The Short Twilight of the Heart

Ventura sunset

Picture by Monty Ives

There are times in one’s spiritual journey where things go dark. It’s as if God, whom you’ve been seeking, can’t be found. St. John of the Cross writes about this in his poem The Dark Night. It has later been called the dark night of the soul. St. John of the Cross talks about how in the darkness, one can’t sense God, see God, even know God (who, he says, is unknowable to begin with). Things have gone dark. In one’s spiritual journey there will be a dark night of the soul. I know, I’ve experienced it myself.

It’s a hard time. It’s a depressing time. It’s a time where, when God had felt so close and so real, He now feels so distant and hard to hold on to. If not for the tethering line of the Holy Spirit holding close, one might feel completely abandoned by God.

The rock group Barlow Girl writes sings about this in their song “Never Alone“:

You told me to call/Said you’d be there/And though I haven’ seen you/Are you still there?/I cried out with no reply/And I can’t feel you by my side/So I’ll hold on to what I know/You’re here and I’m never alone.”

This is the dark night of the soul. This is where there is the feeling of distance from God. This is the feeling Jesus felt on the cross where He cries out in the words of Psalm 22

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Psalm 22:1, Mark 15:34

The psalm continues

Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?” Psalm 22:1

The short twilight of the heart is like this but different. In the dark night of the soul, one feels completely detached from God, that there is nothing–only dark. That there is no words, no direction, nada, zilch–save for the tethering of the Holy Spirit and the promises of God made long ago.

The short twilight of the heart is a different thing. There is light. Just enough light to make out shapes, figures, shadows, images. There is God’s presence, just enough to feel warm, like the sun just setting over the Pacific ocean, you can see it, feel the warmth, but know that the wind will soon come over the ocean and create a breeze. In the short twilight of the hear, God’s voice is heard but heard vaguely. It is heard but in low murmurs like overhearing a conversation in the other room. You know someone is speaking but you just can’t make it out.

The soul longs for God. The heart is the seat of where Jesus has His throne for His followers. The soul yearns for God, the heart is the place where our whole self resides. The soul clings to God, the heart is what God wants changed. It is the heart that is restless until it finds rest in God (per St. Augustine). And so the short twilight of the heart is where God is present yet isn’t fully. Just like the sunset there is light but there is also darkness.

catholic heart


During the short twilight of the heart, there is muddied visions, unsure direction, a desire for clarity. The light can be seen. God is present. Jesus is king and reigns in your heart as savior, Lord, and friend. Yet the heart still desires for something, there is still a mild restlessness that can’t be explained.

There is that short twilight of the soul for many believers who just don’t know how to explain their place in their spiritual journey. There is a spot in one’s faith walk where words can’t express just what it means to see the light but only dimly. To see the light but only make out shadows. To hear God’s words but only in murmurs and vague blessings.

There are no signs and wonders in the short twilight of the heart. There are only squinting of the eyes to see if something is a blessings or not. While on the mountain tops we see it all so clearly. We see God at work in every moment. We see God moving in everything. In the valleys of life, in the dark night of the soul, we don’t see a blasted thing and are frightened and worried. In the short twilight of the soul, we don’ know. We just don’t know.

But I do know this: It is short. And as the sun sets at night, it will rise in the morning. There is darkness there but it is short because there is also light, a bright light that does require squinting to make sure that the promises are assured. All God has promised is “yes” in Jesus (2 Cor 1:20). This is what makes the twilight so short, because of that “yes” in Jesus.

Hold on to the promises. In your spiritual journey, when words can’t express what you are experiencing, know that the Holy Spirit is a work, praying for you in groans that only God can understand (Romans 8:26). There is light, it isn’t at the end of the tunnel because you’re no in a tunnel but looking at the world with the light of twilight. Shadows will be there, but there is light that causes the shadows to be cast. Words will be heard vaguely and in murmurs, but God is still speaking. Wait. And it will be short. A short twilight of the heart.


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