What Is "the Dark Night"?
What happens to our faith in the night seasons? We know that faith is simply being fully persuaded that God will do all that He has promised to do in His timing and in His way. We also know that God continually pushes us to the limit in order to strengthen our faith and transform us into His image.
When we willingly allow Him to purge our souls of sin and self, He can then easily accomplish His will. However, when we block and prevent God from doing these things in our lives, either out of ignorance or disobedience, He sometimes will take matters into His own hands; i.e., the night seasons.
The dark night or the night season is simply the transition we make from depending upon our own sight and our own selves to a total dependence upon Christ and His faithfulness. This shift brings us into a new way of knowing God. During this time God moves us from simply "feeling good about Him" to a deeper awareness of Him and an intimacy never before known.
Although we already belong to Christ and we already love Him, our union with Him will be incomplete as long as our mind, our judgment, our desires, our habits and our ideas are still our own. God wants to rid us of our preoccupation with sight and feelings and bring us into a new freedom and liberty of faith. Unfortunately, this freeing process does not happen automatically.
Most of us do not jump for joy when faced with the prospect of brokenness. Naturally, most of us run the other direction. But God loves us so much that He doesn't let us get very far. The dark night is God's way of turning us around and forcing us to allow Him to do whatever is necessary in our lives to purge our souls and spirits so that we can have intimate fellowship with Him.
God is not a "mean" guy up in heaven waiting to send us bad things. He is a loving Father who knows exactly what we need in order to accomplish His will in our lives. He knows that we will never be content, never enjoy real freedom and never be truly fulfilled, until we are "experientially" one with Him .
This analogy was emailed to me recently. It's called The Moth and the Cocoon , and I believe it's by George MacDonald:
A man found a cocoon of an emperor moth. He took it home so that he could watch the moth come out of the cocoon. On the day a small opening appeared, he sat and watched the moth for several hours as the moth struggled to force its body through that little hole.
Then, it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could go no farther. It just seemed to be stuck. The man, in his kindness, decided to help the moth. So he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The moth then emerged easily. But, it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings.
The man continued to watch the moth because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would then contract. Neither happened! In fact, the little moth spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.
What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting cocoon, and the struggle required for the moth to get through the tiny opening, were God's way of forcing fluid from the body of the moth into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon. Freedom and flight would come only after the struggle. By depriving the moth of this struggle, he deprived the moth of health.
Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life in order to make us all that God desires. If God allowed us to go through our life without obstacles, it would cripple us.
Different Labels for the Dark Night
This night season has been given several names:
o The Dark Night of the Soul
o The Dark Night of the Spirit
o Night of Confusion
o Jacob's Ladder
o A Secret Ladder
o The Night Season
o The Divine Darkness
o Journey into the Desert
o Cloud of Unknowing
o A Wall
o God's Fire of Love
A Night of Love
I like to call the dark night a "night of love."
The dark night is a night of love because it's a time in which we come to know and perceive our Beloved in a way we never have before . Our initial surrender to God usually comes before we understand what abandoning ourselves to His will really means. Before we understand that He must not only purge the sin from our souls, but also crucify our own self-centered ways. When we first come to Christ and are saved, we are positionally united with Him, but we really don't know Him intimately.
There is a deeper and more abiding union - an experiential oneness with Him - that He desires for every one of us where we can experience His presence and His joy and rest in the midst of any circumstance. This experiential union, as we have said before, does not happen automatically, but only as we become more and more sanctified or holy in body, soul and spirit. In other words, in order to enter into the Holy Place of our hearts where God dwells and enjoy intimacy with Him, we, too, must first become holy as He is holy. Holiness is the only "ticket" inward . God cannot commune and fellowship with anyone who is not holy and sanctified.
As we saw in our earlier articles, God often dwells in darkness and covers Himself with darkness. Psalm 18:11 tells us that darkness is His "secret place" and 1 Kings 8:12 says, "The Lord said that He would dwell in the thick darkness." This means that we, too, in our journey inward towards intimacy and experiential oneness with Jesus can encounter darkness. For us, this "darkness" can simply mean the absence of any understanding or knowledge as to what's happening to us or where we are going. It simply means being deprived of the light (the seeing, the feeling and the understanding) that we are so used to. In other words, we're unable to see through this kind of darkness with our own natural mind which, of course, is exactly what God intends. He is teaching us to walk by faith and not by feelings or sight. As our faith begins to grow, the light of understanding will also begin to form.
I'm finding this lesson to be so true. The more "faith" in Jesus that I can have during the dark times, the more I'm able to "see" Him and the more "understanding" He gives me.
"Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness ." (Psalm 112:4)
This darkness, then, does not come from the enemy, but from God who loves us. God is the One who initiates the darkness. 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?"
Now, don't misunderstand me. Satan is often involved when difficult things occur in our lives. And he rejoices when we react poorly to God's chastening, cleansing and purifying process. What God allows in our lives for good, Satan obviously wants to use to destroy us. So, yes, the enemy is definitely involved in the night seasons, but he is not always responsible for sending the darkness .
Jesus Had His Own Dark Night
All throughout the New Testament, we are told that we are to keep our eyes focused on Jesus, because He is our example. The apostle Peter makes this fact very plain:
"Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind [attitude]." (1 Peter 4:1) "For even hereunto were ye called; because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps." (1 Peter 2:21)
Jesus is not only our Savior, our Lord and our King, but also our "role model." He walked the Christian walk perfectly. He showed us how it should be done. Again, we will never be able to walk it "perfectly" as He did, but Scripture tells us we are to emulate or try to follow Him. Because of this truth, how can we overlook Jesus' own dark night in the Garden of Gethsemane? As one writer says, "Gethsemane was the dark night of the soul for Jesus Christ; it was the test of His ways." 2
Jesus is not only our God, He is also our Mentor, our Leader and our Guide, and we must be willing to follow Him wherever He leads. The way Jesus became perfect, complete or fulfilled (teleioo), is by suffering . If He had to go through suffering and His own dark night, then it's reasonable that this will be our role also.
In Jesus' painful night, Scripture tells us that sorrow and deep distress so marked His inner spirit that He actually sweated drops of blood. (Luke 22:44) No one was ever called to greater suffering. Mark 14:34 tells us that He exclaimed, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful unto death...." The magnitude of Jesus' agony is beyond our understanding. When the revelation of what He was about to endure became fully apparent, He fell on His face and prayed, "Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me; nevertheless, not My will, but Thine be done ." (Luke 22:42)
Jesus' life had been bartered for a murderer's; He had been outwardly despised, rejected, reviled, crushed, oppressed, afflicted, mocked, taunted and now He was to be crucified. No loving heart came forward to help Him. His disciples were asleep. Not one person was true to Him.
Finally, Jesus' night culminated at the cross of Calvary. When the Romans put Him on the cross, a pall of thick darkness cut Him off and He cried out, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34) It seemed that at the very moment Jesus needed His Father the most, God had left Him. Matthew 27:50 tells us it was then that Jesus yielded up His Spirit and the temple veil of the Holy of Holies was rent from the top down.
Jesus endured what no other man has ever had to endure. But, as a result of the gift of His Life, His blood has atoned for the sins of all mankind. Only Jesus' faith allowed Him to survive the garden and the cross. His total commitment to His Father - who Jesus knew was there, even though He could not see or feel Him - is what saved Him. His mission was complete. Because of His death, anyone who accepts His free gift of salvation now has full access to the Father at any time . The result of Jesus' dark night is eternal Life for all of us.
Isaiah 53 is one of the most incredible chapters in the Bible. Although it was written six centuries before Christ lived and translated into Greek three centuries before He walked the shores of Galilee, it describes Jesus' dark night in perfect detail. Isaiah 53 foretells us exactly what would happen when the Messiah came: He would be despised, rejected, a man of many sorrows, acquainted with grief, wounded, bruised, oppressed, afflicted, cut off - exactly what Jesus had to endure.
In verses 4 through 6 and verse 8, Isaiah continues his accurate description:
"Surely, He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on Him [Jesus] the iniquity of us all...He was taken from prison and from judgment... For He was cut off out of the land of the living, for the transgression of My people was He stricken."
Then, in verse 10, Isaiah's words are absolutely astonishing. " Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief. When Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin.... "
In other words, out of His infinite Love for us, God used the way of suffering to accomplish His will-salvation for all mankind. In like manner, God deals with us. He uses the way of suffering to accomplish His will-the sanctification of our body, soul and spirit.
Are you willing to endure a night season so God can accomplish His ultimate purpose through your life? Do you love God that much?
In his tape, Experiencing God , Henry Blackaby suggests that when we read Isaiah 53, we should ask ourselves, "Am I willing to allow each one of the things that happened to Jesus to occur in my own life?"
If we are, then, praise God, He will see to it that eventually we will experience a oneness and a unity with Him that we have never known before. However, if we are not willing to allow these things to happen in our lives because we want our lives to be under our own control, then we'll have to remain where we are and, like that moth, be deprived of health, fulfillment and intimacy with God the rest of our lives. It's our own, moment-by-moment choice.
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The Fellowship of His Suffering
No matter what is occurring in our lives, keeping our eyes and our focus upon Jesus Christ is essential. He is not only our Savior, our Lord, and our King, He is also our role model and our example. He showed us how to live the Christian life perfectly.
As Matthew 26:38 says, "Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow in His footsteps."
Suffering is the means by which God has chosen to bring redemption to a fallen world. Jesus suffered for us, giving us His example to follow.
Just as He "bore our griefs and carried our sorrows," so we are to participate in His suffering - by barring ourselves from sin and self and choosing instead to follow what He would have us do.
Thus, we are to identify with Christ, not only by verbally assenting to, ascribing to, and holding on to what He did for us on the Cross, but also by daily experiencing the crucifying of our own "self."
The apostle Paul speaks to this topic in Philippians 3:10 where he declares, "That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death. "
Suffering can come as a result of our own sin, the sins of others, the schemes of Satan or from the fallen state of the human race. But God is above all of these things, and if we allow Him to, He will use any or all of them as He sees fit to accomplish His perfect will in our lives.
The Bible tells us that only through death can there be life. Unless we are willing to participate in the fellowship of Christ's sufferings, we will not be able to participate in His exaltation. As 2 Timothy 2:11-12 states, "It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him; If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him ...." (Romans 8:17)
Maybe this answers the question of "why" some Christians suffer and why some do not. The result of suffering with Christ is the privilege of reigning with Him.
An Example: Corrie ten Boom
An example of one who suffered greatly for Christ and who surely will be reigning with Him, is Corrie ten Boom. I'm sure most of you have read her book, The Hiding Place . If you haven't, I highly recommend it; it will totally change your life.
Corrie lived in Holland during the 1930s and 40s. She and her Christian family soon became sympathetic to the plight of the Jews and harbored some of them in their own home. Soon the ten Boom house became known as a "safe sanctuary."
Eventually, finding out about the secret room in their home, the Gestapo began rounding up all who were involved. They picked up Corrie, along with her sister, brother, and father. The police abused and slapped Corrie around as they tried to find out about the others involved.
They finally ended up taking all the ten Booms to prison where they were put in "cages" 6 feet by 6 feet.
Corrie was put in solitary confinement because she was believed to be the "ring leader." The only break in the monotony of her days without human contact, came when a little ant began visiting her. At first he came alone, but later he came back with his family and friends. Corrie would actually get down on the floor and watch him for hours.
The other thing that lifted her spirits was when she realized there was a window in the ceiling of her cell. Even though it had 28 squares of bars, nevertheless, she could occasionally see the sun.
What sustained her throughout her ordeal was the fact that she could read the Scriptures. When she had first come to prison, she had asked a nurse to get her a Bible. It, then, became her lifeline.
Daily, she would read verse by verse until she had gone through the entire Word of God. Then she would begin all over again. Continually, she would ask herself, "What would Jesus do?" "How would He have handled this situation?"
Finally, one of the guards allowed her to speak to him and, after several weeks, he even allowed her to talk to him about the Lord. This was the biggest and greatest blessing of all - not only to be allowed to talk to another human being, but to be able to talk to them about her precious Lord. Eventually, the guard opened up and shared how much he hated working in the prison and shared some other personal matters. Because of their friendship, Corrie was finally reunited in the same cell with her sister, allowed to take a shower once a week and even given a new sheet for her cot.
Even though Corrie suffered greatly the year she survived the horror of solitary confinement, she, nevertheless, committed herself to God every moment of every day. And, just as He had promised, He was faithful to never leave her or forsake her. As she used to point out, "there is no pit so deep, that Jesus is not deeper." Eventually released from prison, Corrie has ministered God's Love to hurting people all over the world.
In the same way, God desires to make our souls a reflection of His own, just like He did Corrie's. In order to reflect Him, however, we need to be willing to walk as He walked. He entered in by the "narrow gate" and He walked the straight and "hard road." Are we willing to do the same?
This is "Brokenness"
John Collinson wrote a short piece about suffering and "the narrow road" that I think sums everything up perfectly:
Sometimes it is asked what we mean by brokenness. Brokenness is not easy to define but can be clearly seen in the reactions of Jesus, especially as He approached the cross and in His crucifixion. I think it can be applied personally in this way:
When to do the will of God means that even my Christian brethren will not understand, and I remember that "neither did His brethren believe in Him" and I bow my head to obey and accept the misunderstanding, this is brokenness.
When I am misrepresented or deliberately misinterpreted, and I remember that Jesus was falsely accused but He "held His peace," and I bow my head to accept the accusation without trying to justify myself, this is brokenness.
When another is preferred before me and I am deliberately passed over, and I remember that they cried, "Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas," and I bow my head and accept rejection, this is brokenness.
When my plans are brushed aside and I see the work of years brought to ruin by the ambitions of others, and I remember that Jesus allowed them to "lead Him away to crucify Him" and He accepted that place of failure, and I bow my head and accept the injustice without bitterness, this is brokenness.
When in order to be right with my God it is necessary to take the humbling path of confession and restitution, and I remember that Jesus "made Himself of no reputation" and "humbled Himself...unto death, even the death of the cross," and I bow my head and am ready to accept the shame of exposure, this is brokenness.
When others take unfair advantage of my being a Christian and treat my belongings as public property, and I remember "they stripped him," and "parted His garments, casting lots," and I bow my head and accept "joyfully the spoiling of my goods" for His sake, this is brokenness.
When one acts towards me in an unforgivable way, and I remember that when He was crucified Jesus prayed "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do," and I bow my head and accept any behavior towards me as permitted by my loving Father, this is brokenness.
When people expect the impossible of me and more than time or human strength can give, and I remember that Jesus said, "This is my body which is given for you..." and I repent of my self-indulgence and lack of self-giving for others, this is brokenness."
Someone once said there will be no revival, either personally or otherwise, until there is first a Gethsemene and a Calvary in each of our own lives.
Life Includes Suffering
I purposely ignored studying the sufferings of Job for years because it scared me. I can even remember one dear lady at a Bible study in the early '70s who came up to me and shared that I was to look forward to "suffering with Christ." Well, I thought she was a crazy heretic, so I stayed clear of her.
Now, of course, I understand what she was trying to say; I just wasn't able to hear it at that time. Eventually, in God's timing, the story of Job became incredibly real to me as I began to experience deep suffering in my own life. I learned I had a choice: to either let the suffering accomplish the goal and purpose that God wanted in my life; or, let the suffering crush and destroy me.
God put the book of Job right in the center of the Bible for a very good reason: it's an example of faith in the night seasons. God intends for all of us to use it as a "road map" on our journey through the dark night, always keeping in mind that at the end of the road, Job finally "saw" God as he never had seen Him before, and it changed his life forever .
So, yes, life itself includes suffering.
Suffering has as its goal the sanctification, the purification, of our souls and spirits. Suffering comes about as God unrelentingly identifies the most potentially damaging hindrance to our relationship with Him, and then lovingly begins to strip that thing away from us. He crushes us, He breaks us, He shakes us and removes anything that is in the way of His accomplishing His will in and through our lives.
Some important points to remember when we are going through suffering are:
o God allows our troubles to drive us to our knees and to bring us back to Himself. (Exodus 2:23-25)
o God allows trials in our lives so we may turn around and minister to others in similar circumstances. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
o Sometimes our troubles must get worse before freedom comes. Satan, obviously, does not want that; therefore, he does everything he possibly can to stop it.
o It's important to realize that we can't get ourselves out of trouble. If God has allowed the trial, then He is the only One who can get us out of it. Therefore, it's not our battle, but His . (Exodus 6:6-8)
o Our troubles should always push us towards God, not away from Him. If they push us away from Him, we should check to be sure who is the instigator of the trial. (Psalm 77:2; 2 Chronicles 33:12)
o Once we understand that God is involved in our trials, it should give us great hope. (Ephesians 1:17-20)
o God wants to use our trials as a way for us to learn His statutes and His laws. (Psalm 119:71)
God always has a reason for the things He allows into our lives. He is preparing us for a future which He alone knows. He is preparing us as His "bride," not only perfect (holy), established, strengthened and grounded in Him, but also joint heirs with Him .
One of my favorite poems about suffering and brokenness was written in the early 1800s by G. D. Watson, a Wesleyan Methodist minister. This poem has brought my focus back to Christ countless times in the past ten years, as I have found myself straying from the "narrow path." I pray it will bless you as much as it has me.
It's called "Others May, You Cannot."
If God has called you to be really like Jesus, He will draw you to a life of crucifixion and humility, and put upon you such demands of obedience that you will not be able to follow other people, or measure yourself by other Christians, and in many ways, He will seem to let other good people do things which He will not let you do.
Other Christians and ministers who seem very religious and useful may push themselves, pull wires, and work schemes to carry out their plans, but you cannot do it; and if you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.
Others may boast of themselves, of their work, of their success, of their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing, and if you begin it, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.
Others may be allowed to succeed in making money, or may have a legacy left to them, but it is likely God will keep you poor, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, namely, a helpless dependence on Him, that He may have the privilege of supplying your needs day by day out of an unseen treasury.
The Lord may let others be honored and put forward, and keep you hidden in obscurity, because He wants you to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade. He may let others do a work for Him and get the credit for it, but He will make you work and toil on without knowing how much you are doing, and then to make your work still more precious, He may let others get the credit for the work which you have done, and thus make your reward ten times greater when Jesus comes.
The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch over you, with a jealous love, and will rebuke you for little words and feelings, or for wasting your time, which other Christians never seem distressed over. So make up your mind that God is an infinite sovereign and has a right to do as He pleases with His own.
He may not explain to you a thousand things which puzzle your reason in His dealings with you. But if you absolutely sell yourself to be His...slave, He will wrap you up in a jealous love, and bestow upon you many blessings which come only to those who are in the inner circle.
Settle it forever, then, that you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit and that He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue, or chaining your hand, or closing your eyes, in ways that He does not seem to use with others. Now when you are so possessed with the living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule [entrance] to heaven.
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We have been exploring the topic of faith - faith in the night seasons. For some this is a difficult subject, but for others it's of the utmost importance. The latter group sees the trials and tribulations that Christians are now facing becoming more intense than ever before, and they are longing for understanding.
Here are a few examples: There's the young family whose 35-year-old husband and father is dying of cancer; there's the pastor and his wife who have been ministering together for years, separating and divorcing; there's the older Christian man who has been involved in the church all his life, being sued for misconduct and facing financial ruin; there's the young Christian father who has been accused of molesting his neighbor's children and who is currently awaiting prison time; and, there are many other stories too numerous to mention. These are normal, everyday Christians, many of whom I know personally. They love God. They have totally given their lives to Christ. But now their faith is being tested as never before. What is happening? What's going on?
In 1 Peter 4:17, Peter tells us that as God begins to wrap up time as we know it, He will allow events to happen in the body of Christ that will try us and test us to the max.
How will we make it through this time of testing, if we don't understand what God is doing, and if we crumble at the first hint of suffering? We desperately need to have a grasp of what God's purpose is for allowing these kinds of trials and, most importantly, we need to understand what to do and how to act in them. This series - Faith in the Night Seasons - is designed to do just that.
What Is a "Night Season"?
In his book Abandoned to God , Oswald Chambers states, "The mystics used to speak of 'the dark night of the soul' (or 'night season') as a time of spiritual darkness and dryness, not the direct result of sins committed, but rather a deep conviction of sin itself within the heart and mind. It's a time the person 'is being brought to an end of himself,' and made aware of the utter worthlessness of his own nature when stripped of all religious pretensions. Moreover, there was the willingness to abandon all for Christ's sake, to deny - not only his evil self but also his good self."
During a night season, God initiates a purging, a cleansing and a purifying of our souls from everything that is not of faith. At this time, God crushes our self will, so that He can merge it with His own. In other words, it's our own private Gethsemane. As Jesus cried in the garden, "My soul is exceeding[ly] sorrowful unto death...Nevertheless, not what I will, but what Thou wilt." (Mark 14:34-36) During this dark season, God teaches us to say, just as Jesus did, " Not my will, but Thine ." (Matthew 26:39)
By depriving our soul of spiritual blessings, God can begin to transform our reliance on soulish and sensual things to things of the spirit. He wants us to learn to walk by faith, not by our senses, our feelings or our understanding. God wants to teach us how to detach ourselves from all physical, emotional and spiritual supports, so that we will be able to respond with "Not my will, but Thine."
Because this season can often be a time of desolation, of dried bones and ruined hopes, many Christians - because they don't understand what God's will is or what He is doing - get so discouraged and defeated that they give up and turn back.
Many will feel like Job, who "looked for good" but only "evil came"; and for "light," but found only "darkness." (Job 30:26) Or like Isaiah, who uttered "We wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness. We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes; we stumble at noonday as in the night; we are in desolate places like dead men." (Isaiah 59:9-10)
If we can only remember during our night season that the Holy Spirit has led us into this darkness on purpose . He desires not only to "replace us with Himself," but also to make us holy so that we can fellowship and commune with Him.
As Moses was led into the wilderness to experience God's presence (Exodus 20:21), so this dark season is the very path God has chosen to put us on. It's a path that will lead us to greater light than anything we have ever known before. "Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness." (Psalm 112:4)
The whole purpose of the sanctification process is not only to learn how to reflect Him, but also to learn how to have intimacy with Him.
Who Experiences the Dark Night?
As we said early in this series, the Lord allows the dark night to happen to all of His beloved children, and especially those who are the most faithful, the most loving, the ones who want all of Him . As Revelation 3:19 states, God chastens those He loves.
This night season happens to people walking with the Lord for a long time; people who love Him with all their heart, mind and soul; people who have surrendered their lives to Him; people who are obedient to Him; and, people who fear Him.
Again, 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?"
Joy Dawson, a wonderful author and Bible teacher, shares that if we live righteous lives, then there is an inevitability that all of us will, at one time or another, experience God's fire or a night of faith. Therefore, the longer we walk with the Lord, the more we can anticipate this experience, unless we choose to moment by moment surrender everything to Him.
Great Christians are made by great trials. Pain, sorrow and failure are what produce men and women of God. Those with the greatest dreams are often the ones who receive the greatest trials. Eternal lessons seem to require hard places.
As Scripture declares, the way we are made "perfect," or whole or complete, is by suffering or by barring ourselves from sin and self. (Hebrews 2:10)
Only by uncovering and exposing our defects can God really heal us. First, He must take away all our external and internal supports other than Himself, then He can strengthen our inner man, enabling us to experience His fullness.
The dark night of the soul happens to people who have already accepted the Lord; those who have already given their lives to Him; those already filled with the Spirit; those who have already dedicated their lives to Him; those who have already asked for intimacy; and those who have already been set aside for God's purposes of ministry.
Why Does God Send the Dark Night?
There seems to be three things that God is looking for in each of our lives: our conversion (or salvation), our conviction and our consecration (or sanctification).
God wants to know the full proof of us. He wants to know our real heart. Will we be obedient in all things? (2 Corinthians 2:9) Will we obey Him, even when we can't see Him or feel Him? Will we hold on to His truths even though we don't understand what He is doing?
The kind of Love that God wants from us is a love that reaches to the point of full and total surrender. Remember, to really love God ( agapao ) means to totally give ourselves over to Him .
If we are discontent with what God has allowed in our lives, it's a sure indication that we have not completely surrendered and abandoned ourselves to Him. Just as God had to keep testing and proving Israel, so He must continue to humble, abase and weaken us. That way, He will perceive if we love Him, and we will see our total inability to live without Him.
The Lord wants believers who have faith like Job, and who can utter like he did, "Though You slay me, yet will I trust You." When Job sought the Lord to know why the bad things were happening to him, he got no answer from God. And it's often the same with us. God only tells us that He does have a plan for our lives and even though we don't understand what that plan is or how it is going to work out, we must trust that He always has our best in view.
We must learn to rely upon Him in spite of our circumstances, in spite of our logic and in spite of our human reason. Human circumstances, logic and reason are not sources for spiritual guidance. We must trust that only God knows what is best for our lives; therefore, whatever He allows into them He will use it for our good.
Lamentations 3:33 tells us that God does not afflict us to punish us or to be mean. He does so only to accomplish the sanctification that will ultimately bring us abundant Life.
Goal and Purpose of the Dark Night
God's purpose for all of His actions towards us is that Christ might be formed in us and that we might experience intimacy and fellowship with Him.
God wants to purge our souls from sin and self, so that we will be open and willing to follow Him at any cost. Our will controls everything in our lives. Thus, God wants us to have a will that is completely yielded and at one with His own.
One of the major purposes, then, of the dark night of the soul or a night season is to formulate an unshakable resolve in us, so that even if everything goes wrong in our lives and even if we can't see or understand a thing of what God is doing, we will still choose to cling immovably to God .
He wants us to be governed only by our choice of faith - a faith that proclaims whether I live or die, I choose to trust in You , not in my own thoughts and emotions.
God wants to produce in us a trust that can never be shaken. He is drawing us away from a life of senses and feelings and forcing us to turn to Him in naked faith , faith without feelings. He wants us to be able to constantly say and mean, "Not my will, but Yours" and "Though You slay me, yet will I trust You."
God is teaching us, by darkening us, that all that matters in this life is knowing and loving Him. He wants us to love Him and rely upon Him regardless of what we desire, regardless of what our intellect is saying and regardless of what we are feeling.
He wants us to be able to echo what Paul declares in 2 Corinthians 4:8-11: "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed ; we are perplexed, but not in despair ; Persecuted, but not forsaken ; cast down, but not destroyed ; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh."
Our going through the dark night season and coming out even stronger in spirit shows God that He alone is important. It shows Him that we have left "all," even ourselves, to follow Him.
Joy Dawson made an awesome audio tape entitled, "In the Fire." In this tape series she describes God's seven purposes for allowing the night seasons in our lives.
Understanding these seven purposes of God help us tremendously in weathering our own night seasons. They are:
1) To melt hard substances and produce brokenness.
2) To destroy anything in our lives that is useless.
3) To reshape us and make us pliable for more use.
4) To make us more like Jesus, who is our example.
5) To endow us with more power. "Fire, glory and power are always linked."
6) To experience for ourselves the "fellowship of His sufferings," and
7) To teach us how to mentor and help others, by learning more about ourselves and our own responses to the night seasons.
Benefits of the Dark Night of the Soul
The delights, blessings and benefits that God bestows upon us as a result of this dark night are a hundred thousand times better than the terror we experience in the middle of it. Job learned this lesson well: "He discovereth deep things out of [the] darkness, and bringeth out to light the shadow of death." (Job 12:22)
Some of the blessings and benefits that we experience in our relationship with God are:
We will experience a purging and a cleansing of our soul from sin and unrighteousness.
Our will will become one with His as we learn to choose "not my will, but Thine."
We will experience His Life - His Love, His Wisdom and His Power.
Our faith will become transformed and we will begin to have a radical trust in God.
We will see the purposes of His Cross more clearly.
We will no longer be concerned about our own wishes, needs, and mindset.
We will be delivered from self-pity and self-righteousness.
We will begin to have an overwhelming desire for God.
We will learn more about His grace and acquire more understanding of His ways.
The Scriptures will become alive to us as they never have before.
We will begin to have deep compassion for others who are suffering and we will be eager to comfort them.
We will develop more of His character - His patience and His longsuffering - as never before.
We will begin to experience a serenity and a peace that passeth all understanding.
By going through the dark night of the soul, we should be able to come out with both a clearer understanding of ourselves, and a complete dependence upon God.
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