"But at three o’clock in the morning, a forgotten package has the same tragic importance as a death sentence... in a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day."
F. Scott Fitzgerald said that, and I think we all know exactly what he means. We wake up in the middle of the night as if we had been violently shaken, but really, it is only our frenetic mind, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and ready to get a head start on the day's anxieties. It is the loneliest, most helpless moment we face the entire day. It is one of the darkest nights the soul can know.
My three o'clock is 6:25am, five minutes before my alarm goes off. At that moment I am flooded with that familiar early-morning experience that can only be described as panic, and I am wide awake. Every anxiety, doubt or dark thought that I have ever thought overwhelms me at once, as if they had all joined forces the night before and made a solemn pact to keep me from leaving my bed. At that moment, I am aware of every single thing that I must do today, only the degree of difficulty for each seems magnified one hundred fold and I know that there's no way I can be expected to get up and face that amorphous cloud of pain. Only a crazy person would willingly put themselves through that. It is a wonder that any of us get out of bed at all.
But we do. That's just the thing. Every day, millions of us get out of bed, and that alone should be an incredible piece of hope for us. Not only because it demonstrates the resilient nature of humans, but because it proves that our faith is indeed rewarded - or else we wouldn't keep doing it, would we? We get out of bed solely on the basis of faith - faith that the day will get easier, that it won't be nearly as painful as it seems now, that somehow we will pass the hours and be able to return at the end to our sleepy oblivion. To require such extreme faith at such an early hour seems like too much to ask sometimes, yet we prove day after day that it is not too much. And the best part is that it does get better. Sometimes only in a matter of minutes. It is all about that initial test that takes place when our windows are yet dark and our minds foggy.
If you got out of bed this morning, consider yourself high-fived. Don't underestimate the courage it required of you.
There's been a question burning in my soul for quite some time now, one that I've alluded to before but that I would like to now formally pose to you all:
Where do trials come from, and are we supposed to fight them?
Let me illustrate my confusion with a quote from George Q. Cannon:
"Do not allow darkness and gloom to enter into your hearts. I want to give you a rule by which you may know that the spirit which you have is the right spirit. The Spirit of God produces cheerfulness, joy, light and good feelings. Whenever you feel gloomy and despondent and are downcast, unless it be for your sins, you may know it is not the Spirit of God which you have. Fight against it and drive it out of your heart. The Spirit of God is a spirit of hope; it is not a spirit of gloom."
It seems straightforward enough, but here's what I don't get: Aren't darkness and gloom just like any other trial we mortals are subjected to? And aren't trials, after all, very good for the development of our characters, and indeed necessary for our eternal progression? My understanding is that (correct me if I'm missing something), while gloom and despondency themselves may not come of God, they are still vital experiences that He allows us to suffer for His own wise purposes. I've certainly felt in my life that the pains which have so alienated me from everything light and truth have also, paradoxically, drawn me closer to Him, and for this reason I would never trade those experiences.
Why, then, would I ever want to fight these feelings that ultimately improve me? Who would I be without these refining experiences?
And if these refining experiences are the will of the Lord, as I believe they are, then who am I to think that my own feeble efforts could do anything to remove them anyhow?
I just don't know. While you're pondering that, here's my pix from Portland last month: