Editor’s Introduction: Doubt in the Pulpit: Resources for the Dark Night of the Soul

Martin Luther spoke of Anfechtung as an essential part of the life of faith. Trials of spiritual angst can serve to teach us to despair of our own merits (or lack of them) and to rely solely on God’s amazing grace. But what happens when religious leaders in public service have to undergo such tribulations while still accompanying others through their own? That is the question that this edition of the JLE explores. Kurt Lammi finds guidance from the testimonies of three giants of the faith: Mother Theresa of Calcutta, Martin Luther, and Augustine. From the testimony of their confessions regarding their own spiritual struggles he comes to the conclusion that a religious leader’s honesty about his or her own spiritual struggles could potentially become a source of consolation and inspiration to others undergoing similar struggles, but this must be done with wisdom and pastoral sensibility. In the second article in this issue, Frank Showers finds in the writings of Bernard of Clairvaux a helpful description of the rhythm of faith that maps a believer’s journey through the dark night of the soul. He illustrates the journey through a “grace spiral” that marks the movements from the brokenness of doubt to the wholeness that is experienced when one learns to depend absolutely on the grace of God alone, even in the midst of doubt. We hope that both of these articles will serve as a welcomed companion for all those walking through the valleys of shadows of doubt, and as a reminder of the faithfulness of the good Shepherd who promises to guide us to the other side.

Carmelo Santos

​Carmelo Santos, Ph.D., serves as associate pastor at St. Mark’s (San Marcos) Lutheran Church in Springfield, VA. He is also a lecturer at Georgetown University.