Monday, September 21, 2015

Review: The Reality of the Dark

The dark night of the soul is one of my passion areas because of the way it can help us reframe priorities, grow, and strip away extraneous parts of our lives. Unfortunately, some books on the topic over-spiritualize a dark night too much and try to find answers where sometimes the point is not having an answer at all.

Nancy Ortberg's latest book, Seeking in the Dark: Finding God's Light in the Most Unexpected Places does not make the mistake of explaining away dark places. While she doesn't really talk about a "dark night," that's exactly the experience she describes. She poignantly notes the way tragedy can impact our lives without watering it down or explaining it away like so many Christian authors can do. Rather, he emphasizes the need to let these experiences be as they are. The describes the pain and doesn't try to change it in any way. She acknowledges and accepts reality. And that's what allows us to move forward. As Ortberg says in quoting Dallas Willard, "God only meets us in one place, and that's reality."

She does acknowledge the challenges of the dark times, especially when they're in contrast to good times: “Living in between is hard work. It’s much simpler to make a choice, color it black or white, draw a line. But even though this living in between is more difficult, it’s better. Definitely better. What lies in between is nuance, richness, and meaning. It’s only in the in-between that we can live in color, with heartaches and joys combining hues.” There is more difficulty in living with complexity, but how much richer is life?

I find these times often help give great clarity to priorities and the meaning in life. When we over-spiritualize, theologize, minimize, or other-ize pain and darkness, the power behind them is often lost. I found Ortberg's work to be moving and reinforcing of where I should put my values and efforts.

Ortberg also does a nice job of connecting dark nights to later movement in improving the world. She states, "Stories are powerful, but stories from brokenness, stories that intersect with another’s pain–that, my friend, is life-changing stuff. This is gospel. Good news. Great news, really. It is the same power that puts us in the fight for justice, for serving the poor and the marginalized in the name of Jesus. It’s what keeps us, in the face of overwhelming odds, going the other direction, using hope as a shield for the fight against human trafficking, poverty, and inequitable access to health care, education, and work.”

We often try to avoid the pain, but it is usually because of our brokenness and pain that we are able to meet others where they are at and help bring hope to others in their darkness.

I listened to the audiobook version, which was well-done. The narrator spoke with enough inflection and passion that the book seemed to be her own (in contrast to many audiobooks that seem dry).

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Got a question, struggle, or doubt you'd like to see addressed here? Contact me, and I'll try to discuss it (and may even help you get an answer).