In such times we are, actually, in a place of expansion and growth even though it feels like we have become small and spiritually inadequate. God is longing to become real to us but God wants to do so by breaching the artificial boundaries we have created that keep God tame and within our comfortable grasp.
When the boundaries we have created no longer hold God, doubt creeps in like fog over the ocean at dawn. We can't see clearly, we feel the chill of God's absence, and the coziness of a sacred sweater and holy fire have all but disappeared. Yet all that is really happening is that God is trying to show us that the Sacred One is so much larger than we can imagine. With our artificial boundaries we have kept God too small, and God is simply trying to enlarge our boundaries.
When we are finally accept the fact that we are unable to grasp what we think should be within our reach, then God is revealed to us in power - as fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise.
So, here are three tips for navigating through times of doubt and spiritual darkness:
First, affirm the dark place as a place of growth. Just as a seed must be put deep down into dark earth in order to grow, so our faith, like a seed, is nourished and fed by spiritual darkness. The darkness of doubt is a natural part of the growth of faith.
Second, take a break. Stop trying so hard. Lighten up your spiritual practices and your spiritual expectations. Try taking a walk instead of trying to pray, for example. When you step out of the usual pattern that is no longer working, God will surprise you by showing up unexpectedly.
Third, spend 5 minutes a day silently sitting in the presence of God. This may seem counter to the suggestion just made. But, actually, this is stepping away from doing anything spiritual to fan faith's flames. Instead, it is showing up to be with God with an open heart. You may feel nothing, hear nothing, sense nothing. But, your heart is open and God is always ready to be revealed to open hearts.
It's difficult to wait through spiritual darkness. But, you are in good company. St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, Mother Teresa of Calcutta (along with countless people in sacred scripture) have all known the power and growth that comes when the soul is plunged into doubt and spiritual darkness. The promise stands true that God's light shines even in the darkness and the darkness can never extinguish it...(John 1:5). So, prepare to wait with patience, but be assured that the darkness of doubt can never overcome the light of faith.