My life was badly off track, and I knew I needed God.  My hus­band and I were separated, my 6-year-old was depressed and acting out, and I was in a painful on-again, off-again relationship with my supervisor “John.”  In frequent prayers, I asked God to take away everything about me that wasn’t good, including my attachment to John.  


Things got worse, and I thought God wanted me to try harder.   Scripture says to think about good things and pray without ceasing, so I memorized prayers and Bible verses and repeated them silently in my head.  Scripture says to be perfect, so I tried.  When I failed daily, I blamed myself and tried even harder, day after day, week after week. 


Months went by with no sign of God.  I was tired and sick and often missed work.  Thinking I was being punished, I wrote obsessively in my journal about reasons, making lists of sins from as far back as early child­hood, asking forgiveness for each one.  Waves of despair sometimes wiped out my faith, leaving me fearful that God didn’t care or even exist. Some­times in the night I sat rocking back and forth, crying in a way that hurt like retching, thinking of suicide.  Sometimes when alone in the car, I screamed.    


Once in awhile, I heard a voice say, “Stop trying,” and I was sure Satan was trying to lead me astray.  

Not long after I started hearing the voice, I dreamed I was using a copy machine that exploded.  Light bulbs flew through the air and shattered on the floor.  The dream seemed like a warning, and I yelled at God that I’d never be able to please Him, that I was tired of trying and didn’t care anymore.  The voice said, “Stop Trying,” and this time I knew who it was.  Suddenly, unmistakably, Jesus was present, and His voice was clear. 


For several days, I was comforted by Jesus’ voice and presence.  He called me Sister Child and told me that He is always with me, even when I can’t sense His presence.  He said it wasn’t my fault that I didn’t feel loved, and He told me something good about my early life that no one had ever told me (which proved to be true). 


I was euphoric for days, but my unhappiness and anxiety returned. 


Several months later, I was led to end the relationship with John.  Life improved, but I was angry at God.  Why hadn’t God led me to end the relationship earlier?  Where was God during the months of despair?  How could a powerful encounter with Jesus turn me into the opposite of a good Christian?  My natural warmth and friendliness were rarely in evidence.  I no longer tried to please God or anyone else, and I had strong feelings and reactions that made rela­tionships difficult.  How could these things be?   Confused, I turned away from introspection, outward to the world.


Now, after many years and much healing, I see the Dark Night as a precious gift. . . a time when harmful beliefs were tested and shed. . . a time when God was at work restoring my inner landscape, clearing weeds, preparing the soil, and planting seeds of experience that would slowly become new images of God and self.  

– Sally Gillette