I never knew it would feel like that.
I started reading spiritual writing when I was a teenager, so I’ve long been familiar with the term “dark night of the soul.” And I’d experienced darkness in my own life. But in all my experiences of darkness, and in all my imaginings of a dark night of the soul, however distant or silent God was, there was always this:
Only in December and January, for the first time in my life, I began to be afraid that God was not simply distant but that He was not there at all, that He did not even exist.
But even though I could not feel God’s presence in the midst of those weeks, I was still able to walk (or maybe just crawl) by faith.
It was gratitude that sustained me. Had I not begun listing my blessings and God’s gifts last January, listing and listing until noticing those things was intrinsic to my life, almost automatic at times, my depression might have been much deeper, much darker. I might not have been able to see the graces and so choose faith in the face of fear.
And I see now that even that choice was grace, God sustaining me in the midst of my weakness. I couldn’t feel my way to faith in the darkness. But God gave me the grace and the strength to choose it anyway, to choose it in spite of my very loud fears.
I am deeply grateful for the ways that this practice of gratitude has shaped my way of seeing the world. I am grateful that God prompted me last January to start a list of things for which I am grateful. And I am grateful that it became enough of a habit to sustain me in a dark time.
Now, I know this habit of gratitude will not work for everyone in the way it has worked for me, but I figure even if it doesn’t become a lifeline for you, it can’t hurt to list some things you’re grateful for.
So my challenge for you is to try to list at least 100 things you’re grateful for this week. These do not have to be only “spiritual” things. You can list anything, anyone. (“Tea” is on my gratitude list at least half a dozen times. If my husband had a list, “good beer” would be on his.)
If you take me up on this challenge, I’d love to hear about it, if it was easy or hard, if anything surprised you as you made your list. (You can shoot me an email if you don’t want to leave a comment.)
For the beauty of the earth
For the glory of the skies
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This our hymn of thankful praise.