Continuing our series on the Dark Night of the Spirit, this period of confusion and darkness has often been described in a variety of emotional ways. Here are a few comments:
- "Black hole"
- "Shadow of death"
- "Shattered expectations"
- "Forsaken by God"
- "Unutterable sadness"
- "Searing loneliness"
- "Cut off from God"
- "Inner torment"
- "Brought to nothing"
- "Solitary confinement"
Now, many of us can identify with some of these turbulent emotions, but the most important thing to do during this time is not to get buried in these feelings, but simply to know what the next step is. The big question is not "How do we feel at this time," but "What are we to do at this time ?"
What Do We Do?
Many of the things God wants us to do in our dark nights have already been discussed in previous articles, but there are a few more options I'd like to mention here.
The first and foremost step that we must always take is to "trust in the Name of the Lord." As Isaiah 50:10 tells us, "...[he] that walketh in darkness, and hath no light. Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God." In other words, we are to stand still, submit ourselves to the confusion and trust Him anyway.
We are to cease our own understanding and our own striving, lie still, and allow God to accomplish the purification in us that He desires. Our response should always be, "Let it come." Because if we can face it, accept it and rejoice in it , then we will eventually make it through to that experiential oneness with God that He desires. It's only by living through this dark time, and discovering what magnificent things this night season can achieve in our intimate walk with Him, that we can truly understand why God allows it.
Even though our feelings are raging, we must always choose to remain submissive to God. We must learn to trust in His plan for our lives and remember that there is no other remedy for this season, except complete faith in Him (Psalm 34:17-18). Now it takes incredible effort on our part to remain abandoned to Him in faith and Love, when the only responses we seem to get is more chastisement and rejection. Total abandonment, however, is the key to getting through this night season. Some other things that we can do to help this process along are:
- Be in constant prayer and the reading of God's Word.
- Refuse the soulish things and open ourselves up to the things of His Spirit.
- Reject any form of sadness, disappointment, expectation, presumption, comparing, touchiness, grumbling, fault-finding, loneliness etc., knowing that these are the things that quench God's Spirit and that the enemy uses them to distract our soul.
- Should these things occur, immediately confess them and give them over to God.
- Recognize that the enemy can only harass our soul; he cannot get to our spirit.
1 Chronicles 28:20 encourages us to always "...Be strong and of good courage...fear not nor be dismayed: for the Lord God, even [thy] God, will be with thee; He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee ...."
God's Purposes for the Dark Night of the Spirit
God allows the dark night of the spirit into our lives for a variety of reasons, but mainly He wants us to experience His presence through the complete union of our spirit . Consequently, God will allow us to remain in this dark night until His will is accomplished. He wants our spirit freed from any soulish entanglements so that it can rightfully rule over our soul (Psalm 32:2). Once this occurs, then He can begin to lead, guide and teach us "the deep things of God" (1 Corinthians 2:10). A few more goals and purposes of this night might be:
Instill An Unshakable Trust and Faith
The whole exercise of the dark night of the spirit is to instill in us a real spirit of faith - trusting in God, without seeing or feeling Him, but nevertheless knowing that He is always there. When everything around us is falling apart, if we can sit before Him without questions and without doubts, then the test of our commitment will be established.
God is testing our faithfulness in this dark night. Will we believe and trust in Him when everything around us is in disarray? Or will we collapse in utter agony and disbelief and turn the other direction? God wants us to get to a place where we will never challenge His character or His nature again. He wants to build in us an unshakable trust and resolve so that no matter what happens in our soul, we know that He will never leave us or forsake us.
The ultimate place He wants us to be is where we can say, no matter what is occurring in our lives, "Though [You] slay me, yet will I trust [You]..." (Job 13:15) "...because [You are always] at my right hand (Psalm 16:8)."
The bottom line is: the further removed our faith is from resting on our feelings and our sight, the closer we are to true faith in God .
Abandon Ourselves to God's Will
Another purpose of God's during the night of the spirit is to show us the difference between being completely abandoned to His will and relying upon (or having faith in) our own human expectations and presumptions .
The turning point in my own life came when I finally realized that abandonment to God's will and human expectations cannot coexist in my soul. In other words, if I put my eyes upon any other thing (any promises, any circumstances, any visions or any people) other than God and His Word, that human expectation could end up again causing disappointment.
Our expectation must only be in God and His faithfulness, not in some promise or vision or prophecy. When we receive God's promises through various means, we often make the mistake of putting our hope in those things, rather than in the Creator who gave them to us. Our eyes, our hope and our expectation should only be in the Person of Jesus, His character and His Word (Romans 5:5). Then, and only then, are we truly abandoned to His will.
An Example: Oswald Chambers
Oswald Chambers is a perfect example of one who was totally abandoned to God's will, and whose hope was focused on only the Person of Christ.
Chambers, the son of a Scottish minister, grew up in Scotland and England and attended the University of Edinburgh. He enjoyed writing poems and is the author of the now-famous My Utmost for His Highest. His life can be summed up in seven words: "Many people were added to the Lord." This is especially amazing because Oswald died at a very early age due to complications from appendicitis. However, he is more widely known and his books are more popular now than they ever were 80 years ago when they were written. Next to the Bible, My Utmost for His Highest is one of the most highly sought-after books of all time.
Oswald never taught or talked about temporal things; he always talked about our relationship to Christ. He used to say, "When our hearts are open, then God can truly begin to change them." Like the apostle Paul, Oswald resolved to know nothing "but Christ and Him crucified." His message, just like Paul's, was not in wise and impressive words, but in a demonstration of the Spirit's power.
Oswald felt that God engineers and orchestrates our circumstances. Thus, he refused to worry or judge anything before God's time. They called him the "flaming prophet" because he didn't make his own plans or follow his own impulses, but was moved only by the Holy Spirit's direction.
Oswald Chambers is a perfect example of one who was totally abandoned to God's will and, thus, lived a "restlessly restful life." His example was made possible only because he continuously surrendered his own life to God and let Christ live His Life out through him by the power of the Holy Spirit. This submission to God in all things, this abandonment, moment by moment, to His will, is the secret to the victorious Christian walk.
Freedom from Self-Ownership
Not only does this dark night free our spirit from our soul's domination, it also frees us from self-ownership. God delights to hear us declare, "Do whatever You like with me, Lord, I belong to You. I abandon myself into Your hands. May all that You want and all that pleases You happen."
The dark night of the spirit serves to rid us of our own self-will, self-love, self-interest and self-energy. All our own plans and purposes, our own intellectual and emotional ways, our own egotism and possessiveness and our own inner talking, delusions and fantasies must go so that we can rest and rely only upon Him. "Any high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God" must go (2 Corinthians 10:5).
The goal and purpose of the dark night of the spirit is that we might look only to Christ for our fulfillment, our satisfaction, our security, our strength, our meaning and purpose, etc., and nothing else. God wants us to rest in Him, not only in our enjoyments but also in our adversities . He wants us to be able to say, may "none of these things (people, events, feelings) move me (Acts 20:24)."
God desires that this dark night frees us from all emotional entanglements, so that we can love others unconditionally without the shackles of self. Once we are freed from self, we no longer will have the need to judge others, be oversensitive to them or overreact to them. Since self has been blotted out, God will give us the ability to love, without fear of rejection or longing for approval in return.
Benefits of the Dark Night of the Spirit
- Some further blessings and benefits of the dark night of the spirit are:
- a soul that radiates happiness that no earthly force can annihilate
- the promised peace of God
- experiencing His presence
- restored discernment, guidance and fellowship
- knowing God intimately
- more Love and compassion for others
- personal holiness, giving glory to God
- deeper identification with Christ, and
- being a true worshiper of God.
Charles Spurgeon once remarked, "The wilderness is a way to Canaan. Defeat prepares us for victory. The darkest hour of the night precedes the dawn."
Therefore, unless we look at this period of time through God's eyes (through His Spirit), and try to understand what His overall plan is, we can slide into the darkness and never come out. If we keep our eyes upon Him, He promises that He will eventually turn the darkness into light .
As Psalm 112:4 says, "Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness...." And, until that happens,
...I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High, I will remember the works of the Lord..., I will meditate also of all Thy work, And talk of Thy doings. -Psalm 77:10-12
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This article has been excerpted in part from Chuck and Nan's book, Faith in the Night Seasons.