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When We Cannot Bear the Good News

When We Cannot Bear the Good News

The Feast Day of St. John of the Cross

John 16:12-15, 25-28

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now,” says Jesus in the reading from the Gospel of John for the feast day of St. John of the Cross.  This gentle statement, followed by the promise of the Holy Spirit, opens my heart.

For so many people the holidays are difficult.  Half remembered childhood traumas tend to cluster in this season because it is a time of huge stress, and it was in the days of our parents and grandparents as well.  Work and money are often issues, as the desire to buy special gifts for loved ones crashes into the reality of the escalation of prices for rent, food and fuel, not to mention the cold-weather purchases we simply must make.  We want to please those dear to us, and we cannot.  We struggle just to hold it together and get through the days without blowing up, wigging out, or disappearing into the bottomless grayness of depression.  And so the Advent promise of joy at the entry of the incarnate God into the world often cannot be borne.  It is too much.  It is simply too much to ask of the grieving, anxious, PTSD-ridden, barely-coping heart.

When we cannot bear the gift of Christ, this coming of the bridegroom, when we simply have no room in which to receive it, the Spirit of truth is our hope and our promise.  She will come, and she will guide us into all truth.

St. John of the Cross knew that the dark night of the Soul is a period that marks the beginning of transformation.  The bleakest times hold that promise, even when we can get nowhere near it intellectually or emotionally.  So it is all right to be where we are – struggling, coping, reacting, grieving.  Though God may feel very far away and any kind of hope whatsoever may feel like it is sinking into the black abyss of despair, feel it or not, believe it or not, the Lord is near.

The Spirit of truth will come.  Integration and understanding will emerge.  For God truly does love us, and God claims us, no matter what we can feel or perceive.



Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and writer who lives with her partner of 30 years and her sister in Fort Collins, Colorado.  Some of her icons can be seen at, and check out her novel, a progressive Christian story, at

Image: El Greco‘s landscape of Toledo depicts the priory in which John was held captive, just below the old Muslim alcázar and perched on the banks of the Tajo on high cliffs.


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