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Guide to the gift of suffering

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The Dark Night: A Gift of God
Daniel P. Schrock

Herald Press, 2009
217 pages

This book covers a topic not well understood in evangelical circles – the dark night of the soul. Author Daniel P. Schrock is an American Mennonite pastor who also works as a spiritual director.

Schrock outlines the hallmarks of a dark night, including dryness in one’s spiritual life, difficulty praying, and “a growing desire to be alone in the loving awareness of God.”

Dark nights have deepened the author’s own faith. His pastoral heart shines through as he seeks to help Christians make sense of what can be a frustrating and alienating experience. Stories of modern day believers as well as people in the Bible who experienced dark nights provide insight.

Central to this work are the concepts of contemplation and meditation, and the difference between them. According to Schrock, we initiate meditation, using images and words, to learn more about God.
God, on the other hand, initiates contemplation and it’s our job to receive his “transforming presence.” By being open to and receiving God’s overtures, the suffering brought on by a dark night can lead to deeper intimacy with Christ.

Schrock’s invitation to receive God’s loving pruning through the harrowing experience of a dark night is compelling. He extols the cleansing, deepening power of a dark night as attachments to idols like self-sufficiency and addictions are loosened and even extinguished.

Mennonite Brethren readers may stumble over some of Schrock’s theology, including his equation of baptism with salvation, but, all in all, the book is a sound guide to help anyone on a dark journey of the soul view their suffering as a gift from God.

Sandra Reimer is a freelance writer and communication strategist from Kitchener, Ont. She attends Glencairn MB Church.

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