“Lord Jesus Christ, Your light shines within us.

Let not my doubts or my darkness speak to me.

Lord Jesus Christ, your light shines within us.

Let my heart always welcome your love.”

Dread; there are mornings for many people when the first emotion they become aware of on waking is dread; a sense of darkness.  Those who know this feeling find it hard to ‘get their head round’, for want of a better expression.  It is difficult to understand where the feeling comes from or to describe it.  It is harder still to find a concrete reason for it; it is just present.  For people used to the language of faith it can feel like guilt and separation from God.  Others might go so far as to call it depression, but it is not that, at least not medically speaking.


This feeling of dread is very common and often alluded to by the great spiritual writers of the distant and not so distant past.  Thomas Merton writes of it, for example, often.  It is commonly experienced as people grow older and the things that used to give their lives meaning and purpose either fall away or shift in character.  It is also experienced when we dare to be truly on our own without our usual protective scaffolding of business and entertainment.  No one who has been on an 8 Day Individual Guided Silent Retreat will have escaped the experience of dread, if they have done it properly (i.e. without trying to escape themselves.)  Sometimes people will feel that they have lost God and therefore lost their faith, particularly if they have no wise person to talk things through with.  Sometimes people will blame the Church for letting them down in some way.


We do not need to be afraid of this experience of “dread”.  It is very well documented in Christian writing and rather than being something which is taking us away from God or is a sign of a breakdown of faith, it can be a sign of movement towards God.  It can be part of the Dark Night of the Soul which happens when we undergo change in our lives and the old way of seeing God and walking with him no longer works.  This is a sign that God is moving us along.  Dread can be the very real awareness that although I am not actually purposefully missing the mark with God, I am resistant to him, feel myself as separate to him even though part of me wants just the opposite.  We are divided people – divided against ourselves in our longing for and resistance to God.


What can we do when dread hits us?  First, know that it is normal (unless it persists as a great blackness and then perhaps we need to go to the doctor – but the feeling of spiritual dread passes).  We come to Christ in prayer acknowledging ourselves as the weak and divided people we are, wanting him and not wanting him, and we just wait on him.  And we find someone to talk to who understands the Christian journey.


Finally, try singing; it always lifts the heart.  The words of the Taizé song at the top of this page say it all.