Every now and then you read a book that perfectly speaks to you and your current life situation, almost as if God is using the book to speak directly to you. "Celebration of Discipline" by Richard Foster has been that type of book for me these past few weeks. I have had this book on my shelf for awhile now, and I finally decided that this season of Lent would be the ideal time to finally read it. For those of you not familiar with the book, "Celebration of Discipline" takes a classical and practical look at 13 different spiritual disciplines.
The whole book was solid, but I especially benefited from the chapters on meditation, fasting, and solitude. I have been attempting to incorporate the insights from the book into my Lenten observances, and I have found them to be refreshing and meaningful tools to encounter God.
I had many moments where I felt like Richard Foster had written the book just for me, but let me just share one. Recently I have felt like I have been in a spiritual and mental desert. I know that everyone goes through difficult times and that the only way to the promised land is through the desert, but it is never easy when you are in the middle of it all. In his chapter on solitude, Foster talks about the desert experience which he calls "the dark night of the soul." I found great encouragement from the following words:
"What does the dark night of the soul involve? We may have a sense of dryness, aloneness, even lostness. Any overdependence on the emotional life is stripped away. The notion, often heard today, that such experiences should be avoided and that we always should live in peace and comfort, joy, and celebration only betrays the fact that much contemporary experience is surface slush. The dark night is one of the many ways God brings us into a hush, a stillness so that he may work an inner transformation upon the soul (102)."
Through these words and others, I began to see my desert experience as a chance to encounter God and to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. I was once again given hope that pain and suffering will lead to joy and renewal.