One can see the movement towards the acceptance of extreme suffering in this passage. All the graces of Confirmation are stirred up at this point and the virtues come to the forefront of one's existence. I have highlighted parts. All this is grace, but we must desire this and be open to it.
Remember that the Perfect Christ allowed Himself to suffer, so we have an example...
THE CAUSE OF THIS STATE
The theological explanation of this state is to be found in four causes. We already know its formal and material causes from the fact that St. John of the Cross tells us that it is a passive purification of the sensibility. Several authors insist on its final cause or end, which is easily discovered, and do not give sufficient attention to its efficient cause.
The passage just quoted from St. John of the Cross indicates the efficient cause. It is, in fact, a special and purifying action of God, from which comes, says the saint, a beginning of infused contemplation. In this contemplation we have the explanation of the keen desire for God experienced by the soul, since man ardently desires only that of which he experimentally knows the charm. This keen desire for God and for perfection is itself the explanation of the fear of falling back (filial fear). Finally, sensible aridity is explained by the fact that the special grace then given is purely spiritual and not sensible; it is a higher form of life. St. John's text explains this state rationally.
On penetrating more deeply into the theological explanation of this state, we observe that in it there is a special inspiration of the Holy Ghost, whose influence then becomes more manifest. Theology teaches that every just soul possesses the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, which enable it to receive His inspirations with docility and promptness.(16) Here, therefore, the influence of the gifts is quite manifest, especially those gifts of knowledge, filial fear, and fortitude.
The gift of knowledge, in fact, explains the first sign pointed out by St. John of the Cross: "No comfort in the things of God and none also in created things." The gift of knowledge, according to St. Augustine (17) and St. Thomas,(18) makes us know experimentally the emptiness of created things, all that is defectible and deficient in them and in ourselves. Knowledge indeed differs from wisdom inasmuch as it knows things not by their supreme cause, but by their proximate, defectible, and deficient cause. For this reason, according to St. Augustine, the gift of knowledge corresponds to the beatitude of tears. The tears of contrition come actually from the knowledge of the gravity of sin and the nothingness of creatures. The gift of knowledge reminds us of what Ecclesiastes says: "Vanity of vanities, . . . and all things are vanity," except to love God and to serve Him.(19) This thought is repeatedly expressed in The Imitation (20) and in the works of great mystics like Ruysbroeck. (21) Before St. John of the Cross, Ruysbroeck pointed out the relations of the gift of knowledge to the passive purification of the senses, in which the soul knows by experience the emptiness of created things and is led thereby to a keen desire for God.(22)
In the passive purification of the senses which we are speaking of, there is also a manifest influence of the gifts of fear and fortitude, as the second sign given by St. John of the Cross indicates: "The true purgative aridity is accompanied in general by a painful anxiety because the soul thinks that it is not serving God. . . . For when mere bodily indisposition is the cause, all that it does is to produce disgust and the ruin of bodily health, without the desire of serving God which belongs to the purgative aridity. In this aridity, though the sensual part of man is greatly depressed, weak and sluggish in good works, by reason of the little satisfaction they furnish, the spirit is, nevertheless, ready and strong." (23)
The second sign manifests, therefore, an effect of the gift of fear, of filial fear, not the fear of punishment but that of sin. Filial fear evidently grows with the progress of charity, whereas servile fear, or that of punishment, diminishes.(24) By the special inspiration of this gift the soul resists the strong temptations against chastity and patience which often accompany the passive purification of the senses. The Christian, who then experiences his indigence, repeats the words of the Psalmist: "Pierce Thou my flesh with Thy fear: for I am afraid of Thy judgments." (25) According to St. Augustine, the gift of fear corresponds to the beatitude of the poor,(26) of those who do not pose as masters, but who begin to love seriously the humility of the hidden life that they may become more like our Lord. In this poverty they find true riches: "Theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
In the keen desire to serve God which St. John of the Cross speaks of here, a desire that subsists in spite of aridity, temptations, difficulties, there is, at the same time, a manifest effect of the gift of fortitude, corresponding to the fourth beatitude: "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill." (27) The ardent desire to serve God at no matter what cost is truly this hunger, which the Lord arouses in us. He gives rise to it and He satisfies it; as was said to Daniel: "I am come to show it to thee, because thou art a man of desires." (28) The gift of fortitude comes here, in the midst of difficulties and contradictions, to the assistance of the virtues of patience and longanimity; without it spiritual enthusiasm would die away like sensible enthusiasm. This is the time when man must give heed to what The Imitation says about the holy way of the cross: "Follow Jesus, and thou shalt go into life everlasting. He is gone before thee, carrying His cross. . . . If thou carry the cross willingly, it will carry thee and bring thee to thy desired end. . . . And sometimes he gaineth such strength through affection to tribulation and adversity, by his love of conformity to the cross of Christ, as not to be willing to be without suffering and affliction. . . . This is not man's power but the grace of Christ, which doth and can effect such great things in frail flesh, and that what it naturally abhors and flies, even this, through fervor of spirit, it now embraces and loves [i.e., to bear the cross]." (29)
Finally, the third sign which St. John of the Cross speaks of, "the growing difficulty in meditating discursively," shows the influence of the gift of understanding, the source of initial infused contemplation, above reasoning.(30) In the same chapter of The Dark Night,(31) the saint speaks in exact terms of this "beginning of obscure and arid contemplation" by which God nourishes the soul while purifying it and giving it strength to go beyond the figures, to penetrate the meaning of the formulas of faith that it may reach the superior simplicity which characterizes contemplation.(32)
St. Thomas also speaks clearly on this subject: "The other cleanness of heart is a kind of complement to the sight of God; such is the cleanness of the mind that is purged of phantasms and errors, so as to receive the truths which are proposed to it about God, no longer by way of corporeal phantasms, nor infected with heretical misrepresentations; and this cleanness is the result of the gift of understanding." (33) Thereby this gift preserves us from possible deviations and makes us go beyond the letter of the Gospel to attain its spirit; it begins to make us penetrate, beyond the formulas of faith, the depths of the mysteries that they express. The formula is no longer a term but a point of departure. This purifying influence of the gift of understanding will be exercised especially in the passive purification of the spirit, but even at this stage it is manifest. Under the special inspiration of the Holy Ghost, the soul now makes an act of penetrating faith, which is called an infused act, for it cannot be produced without this special inspiration.(34)