to the world and all its creature comforts-in that moment, quiet its pathetic demands. In the time of empty, silent, desert dryness, fix your soul on God alone. You can hardly imagine the harvest of lasting joy that will come to you when you learn to be free from your soul’s whining and wheedling. For then, God himself can speak quiet words, and you will know as never before the sweet tenderness of His great love for you.
~ St. John of the Cross
How have you experienced difficult circumstances which have ultimately shaped you in a positive way?
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