Our Reactions Determine Our Walk
How do you react when your dreams, your plans and your hopes blow up in your face? What is your response when you were so sure you had heard from God and you thought He had encouraged you to move ahead, and then all of a sudden everything crumbled? How do you feel when everything you read in the Bible confirmed your vision and then, out of the blue, your aspirations were destroyed?
Over the last several months we have been sharing about night seasons : what they are and who experiences them; why God sends them and what His goal and purpose is for them.
How we behave during this time of crisis has everything to do with what results. In other words, our reactions determine our walk with God . How fortunate we are if we can, at least, understand God's overall plan - that the darkness He has allowed is Scriptural, that others have experienced it and lived to tell about it, and that He has not abandoned or forsaken us. Even though we might not fully comprehend all that God is doing, at least we know enough to trust Him through it.
By allowing night seasons in our lives, God is drawing us into the realm of pure faith where we will have no feelings, no sights, no sounds, no smells, no guidance and no help. He is drawing us into a darkness where we'll have no other choice, but to depend totally upon Him. His desire is to simply replace us with Himself .
As Francois de Fenelon, the famous mystic of the 17th century, once stated:
We are a lump of clay and each stroke (from the Potter) we feel. Blow after blow descends upon us; we, the clay, do not understand how the Potter is shaping us or why He is chiseling and cutting away at us. Only the Master Potter knows that. It's imperative, however, that we stay immovable and endure all that He sends us, because only He knows the perfect shape He is forming. Only He knows how to do it, we don't. We feel that each blow is ruining us (killing and destroying us), but the Master Potter knows it's the best thing for us.
-from The Seeking Heart
What Are We to Do?
As we mentioned before, the way we respond to this dark night determines our whole spiritual walk. Whether we advance, withdraw or simply stay where we are (which is actually impossible) will determine our degree of intimacy with God. The more passive and peaceful we remain during our night season, the quicker we will advance.
This is why it's critical that we endure, as patiently as we can, all that God allows into our lives. Some of us, however, will never advance beyond this stage, because we will grow impatient and seek a means by which we can escape. We must, rather, cooperate fully with God by bearing all that He has chosen to allow.
We must stand still, rest in His promises, stop asking why , cease doubting, cease fighting, guard against discouragement, stop blaming others and, finally, put on the whole armor of God and begin to praise Him. In the next several articles, we will explore each of these suggested steps in detail.
If you are in a night season right now, the most important thing you can do is yield and surrender. Believe me, I know. Fighting only delays the whole process and makes you miserable in the meantime. We must not move. We must stop all activity and cease striving.
Remember 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?
Let's look at the rest of that verse and also at verse 11:
Let him trust in the Name of the Lord, and stay upon his God. Behold, all ye that kindle [your own] fire, [and] that compass yourselves about with sparks: [and that] walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of Mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.
So often in our night seasons, because we get impatient for God to "do" something, we begin to "light our own fires." We try to find our own way out of the trial. And that's when the trouble really begins. When we resist what God is doing and begin to work on our own way out, that's when we find ourselves in an even bigger mess. The more we resist what God is doing by searching out our own ways, the more agony we will cause ourselves, the sharper our suffering becomes and the longer we will prolong our trial.
We must stand still and wait for God to part the waters. If he sent the trial, then He will be the One to get us out. Thus, we must stay quiet before Him and keep walking in the direction in which we were going when our troubles first began. Nothing has changed between God and us except, perhaps, our perception of that relationship. (Hebrews 13:5)
This kind of standing still is not sheer passivity, which so many of the mystics tell us is essential. What we are doing here is really the most active thing we can possibly do. We are choosing, by faith, to constantly remain quiet and cooperate with God, and this takes an enormous effort on our part. Our natural inclination is to shove, fight, push, scream and yell. Standing still and yielding our members to God is the opposite of what we emotionally want to do and, thus, requires a constant and an active faith on our part.
One of the ways we can most effectively stand still and surrender ourselves to God is by daily going through The Inner Court Ritual (steps to giving things over to God). It's imperative at this time to take every thought captive, to confess and repent of it, to give it to God and, then, to replace it with the truth of God's Word.
[Chuck and I have just written a new little book called The Key-How to Let Go and Let God. It's so easy for us to say, "Well, just give it to God." But, how do we really do this? The Key explores the practical steps of giving things over to God. How do we take every thought captive; how do we confess and repent of things; and, how do we literally give things to God?]
Going through these cleansing steps every time we are confronted with a hurtful remark, painful situation, pride, fear, doubt, insecurity or whatever is not of faith, is the only way we can stay open and cleansed vessels so that God can continue to form Christ in us.
Going through The Inner Court Ritual daily and keeping a journal of all that God does, helps to keep us accountable. By writing down all that we feel and dealing with it, sin and self will not be able to accumulate. In other words, we won't be able to keep "long lists" or go on to the issues of tomorrow, until we have first dealt with all the issues of today.
...Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God...and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. - Romans 6:11-13
Rest and Hope in His Promises
At this point, it's very important to get our eyes off the monster (the horrendous trial), and simply rest and hope in God's promises.
The way we lay hold of His promises is by making faith choices (non-feeling choices), knowing that God, in His timing and way, will eventually align our feelings with our choices. Other practical things we can do are: cry out to Him; quote Scriptures out loud to Him ("You say here..."); and then listen for His answers in His Word. All we can ask is that He keep His promises. (2 Peter 1:4; Isaiah 41:10)
We must not move out of the Spirit to do our own works. Struggling or becoming agitated just makes everything worse. God has not changed, even though He seems to have covered Himself in darkness. (1 Kings 8:12)
We must remain pliable, be attentive to God, with no self-effort on our part at all and wait in peace and patience and faithfulness until God shows us what to do. We must endure without complaint. If we simply trust and believe in the Name of Jesus and His Word, He promises to "make darkness light before [us]" and "crooked things straight." (Isaiah 42:16)
God will not lift the trial until He has completed the work in us that He knows must be done. Since He is the One who put us in this fire to begin with, He must be the One to take us out.
There is nothing we can do to speed things up, except to stand still, rest and hope in His promises. He will get us out of the fire in His timing and in His way. We simply must trust Him and let Him act.
Stop Asking Why
It's also imperative during this time, to stop asking "why?" Stop constantly examining yourself and thinking, "If only I had done this or that." Submit yourself to the confusion. Accept what is happening. Stay still for His Spirit to resolve it for you. Love God without the need to see or understand why.
Remember who God is and what He has done for you in the past. Remember His character. Remember that your reason and logic cannot help you comprehend God. It's only by Love that we can reach Him, not by our understanding. So, by faith, we must choose to love Him and to totally give ourselves over to Him, without sight or feelings.
What we must understand is not what God is doing, but what God expects from us . The only way we can overcome our natural senses is by allowing Him to do all that He needs to do in us while we are in the dark. As we focus all our attention on Christ in the darkness, our soulish life supply will eventually be cut off, and our own natural thoughts and emotions will become powerless.
Whenever a self-reflective thought comes in, we must instantly reject it. Don't give way to imagination or reflection. Try to keep clearness of mind and purity of heart at all times. Don't allow negative thoughts to go unchecked to the point where you again dwell on them. Recognize these kinds of negative thoughts, and immediately choose to give them to God. Then get up and, by faith, do as God asks. During this time everything we think about and dwell on, other than God, will become an obstacle to our oneness with Him. If our mind is cluttered with other attitudes and ideas, there will be no room for God.
Expect to get tired of the unrelenting struggle and battle. As we persevere, however, seeking His presence and His promises, we'll begin to have the encouragement we need. As we silently abide in the darkness, we'll begin to experience God changing our motivations and healing our lives. Thus, the confidence that He is still working and that He still loves us will return.
Peace comes only when we accept what we cannot understand and are no longer troubled by it.
It's Okay to Question God
During this difficult time of being in the fire, there will be many genuine, helpful and good questions that we will want to ask Him:
- Is this darkness normal for the Christian walk?
- Is it Scriptural?
- Is God really the answer to all my needs? (Phil 4:19)
- Does He know my thoughts and my feelings? (Ps 139:1-5)
- Is He going to help me?
- Does He see all that is going on? (Ps 34:15)
These questions are healthy and good. It's my prayer that some of the articles on Faith in the Night Seasons may help in answering many of them. However, watch out for and stay away from questions that have no answers, questions that can easily lead you to doubt:
- Why is all this happening to me?
- Is God angry with me?
- How could a loving Father ever do this to His child?
- What did I do to deserve it?
- Doesn't He even care?
- Why has He forsaken me?
- What am I doing wrong?
- Why did He give me so much light and then turn it off?
- Why has He broken His promises to me?
- How can I ever trust Him again?
- Why has He made Himself out to be my enemy?
Entertaining this type of doubting questions will pull us down faster than anything else. We must know that God is always ready and willing to help us. (Psalm 86:5,7) In fact, He is really the only One who can help. We must know that He delights in us and no matter what our failures or shortcomings are, He promises that He will never leave us or forsake us. Even if He must take us through the valley of the shadow of death in order to reproduce Himself in us, He will never let go of us. The truth is that He loves us so much He has even engraved us on the palms of His hands. (Isaiah 49:15-16)
Unless we begin to look at our trials through God's eyes, we can easily slide into the dark abyss of doubt and unbelief, never to come out. The purpose of this series of articles is to help you see through the night from God's perspective and to see the many blessings that come from the darkness.
It's critical that we not let doubt take root in us during this time, but allow the Holy Spirit to continually comfort us and minister to us. We must follow Jesus' example of entrusting our souls into the Father's hands and constantly proclaiming, "Not my will, but Thine."
Psalm 18 seems so appropriate here:
I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in Whom I will trust; My buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower,
Iwill call upon the Lord, Who is worthy to be praised: So shall I be saved from mine enemies.
The sorrows of death compassed me, And the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.
The sorrows of hell compassed me about: The snares of death prevented me.
In my distress I called upon the Lord, And cried unto my God: He heard my voice out of His temple, And my cry came before Him, even into His ears.
Then the earth shook and trembled; The foundations also of the hills moved...
He bowed the heavens also, and came down: And darkness was under His feet...
He sent from above, He took me, He drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy, And from them which hated me...
He brought me forth also into a large place; He delivered me, because He delighted in me ."1
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Next month, we will continue our study "Passing through the Night" - what we are to do. This series has been excerpted from the book, Faith in the Night Seasons.