The Dark Night of the Soul
By John Mark Comer
Begin with prayer (5 minutes)
Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting (around a table, on the couch, the floor of a living room, etc.). Have somebody lead a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together.
Debrief this week’s teaching in triads (15–20 minutes)
If you are in a Community of seven or more, divide into small groups of 3–4 people each (ideally same gender).
Spend a few minutes catching up on life…
Then talk through the following debrief questions:
1. Did you listen to the teaching on the dark night of the soul? What did you think?
2. Are you in a “desert” season, or a “dark night of the soul”? How does that feel?
3. Have you been through one in the past? What did God do in your life through it?
Transition back to one large group (5–10 minutes)
Ask a few questions about the last week’s Practice:
1. Any stories or reflections from the last week’s Practice on active and passive spirituality that you would like to encourage the whole group with?
2. As you think about the pain point in your current season of life, how was your practice of “radical acceptance” this last week?
Read this overview
“Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience.”
So said C.S. Lewis of the stage in our apprenticeship to Jesus where our experience of God feels more like absence than presence.
The writers of the Bible have all sorts of metaphors for this phenomena: the desert, the darkness, pruning, God hiding his face, etc. But over time, it’s come to be called “the dark night of the soul.” This language goes back to St. John of the Cross, and his spiritual director, St. Teresa in the 16th century, whose work on seasons of spiritual dryness is some of the best down through church history. They claim that in the seasons we feel most distant from God, he’s actually doing some of his best work to set us free from our attachments and anxieties, to live in his love and presence.
In this practice, we open up about our own seasons of dryness and draw on ancient truth to journey through the dark night in the modern world.
Do this practice right now as a Community (10–30 minutes)
The goal for this Practice is to create open conversation about the dark night of the soul. As you do this, keep in mind that it’s the individuals’ responsibility to mature toward openness and vulnerability, but it’s the community’s responsibility to create an environment that is emotionally and relationally safe, welcoming, compassionate, and confidential.
On that note, a few reminders for you as you listen to those who are sharing:
- Don’t attempt to “fix” them with a more stringent spiritual disciplines regimen or spiritual pep talk.
- Don’t pray for God to take them out of the dark night, but through it.
- Do empathize, stand in solidarity, and speak truth over them.
- Do hold them before God in prayer.
Step One: Conversation
- Open up the conversation with a simple question: Does anybody in the Community identify with the dark night description? Perhaps you feel like you’re in a season of darkness or dryness with God? Or you feel unable to feel God’s presence like you used to, and, as far as you can tell, it’s not the result of hurry, or sin, or the demonic?
Step Two: Prayer
- If anyone in the Community identifies with the dark night, spend a few minutes letting them share and then have the Community pray over those in that season.
- If no one in your group feels as if they are in a dark night, spend a little bit of time inviting the Spirit to grow and mature your Community in his time and in his way. Once you are done, feel free to call it a night.
Step Three: The Dark Night Step Sheet (optional)
- For those of you in the dark night, download this step sheet and spend some time reading it and reflecting on it in the week ahead.
- This Step Sheet briefly explains what the dark night is and what it feels like and provides a collection of Scriptures, quotes, reminders of truth, and a few practices or steps to come back to in seasons of the dark night.
- If you find that a large percentage of your Community resonates a dark night, consider opening the Step Sheet together and scrolling down to the “practices” section. After reading through them together, ask which of these practices you would like to focus on in the week ahead.