Between the Dark and the Daylight

Between the Dark and the Daylight by Joan Chittister


“There is a part of the soul that stirs at night, in the dark and soundless times of day, when our defenses are down and our daylight distractions no longer serve to protect us from ourselves,” writes beloved author, Joan Chittister. “It’s then, in the still of life, when we least expect it, that questions emerge from the damp murkiness of our inner underworld…These questions do not call for the discovery of data; they call for the contemplation of possibility.”

In words as wise as they are inspiring, Between the Dark and the Daylight explores the concerns of modern life, of the overworked mind and hurting heart. These are the paradoxical—and often frustrating—moments when our lives feel at odds with everything around us. Only by embracing the contradictions, Chittister contends, may we live well amid stress, withstand emotional storms, and satisfy our yearnings for something transcendent and real.

By delving into the chaos, this book guides us through the questions that seemed easier to avoid and enlightens what has been out of focus. With her signature elegance, wit, and spirit, the bestselling author of The Gift of Years and Following the Path opens our eyes and hearts in these times of confusion. With simple and poignant meditations, Between the Dark and the Daylight reveals how we can better understand ourselves, one another, and God.

Published by Image Books
176 pages; Hardcover

Book Reviews

U.S. Catholic magazine chose Between the Dark and the Daylight by Joan Chittister as its February 2016 Book Club selection. The book was featured in its magazine and its website with a short review of the book.

Review: Joan Chittister’s signature wisdom and spirit are at it again in Between the Dark and the Daylight, her new book that speaks not only to seekers of faith but also of comfort. “There is a part of the soul that stirs at night,” Chittister writes, “in the dark and soundless times of day, when our defenses are down and our daylight distractions no longer serve to protect us from ourselves.” In these soul-soothing pages the beloved author of The Gift of Years dives into the chaos of life, exploring the questions and contradictions that mess with our minds and hurt our hearts. Chittister doesn’t have all the answers but willingly embraces the conundrum of life so that we might better understand ourselves, one another, and God. Her short reflections and simple meditations are the remedy for a ravaged soul. They’ll help you sleep better, too.

—Sarah Butler, assistant editor, U.S. Catholic

An uplifting work about the art of reframing drawbacks and imperfections as spiritual teachers.

Book Review by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

Joan Chittister is a Benedictine sister and author of 50 books. She is Executive Director of Benetvision, a resource and research center for contemporary spirituality, and has served as past president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. A theologian, social psychologist, and communication theorist, she takes seriously her teaching ministry. She is profiled as one of S&P's Living Spiritual Teachers and a frequent teacher of our e-courses.

Chittister has always been animated by questions. In the introduction, she embraces questions that "do not call for the discovery of data; they call for the contemplation of possibility." These are the ones that "beleaguer the soul from one end of life to the other." Such deep questions inevitably bump up against paradox and compel us to constantly be learning and re-learning what it means to be human.

In this soul-stirring work, Chittister challenges us to make good use of the dark spots, the frustrations, and the tsunamis in the ocean of life. She reminds us in a series of thought-provoking chapters that as we are battered and buffeted by disappointments, security is a mirage; certainty a prison; and achievement and accumulation are transitory. Indeed, spiritual seekers through the centuries have learned about the poverty in plenty and the success in failure.

Chittister goes on to cheer for the energy that comes from exhaustion; the creativity that arises out of confusion; and the liberation in loss. Through her reframing of these obstacles to growth and a flourishing life, we are admonished to see them as spiritual teachers.

In the closing chapters Chittister makes clear the paradoxes that are at the vortex of all our experiences and adventures on earth. She draws out the fullness of separateness, the courage in cowardice, the noise within the silent self, the certitude of doubt, and the seeds of love in friendlessness.

Between the Dark and the Daylight by Joan Chittister reveals her passion as a meaning-maker who keeps on asking the right questions and sharing her grace-filled epiphanies with us. Uplifting and wise works like this one are why keep reading this extraordinary woman. Her enthusiasm shines through the pages of her books and in her many public appearances.

Published in Spirituality a & Practice Magazine

“One of the most well-known and trusted contemporary spiritual authors has tackled a significant topic that will speak to seekers of all faiths,” is how Publishers Weekly review of Joan Chittister’s new book, Between the Dark and the Daylight begins. To read more, click here.

What others say

“Here, at last, is a book for those ready to make peace with the unsolvable riddles of present-day life. Why are we so lonely in a world of so little privacy? Why do we work so hard for control we can never achieve? Whether the problem that keeps you up at night is how to find safety in a world that is always changing or how to deal with guilt in a life that is far from perfect, Sister Joan has good news for you: these are the questions that make you human, and can make you more joyously human if you choose.”
—Barbara Brown Taylor, author of Learning to Walk in the Dark

"The great spiritual writers knew that truth can be found most often in paradoxes and contradictions. To find light you must go through darkness. To seek knowledge you must admit that you know little. To live you must die to self. Joan Chittister's new book explores the meaning of some of the most profound spiritual paradoxes and, in the process, helps the reader find her or his way to new life. Sister Joan has long been one of my favorite spiritual writers, and with this new book she has given us more of her trademark common sense, insight and wisdom."
—James Martin, SJ, author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage

"As always, Joan has put her finger and her pen to the right and needed words. She well describes those liminal spaces wherein human beings best grow and become their best selves. She could never describe them so well if she had not walked through them herself."
—Richard Rohr, OFM, Founder of Center for Action and Contemplation and author of Falling Upward

"This little tome is an alarm clock for the spiritual journey. It wakes the reader up to the fact that our life journey is unique for each of us, yet we are twined together in the presence of God in every moment. Joan brings her years of faithful monasticism to open up the painful contradictions of our time: Wake up! The time is NOW!"
—Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director of NETWORK, author of A Nun on the Bus

"Joan Chittister has written what promises to be a spiritual classic--a guide for those of us who have ever spent sleepless nights wrestling with our own frustrations, fear of the unknown and pain of loss and separation. Through the wisdom of a woman who has experienced all of these, we learn how doubt can lead to greater clarity, hopelessness to new life and solitude to deeper connection. In short, how the paradoxes that confound life can transform it. This the most poetic writing yet from a woman who is a modern prophet."
—Judith Valente, author of Atchison Blue and correspondent for Religion & Ethics Newsweekly on PBS TV

Interview with Joan Chittister about Between the Dark and the Daylight

Q. What is your hope or goal for this book?
— I am hoping to generate good conversations about the unseen elements of life that often affect our decisions more than they should. It's a matter of helping people think through all the dimensions of life as we deal with the rest of it.

To put it another way: Life is made up of context as well as content. These things--the social environment, out attitudes, our goals, our sense of self--all affect the way we come to our decisions and why. The purpose of this book is to bring those things to consciousness so we can come to understand why we think what we think as we go through life.

It's an attempt to make the invisible parts of life visible to us in ways that free us to operate at our best.

Q. What made you decide to write about this topic?
— I think this topic helps to take the sense of aloneness out of life. Everyone deals with each of these things like what it means to be part of the crowd, for instance. The question is when is the crowd helpful--and when not. What part of being in a crowd is more harmful than good. Discussions like that alone make the discussion of particular issues both more real and more honest.

Life is a series of paradoxes--contradictions that are as true as they are false--that confront us all our lives. The point is to look at each of them from every perspective and bend them to our strengths, not simply surrender to the pitfalls they present us with.

Q. In the introduction you write, “Whatever it is that we harbor in the soul throughout the nights of our lives is what we will live out during the hours of the day.” How do we focus our souls during the nights so that we can live with purpose and stability during the days?
— In the first place, we have to focus on the attitudes we bring to every challenge in life. We have to ask whether or not we have examined each of them thoroughly or only with prejudice.

We have to grow beyond our fears in order to become our best and strongest selves. But to do that we need to look them in the eye, up close and personal. Then, we can concentrate on the issues we're dealing with and not be distracted by elements of life that have not real bearing on the issue itself.

Q. You talk about this premise that the spiritual life begins within the heart of a person and so “when the storms within recede, the world around us will still and stabilize as well.” What a great visualization! Can you offer a few practical tips for settling our inner storms?
— By admitting our fears and prejudices to ourselves we make room for other ways of thinking. Then we no longer get up in the morning geared for battle.

Fear and prejudice end when we can admit each of them, examine each of them with others, and understand the value and weakness of each position. Once we do that, we will be capable of talking out other difficult things together, too.