On my bed night after night I sought him Whom my soul loves; I sought him but did not find him.
I must arise now and go search the city; In the streets and in the squares I must seek him whom my soul loves.
I sought him but did not find him. I opened to my beloved
But my beloved had turned away and gone! My heart went out to him as he spoke. I searched for him but did not find him; I called to him but he did not answer me. Song of Solomon 3:1,2; 5:6
This is love, its bright hope and its dark despair.
Yes, there is a dark side to love, and that darkness is not an evil that will end love, but it is a true witness to the presence of love. There are times that the joy I feel in the arms of my beloved affirms the depths of our love. But there are times that the pit of desperation deep in the night at the absence of my beloved bears greater witness to the strength of the love we share than the joy we feel in one another's presence. Night after night I fall into the darkness within and my heart goes somewhere into the darkness without, hoping I will find my beloved's heart searching me out in some spiritual, some mystical way. My desire is to find we are thinking of each other at the same moment, with the same passion, with the same longings; but my heart comes back empty, I need the living, warm touch of flesh and blood. I call out for my beloved, sometimes in a gentle sigh, sometimes in tears barely held back and sometimes in anger at the blessed closeness and the cursed distance between us. But my beloved does not answer. There is silence. I am alone.
I may be filled with the knowledge I am loved by her, I know in my mind that my beloved, somewhere, longs for me deep in the same night. But when all the promises of everlasting love are remembered, when all the joys of yesterday's embraces and touching are recalled, when hope reminds me there will be tomorrow's meeting, I still find myself staring into the night, broken hearted, wishing the silence would be broken by the sound of my beloved breathing beside me. There is a deep hollow and holy place within me that only the presence of my beloved will fill. And until I am with my beloved nothing will take away that holy longing and desperation.
Who is a lover of God who has not desperately longed for His presence? Who has a heart for God and has not gone out into the black night? Who has not fallen into the darkest of despairs because we are not with Him, because we cannot see His face, feel His touch, hear His voice speak our name. Who has not at some time, night after night curled up in bed, face buried in the pillows, sought Him out in sighs and curses and tears? Who has not opened to God and found that He had turned away? There are times we think we have heard His voice call our names, our hearts go out in joy and gladness but we turn to where we think we might find Him and He is gone, or perhaps was never there. And we wonder what lover's game He is playing with us, or is it a game? Perhaps our Beloved has abandoned us. Perhaps He has gone away and does not desire our presence, He no longer finds us lovely. We callout to Him, we cry out for Him. But He does not answer. There is silence as deep as the stars. We don't know if He will return, we don't know if He hears us calling. We wonder if He cares at all that we are calling.
Sometimes it is not enough to just know intellectually that we are loved by Him. "God loves you" rings hollow to the heart ravaged by despair at the absence of God. All His promises of love deep and eternal, all of the remembrances of His presence with us in times past, all the hopes of being with Him tomorrow, none of these will dull the edge of pain when we callout for God and He does not answer now, this moment. There are times when His promises are assurance enough to hold back the darkness, but there are times when nothing but His very presence will lift us from the pit.
To be ravaged by despair at the absence of God is the greatest witness to love for God. It is not lack of faith that brings this despair but the depths of passion. It is not that we are wanting in faith but that we truly want only Him; He is our beloved and our desire is for Him, fully, completely and eternally yet we know we cannot have Him thus while constrained by this life. Yes, faith is sometimes bold confidence, and sometimes it is hope against hope that He loves us and is there but silent and invisible. Love, unlike the confidence and assurance of faith, is the holy joy at His presence and the consuming darkness when He is silent and answers us not when we call out to Him. “Faith” may be the knowledge He is still out there somewhere when we open to Him and He is not present, but “love” is the pit in our stomach as we stare into the void where we once found Him standing. To love God is to suffer this holy longing for Him.
Only those who love Him desperately know the forsakenness of missing Him. Be comforted in this, all you who face the nights with dread, who seek His face through eyes clouded with tears of loneliness, you are not far from Him. Have faith, He has not forsaken you, He has not abandoned you. And though your own heart breaks with doubt and fears you cannot name at His absence it is because of love that your heart is afire with pain. This is the truest witness to love, the hardest to bear, surely, but to have a great love is to suffer greatly for it. To this all lovers will say "Amen", it is so.