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I understand why my child cries, because life is hard. And it just gets harder as we get older. We scrape our knees, we have to go to bed before we feel like it, we have to get up too early in the morning. Sometimes even worse things meet us. Our parents get divorced or separate. Our parents stay together and fight. We fight with our best friends. People we think are our friends abandon us. We struggle through the angst and humiliation of junior high school. In high school we've got trouble dating and with grades. We wonder, what am I supposed to do when I grow up? College? Travel? Work? Which college? Which career? How will I pay the bills? Where will I live? How will I survive in this world? What? My mother has breast cancer? What? My father had a heart attack? What? My brother is getting deployed to Iraq? What?
St. John of the Cross wrote of a dark night of the soul. The dark night is a time centered on doubts about ones faith, not believing in God or questioning religion. This time is extremely hard and could result in a total loss of faith. St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Paul of the Cross and Mother Teresa of Calcutta all experienced this dark time of faith and they are considered supremely holy people.
We are called to be holy. Sometimes the journey of life and holiness can take us through dark places: death, illness, disease, war, hurt within families, extreme self doubt. Many of us have experienced times when we though we could not go on living, or we thought God had completely abandoned us, or we didn't see the point of religion, or faith, or believing in goodness at all! But during the entire time, God is with us. He is spiritually bringing us along, gently patting us on the back, wiping away our tears. He is whispering encouraging things in our ears and helping us pick up the broken pieces to become whole again. With patience, our dark nights are times of transformation, resulting in a new, more renewed faith when the light shines again.
The poem "Footprints" by Mary Stevenson describes this situation quite perfectly, when it says, “'But I have noticed during the most trying periods of my life there have only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why when I needed you most, have you not been there for me? ' The Lord replied, 'The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand, is when I carried you.'”
God carries us through all of the hard times, and through every dark night. It is for this reason that God told Paul," My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." When we can no longer rely on ourselves, we tend to rely fully on God. It is our job to remember God's words in the hard places. We are strong because during our weakness, we allow the Master of the Universe to guide our lives with his love and strength. We should also remember Paul's anthem, "for when I am weak, then I am strong." and make it our own.