“He has driven and brought me into darkness without any light.” It’s a harsh thing to say about God, but not the harshest thing in the text for the ninth station. “He has besieged me and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; he has made me dwell in darkness like the dead of long ago. Though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer. He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes.” Who is this God who causes pain?
I’m of many minds about this. I have, of course, felt this way about God at certain points in my life, and I think it’s commendable that the stations give voice to such a heartfelt and authentic complaint. At the same time, I think it reflects an understanding of God that I don’t really share anymore. I think that God journeys with us through the dark times, but doesn’t cause them. And if prayer is a reaching towards God, I can’t conceive of God shutting it out.
Yet the dark times do reach for us, and I wanted to weight my painting with a creeping feeling of inevitability. No one wants to enter into this darkness, although many spiritual teachers say that it’s purgative, that it will help us let go of the parts of our souls that need to die. Maybe a time spent in darkness will help me to let go of pride, or shame, or the memory of some distant hurt. But I would rather free myself of those things without the darkness, if only I could.