It is dark. I-can’t-see-my-hand-in-front-of-my-face kind of dark.  I-must-be-blind kind of dark. The light has escaped, swallowed up by blackness. My soul writhes, grasping for any flicker or any spark it thinks it sees. Only there are no flickers.  There is only the black hole where my heart used to be.  A vacuum that sucks all life, all hope, everything…into itself.  The bottom of a well, or a never-ending hole. Tomorrow isn’t assured. Yesterday is gone. Today is torture. My soul is weary.  My emotions spent.  My mind numb.

Welcome to the dark night of the soul.

A place where hope wanders away and faith flees. A place so black, I can see no way out.  No doors, windows, or even cracks in the walls.  It is a cave from which there is no exit.  I grope.  I pull myself along the cold damp floor on hands and knees reaching, grasping, feeling for the walls, in hopes they will lead anywhere but here.  Nothing.

Only, inky blackness greets me and scoffs at me trying to find the exit.  This darkness has a presence.  An empty presence that taunts me with silent snickers.  It seems crawling is ineffective, weeping gets me nowhere.  Exhausted, I lie still.  Curled in a ball, trying to shield myself against the chill which has made its way inside of me.  The cold is all encompassing and I tremble.  I wait in the black for something or nothing.  I am utterly alone. Undone.  A prisoner of the darkness.  No longer afraid, I am waiting for death to come and take me. I feel the weight of mortality.  Lying on the hard floor of my prison, I am blind, deaf, and dumb.  My mouth can no longer cry out and my senses have been stolen in the dark. I close my eyes and resign myself to my fate. I release all care for anyone or anything. I have lost myself in the bowels of the cavern and the darkness has won. Still as death, I lie there on the floor.  The mocking presence around me is gleeful.

But then, there is movement. 

As if blindfolded, I strain my ears to attempt to hear.  I am so weak I believe I am imagining things, until I feel it again.  A stirring, not so much in the cave, but in the place my heart used to be.  My eyes are open now trying to see the change, but there is none. My captivity is still complete. Confused, I wait for any indicator of what I feel to make itself manifest.  Another twinge has me sitting up, groping around again on hands and knees.  The jeering silence is fading and my movement banishes the cold in my bones.  I hear a surprised gasp from the presence nearby.

I find my feeble voice and call out, “Who’s there? Is someone there?  Please, help!”

A gentle, soft wind circles the cave, as if in a distant tunnel there has been an opening. Just a slight movement of the air. The staleness of the cave dissipates, or is it my mind playing tricks on me in the dark? A thump in my chest tells me I am not crazy. The black hole vacuum seems to have released my heart to me once again. Something is happening.  I am still not sure what. My grasping hand finds a wall and I run my fingers over the stone. I stand and try to follow it like a blind man looking for a door. I move in the direction I feel the breeze is coming from, until it begins to swirl around and becomes a rushing wind.

Suddenly, I am in a wind storm so powerful I must sit with my back against the wall and cover my head. My heart, that had been missing before, is now pounding out of my chest. In the darkness pressure is building as the wind increases, swirling around in the cave. It is a powerful gust, warm and sweet, but raging.  I move facedown, lying low and flat to keep from being swept away.  Just like my heart, my ears are awake now.  The roar is deafening. The echo of it off the cavernous walls leaves no space for silence. Moments ago, I was resigned to die and now, seconds later, I am clinging to life, shaking with the desire to live.  Trying to survive the wind and the force with which it is gusting. The ground beneath me begins to tremor.  It rolls like waves in the sea.  A deafening crack causes me to cover my ears, and the rumble that follows, sounds as if thunder is over my head. A flash of light blinds my dark-accustomed eyes. I wonder at the phenomenon of cave storms.  Is that even a thing? Is this even real?  Have I completely lost it?

The light goes from repeated flashes, to a steady white light so bright I have to close my eyes to find darkness again, except it is too bright for even that.  My hands must choose between protecting my ears or my eyes. They stay over my ears because it sounds like the world is blowing apart. The fear of the storm causes me to desperately cling to life.  My mind wakes up as I hope for the storm to pass. The thoughts are racing to survive, trying to figure out the safest place to be, but the wind has me pinned. So, without any options I once again resign myself to death, this time by cave storm.

cave light

Just as I am sure I am going to explode or be buried in a collapsing cave, the wall I am lying beside rolls away in one motion.  The prison is open wide and I am free.  The storm blows the wall away, from the inside out.  The darkness is gone. As the dust settles, there is deep laughter surrounding me in the light. It bounces off the remaining walls. It is Christ, my rescuer. Clothed in light, he is belly laughing.  At the sound of him, joy floods my soul. I feel strength surge into me and I join in the amusement, not even sure why.  Laughter pulls me to my feet and as I step out of the cave I realize it is not a cave at all.  It is a tomb; an EMPTY tomb.

I wrote this for all those who have ever been or are currently in a dark night of the soul. It seems to be an epidemic these days in our culture.  As much as the enemy would want you to believe that you are the only one who has ever been in such a dark place, it is actually a common human experience.  You are not alone in that cave.  Christ, has been there and is there with you now.  The good news is that he also is the Rescuer from the dark place.  He defeated death on that day, so that you and I can find joy and strength in him to walk out of our tombs.  We celebrate this truth on Easter, but the fact is, it is true every day.  After his dark night of the soul when he wrestled darkness and death, he blew out the walls like a cork out of a bottle, so we could have resurrection freedom. If you are in a dark place, do not give up.  He’s there, stirring things, storming things, and setting things free.  Between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is a cave storm that you will not believe, unless you are the one in it and the dust settles …into laughter.

7 thoughts on “After…

  1. Thank you, Michelle, for an extraordinary piece – for the reality of death’s darkness – and for the relief, laughter, and peace of the EMPTY TOMB. – love, mary

  2. Michelle – this is an absolutely stunning piece! You so vividly capture the darkness of a soul imprisoned by sin and the bright light of Christ’s redemption unable to be held captive in any cave coming to see the prisoner free.
    “He whom the son sets free is free indeed.”
    Thank you! And Easter Blessings to you and yours.

  3. Michelle
    This broke me, in that GOOD way. I am crawling out of the tomb you speak so vividly on. I love the sweet transition to joy. Thank you for a lovely post.

    • Deb, I have been in that tomb many different times over my life. I think there are a multitude of dark nights, and each of us has our own to walk, crawl or lie down through! Thanks for reading.

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