In my previous post, I introduced the concept of the “dark night of the soul” and five reasons why you may experience one (or more). In this post, I will share four realities about the “dark night of the soul.”
Can you relate to any of these scenarios?
- You’re facing a difficult decision where you really need a clear direction from God, and you keep coming up empty at every turn.
- You’re dealing with confrontation or opposition in leadership. You feel like you’re being misrepresented and misunderstood. As you wait (and wait and wait…) for God to come to your defense, the false accusations mount.
- Things are going great in your family, career, and church, but you are a desert inside. You keep pouring out, but nothing’s filling you up. You’re leading people to Jesus and you’re just hoping someone will lead you to Him.
- You’re going through a rough patch in your marriage or family. You really need God’s comfort and peace, but He seems absent.
- You try to read the Bible, pray, and worship, but there’s no connection. No matter what you try, it feels hollow, forced, and unsatisfying.
- You’ve suffered devastating personal tragedy and you can’t make sense of it. You keep crying out to God for answers, but He’s silent.
For whatever reason, the light that once burned bright has become so dim you can barely see it anymore. You’re stumbling around in the darkness. You’re sleepwalking through life, just going through the motions. Nobody else has even noticed. But you have. You’re dead inside.
Four Realities About the Dark Night
Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.” Satan replied to the Lord, “Yes, but Job has good reason to fear God. You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!” “All right, you may test him,” the Lord said to Satan. “Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.” So Satan left the Lord’s presence.Job 1:8-12
Many of us have suffered from what St. John of the Cross called “spiritual gluttony.” God is merely a means for us to experience warm feelings, spiritual energy, and material blessing. If those “perks” are gone, so are we. This was Satan’s argument to God: If you withhold your blessings from Job, he’ll abandon you faster than you can say, “pestilence.”
Oddly, the LORD obliges Satan’s request and He plunges Job into a “dark night” – a season of suffering, where God withdraws comfort, blessing, and protection. In this instance, we have the benefit of seeing the whole picture – and it’s still hard to understand. In life, we don’t have the advantage of seeing into the spiritual realm; of knowing the final outcome. All we know is, it sucks!
One of the greatest Christian writers of all time, C.S. Lewis, tragically lost his wife, Joy, early on in their marriage. Writing about it in A Grief Observed, he asked:
“Where is God?… Go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is in vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.”
There is nothing fun about a dark night. It’s lonely, painful, and, well… dark.
At last Job spoke, and he cursed the day of his birth. He said: “Let the day of my birth be erased, and the night I was conceived. 4 Let that day be turned to darkness. Let it be lost even to God on high, and let no light shine on it. Let the darkness and utter gloom claim that day for its own. Let a black cloud overshadow it, and let the darkness terrify it.Job 3:1-5
Some of the great spiritual giants of the faith have endured “dark nights.”
- Bible: Job, Elijah, Jeremiah, David, and even Jesus (in the wilderness and Garden of Gethsemane).
- Church Fathers: St. John of the Cross, Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon
- Contemporary: C.S. Lewis, Mother Teresa, and just about every pastor
If many of the great giants of the faith have experienced the dark night, you can bet that if you are a follower of Jesus, you will experience it too.
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.James 1:2-3
Author Annie Dillard says:
“You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary.”
Research (and personal experience) has shown that the #1 contribution to spiritual growth is pain. Ouch! Nobody asks for it. Nobody wants it. But everybody gets it. Whether you use it to grow or not is up to you.
It’s been said that
“The biggest difference between you and God is that God doesn’t think He’s you.”Anonymous
Pain is a definite reminder that we are not God. It shows us how weak and dependent we truly are.
A relationship with God is just that – a relationship. If you are in any long-term relationship, you are going to experience pain. Take marriage, for example. It isn’t the beauty of the wedding or the thrill of the honeymoon that makes a marriage. It’s the peaks and valleys, joy and pain, victories and defeats experienced together over time that constitutes a marriage. The one you love the most has the capacity to hurt you the most. If you want to be a truly committed follower of Christ, you will have to go through some dark nights.
Now, this doesn’t mean we should go around saying to suffering people, “Just think how much you’re going to grow from this.” Not unless you want to get cursed out or punched in the face.
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.Psalm 30:5
Perhaps, best of all, dark nights last only a season. A season might be a few days, a few months, or even a few years, but the Light will shine again. Don’t give up! Don’t lose hope! The night is always darkest before the dawn.
UP NEXT: Part 3: Four Actions to Take in the Dark Night