“Yesterday we loved God in light and in joy; today let us love him in darkness and spiritual dryness. If we had the surety of his love yesterday, we ought also to have it today. His love does not depend on the changes of our heart…His love is everlastingly the same.”
This simple and compelling advice comes from Archbishop Luis María Martínez (1881-1956), the first official Primate of Mexico. I don’t know his story well, but clearly he understands the sometimes barren nature of faith. In fact, one of his books is entitled “When God is Silent,” in which he argues that God is sometimes silent before our petitions in order to help us in our faith.
In grief, there is often silence. God did not answer the prayers of many people as my son was being treated for cancer. He seemed silent in the midst of a storm. It is in these silences that we feel alone, find our faith is empty, and wonder if our beliefs may be wrong. But the first line of that quote is powerful: “Yesterday we loved God in light and in joy; today let us love him in darkness and spiritual dryness.”
Yesterday we loved God in light and in joy; today let us love him in darkness and spiritual dryness.Archbishop Luis María Martínez
When I was getting married to my wife, I promised to love Mary Ann “in good times and in bad.” There have been times in our marriage where it would have been easier for either of us to walk away from our commitment and our love. But if I can love Mary Ann in the light and joy, I can also love her when our relationship feels broken. Love is tough and it calls for patience and commitment, whether with your spouse, children, or God. So if I’m willing to praise God in the midst of joy, I should be patient with God as I work my way through the emptiness that the loss of Oliver brings to my life.
My favorite verse, which I’ll write more on in the future, sums this up quite well. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12) It is interesting that Paul puts patience with affliction, but not surprising since he too suffered from an ongoing illness and saw friends dying for their faith. He was afflicted spiritually, physically, and emotionally and he still called for patience.
If we are struggling with our faith in a time of despair, there is comfort in knowing that even the saints felt this barrenness. That even St. Paul had to remind others (and probably himself) to be patient. Perhaps that barrenness is better understood as part of a journey, not an endpoint. It is liking walking across the desert to get to the oasis. It is difficult and requires patience, but we are still heading in the right direction.