I am so excited to finally be able to share Faith in the Night Seasons with you. I've lived the material in this book for the last seven years, and it has taken me a year and a half to write, so you can understand my joy and excitement at its publication. Over the next several months, as I share an overview of the book, it's my heart's desire that God will be glorified in it and that it would give hope and encouragement to those who happen to be walking through their own "night seasons."
The cover of the book is a beautiful eagle coming out of dark storm clouds, stretching forth his wings and flying straight towards the sun. The eagle is the only bird that has a special third-eye-lens that enables him to look at and fly directly towards the sun, which thus frees him from his enemies. No other bird has this ability. And, it's the same with us. Only as we keep our eyes focused directly upon the Son during our storms of life will we ever be able to experience freedom from our enemies. Only as we keep looking to Jesus in our night seasons, can we, too, have victory over our "self," our circumstances, other people's responses and the enemy's attacks.
The Eagle Story
Faith in the Night Seasons begins with a story about a wounded eaglet who was rescued by a kind farmer. He found the bird in one of his fields, and so took him home, tended to his wounds, and then placed him outside in the barnyard to recover.
Strangely enough, the young eaglet soon adapted to the habits of all the barnyard chickens. He learned to walk and cluck like them. He learned to drink from a trough and peck the dirt for food, and for many years he peacefully resigned himself to this new life on the ground.
But then one day, one of the farmer's friends spotted the eagle and asked, "Why in the world is that bird acting like a chicken?" The farmer told him what had happened, yet the man could hardly accept the situation.
"It's just not right," said the friend. "The Creator made that bird to soar in the heavens, not scavenge in the barnyard!" So he picked up the unsuspecting eagle, climbed onto a nearby fence post, and tossed him into the air. But the confused bird just fell back to earth and scurried off in search of his feathered friends.
Undaunted, the man then grabbed the eagle and climbed to the top of the barn. As he heaved him off the roof, the bird made a few halfhearted squawks and flaps before falling into a bale of hay. After shaking his head a few times, the eagle then made himself comfortable and began mindlessly pecking at pieces of straw.
The friend went home that night dejected, and could barely sleep as he remembered the sight of those powerful talons caked with barnyard mud. He couldn't bear the thought, so the very next day, he headed back to the farm for another try. This time he carried the eagle to the top of a nearby mountain where the sky unfolded in a limitless horizon.
He looked into the eagle's eyes and cried out, "Don't you understand? You weren't made to live like a chicken! Why would you want to stay down here when you were born for the sky?" As the man held the confused bird aloft, he made sure the eagle was facing into the brilliant light of the setting sun. Then he powerfully heaved the bird into the sky, and this time the eagle opened his wings, looked at the sun, caught the updraft rising from the valley, and disappeared into the clouds of heaven.
Do you know that we, too, were born for the sky? The Lord has called us to live in the heights, yet too many of us have huddled together in the barnyard, contentedly scurrying for the safety of our families, our finances, our careers and our comfortable crumbs of faith.
Faith in the Night Seasons is dedicated to all those believers whose barnyards have been destroyed, and to the faithful ones who have walked, or are now walking, in darkness. The hour is late, beloved friends. It is not time to mourn our losses, but rather time to set our eyes upon heaven, spread our wings and fly straight towards the Son. Let's make our journey together...
Walking in Darkness
There once lived a man who feared God and continually turned away from evil. God Himself said, "...there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man." (Job 1:8) He was blessed with many children and much wealth, and the favor of the Lord rested on him like a fine cloak. As he himself so beautifully describes: "...I was in the prime of my days...the friendship of God was over my tent...my steps were bathed in butter, and the rock poured out for me streams of oil!" (Job 29:4,6 NAS)
Could it be that this man, so loved and favored by God, was the same man who later cried out, "...nights of trouble are appointed me. When I lie down I say, 'When shall I arise?' But the night continues..." (Job 7:3,4 NAS)
How could a man so blameless and so upright ever experience such a night of darkness? Job never strayed from God in unbelief, yet God allowed this precious man to endure a season of sorrow. Why?
That is the question which saints, mystics and theologians have been asking throughout the ages. Why does God allow nights of sorrow to come to men and women of faith? It seems to contradict everything we know and believe about a loving and protecting Father. But look further into the story of Job. He himself shines a powerful light upon this mystery when he speaks to God at the very end of his affliction,
I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye sees Thee.... (Job 42:5 NAS)
Something incredible happened to Job during that very darkness. The word "see" is the word ra'ah in Hebrew, which also can mean to "experience." Ironically, it was the darkness that ultimately caused Job to spiritually "see" (or experience) his Creator as he never had before. During that long night of loss, God's faithful servant was transformed into God's intimate friend. And the Bible ends his story with these remarkable words, "...the Lord blessed the latter end [days] of Job more than his beginning." (Job 42:12 NAS)
As we consider the book on the life of Job, most of us would probably say, "That's an amazing story of redemption and resurrection, but I sure hope it never happens to me." Yet today, as I travel around the country speaking and sharing with other believers, I meet so many who are enduring a similar season of sorrow or hardship. These are not disobedient people who have blatantly sinned or who have spurned the counsel of the Lord, but rather these are faithful men and women who have continually sought Him for direction, loved Him and even taught others about Him, as Job had. When God allows crushing circumstances to enter our lives, if we are not prepared and do not understand what is happening, we can often find our faith shipwrecked and our trust shattered.
"Now, I See"
How well I understand this pain, because after 35 years of walking closely with the Lord, I, too, experienced a "night season" in my soul that almost devastated me. Strangely enough, this unexpected darkness did not descend upon me as punishment for sin or chastisement for disobedience. I had feared, honored and obeyed the Lord for many years, so I identified completely with the words of Isaiah 50:10:
Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of His Servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light?
Since I had no understanding concerning this night season, I desperately sought guidance as to what was happening to me. How could I get through this? How long would it last? Had others gone through this before me? Was this normal for all Christians? What was God doing? What was His will in all of this?
While holding fast to the Book of Job and the hundreds of other Scriptures on "night seasons" that I had found, I scoured the bookshelves for virtually anything that would shine a light on my situation. Most contemporary Christian writings, however, offered little or nothing on the subject, and I began to feel that I was lost and alone.
I yearned for comfort and understanding, but strangely enough, the only references to the dark night that I could find (apart from the Bible) were in the works of two Catholic mystics, St. John of the Cross and Madame Guyon. Although I'm neither a Catholic nor a mystic, I searched their books for glimmers of understanding, and ultimately gained something far more important. God used these dear saints to let me know that I was not alone. No matter how much these people differed from me theologically and culturally, God used their words to let me know that many, many others before me had experienced this very same thing. Through these writings, God encouraged me to keep on trusting, keep on obeying and keep on enduring.
These precious saints had not only survived their own dark nights, but had gleaned amazing treasures from that very darkness. Rather than being destroyed by their suffering, these saints had been enriched by it, and their testimonies gave me insight and courage.
As I continued to read and seek understanding concerning this dark night, I discovered a peculiar dark thread woven into the tapestry of many Christian lives. Little by little, God began to show me a recurrent theme in the lives of Jesus, Joseph, Moses, David, Paul, Martin Luther, Oswald Chambers, John Wesley, Hudson Taylor and countless others. They, too, had been discipled by a season of emptiness and sorrow. And for them, as well as for me, the darkest hour came just before dawn. It's true. Our weeping does last for a night, but oh what strength of faith, joy and intimacy awaits us in the morning!
Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: Thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; to the end that my glory may sing praise to Thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto Thee for ever. (Psalm 30:11-12)
For me, the dark night was simply the forerunner of greater Light. My night season came forth from a Creator who yearned for me to "see" Him and to experience Him as Job finally saw and experienced Him. "I had heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye sees Thee." It came forth from a Father who wanted me to know His presence, His friendship, His Love and His peace in a way I never had before-truly, being filled with "the fulness of Christ" and living the abundant Life.
The Purpose of This Book
The purpose of Faith in the Night Seasons is to encourage those of you going through your own night seasons and those of you yet to experience a time like this not to be frightened or scared, but to persevere through to the incredible riches God has planned for you as you begin to know Him in an even more intimate and deeper union. "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness." (Isaiah 41:10) In the end, you will see like Ezekiel did, that God has not done "without cause" all that He has done. (Ezekiel 14:23) And, you will also come to see the depth, the width and the height of God's unconditional Love for you.
...Yea, I have loved [you] with an everlasting Love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn [you]. (Jeremiah 31:3)
This does not mean to say that everyone will come to intimacy with God in the same precise way or that everyone in their journey will pass through a dark night, but for those of you who do, I pray this book will help to clarify exactly what God is doing and why. I pray that it will help you to understand what God requires of you, and, most importantly, how you can get through your "night" as quickly as possible. In Chapter Two we will see that almost every major man and woman of God (including those in the Bible) have gone through similar night seasons. Some say that these dark nights are God's way of preparing us for a special ministry and for a life totally centered on God.
My heart's cry, then, is to assure you that God has neither "abandoned" you nor slated you for destruction. Jeremiah tells us, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end." (29:11) God is the One who will see you through, because He promises never to leave you or forsake you.
The Lord is in the process of "conforming us all into His image," so that we can have His abundant Life and we can enjoy His fulness. In order to do this, however, there are two major things He must begin to do in each of our lives: cleanse us from sin and purify us from our self-centered ways. Truly, all Christians have eternal life, but very few Christians experience abundant Life and the fulness of Christ! These blessings come, not with the absence of trials and tribulations, but simply with the presence of Jesus.
The process by which God brings about this intimacy, is called sanctification. As 2 Thessalonians 2:13 says, "...God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth..." In some people, this is a life long process. In others, sanctification occurs quite rapidly.
The key is our cooperation and our willingness. If we can relinquish our wills and our lives completely to God, the sanctification process can go unhindered and there's no need for a "night season" at all.
As Oswald Chambers has said, "...the darkness...comes not on account of sin, but because the Spirit of God is leading us away from walking in the light of our consciences to walking in the light of His Love." Until we really understand that our night seasons are "Father-filtered" and come directly from the hand of God, and for a purpose, we are in danger of sliding into a bottomless pit of self-pity and confusion.
To those of you who might question whether it's even possible to walk through a night season without losing faith in God's Love, I can answer a resounding "Yes!" Although your prayers will be uttered through tears, and your praise will indeed be a sacrifice, you must first choose to believe Lamentations 3:33 which says that God does not willingly afflict His children, but only to accomplish His loving purposes.
Although this is a decision only you can make, I believe I can best weep with those who weep, and comfort and encourage those who are hurting, by sharing the things that I suffered and the things that I have learned during my own night of sorrow and loss. As I said before, during my own dark night, I yearned for a Biblically based book that would explain exactly what God was doing in my life...and why. In the coldest hours of my night, I needed to know that a "dawn" would surely break for me. Most of all, I needed to know that what I was experiencing, others had experienced before me, that I was not alone and that God would be faithful to bring me through, regardless of my feelings.
So, Faith in the Night Seasons is my way of telling you that you are not alone. Others have walked where you are walking, and have lived to tell the story of God's faithfulness and Love.
Remember, the same God who accompanies you through the Valley of the Shadow will one day fill your cup to overflowing. God faithfully and lovingly works through the dark nights of our soul and spirit to bring us into an intimacy with Him that we have never before known. As Job said, "I had heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye sees Thee."
My prayer is that Faith in the Night Seasons might help you to "see" through the darkness and to better understand God's ways in your own "desert" time.
God's way - the way that leads to life - Scripture tells us is very narrow and few will seek it. But, if you are longing, as I am, to "...know the Love of Christ which passes knowledge..." and to "be filled with all the fulness of God" (Ephesians 3:19), then this book will hopefully help to strengthen you on your journey. It's not meant to be an "academic treatise," but simply a guide book sharing the potential joy of experientially knowing Christ in His fulness. Nothing in life can compare with an intimate love relationship with the Lord of the universe. Nothing can satisfy more than this kind of union. Everything else pales into insignificance compared to this. Nothing else matters!
Thus, my most fervent prayer is that when you have turned the final page, you will know that God has not done without cause all that He has done.
Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of His servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light?" Let him trust in the Name of the Lord, and stay upon his God. (Isaiah 50:10)
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To be continued next month: "My Own Night Season." This article has been excerpted from Chuck and Nancy's new book Faith in the Night Seasons, understanding God's will.