by Nancy Missler
In the next few articles we want to explore not
only how we "feel" going through the dark night, but
also what we are to "do" in the dark night. In addition,
we want to highlight some of Godís goals, purposes, benefits and
blessings. If we understand a little of what He is doing and why,
we might be able to get through this time more easily.
The dark night is not just a dry time in
our walk, a period where we are having a few problems, or simply a
trial from the enemy, itís a "season" sent from God to
draw us closer to Him. As He says in 1 Kings 12:24, "This
thing is [sent] from Me."
In general, there seems to be two aspects to the
dark night, two "winters" so to speak. The first winter
(the dark night of the soul) is where God focuses on our
"outward man" and our sinful acts. In other
words, He concentrates on what we do. The second winter
(the dark night of the spirit) is where He focuses on our
"inward man" and our self-centered ways. This is
where He highlights who we really are.
In the first dark night, God asks us to
surrender or to sacrifice to Him everything in our lives that is
unholy, unrighteous and "not of faith." In this dark
night, God seems to focus not only on our sin, but also on
"outward" things. Anything that we put first in our
lives or that we rely upon other than Himself (our own natural
strengths, physical attributes, possessions, friendships, gifts
from Him, power for service, etc.) would be things He would want
re-prioritized. Whereas, in the second night, God asks us to
sacrifice or to hand over to Him everything "inwardly"
in our lives that is self-centered or self-oriented (all our
natural waysóour own goals, our own expectations, our
own aspirations, our dreams, our presumptions, our reputation,
As Oswald Chambers reminds us, "Deliverance
from sin is not deliverance from [our] human nature."
If you recall, Jesus also had two dark
nights: His first "night" was in the Garden of
Gethsemane, where He sweated great drops of blood and cried out,
"my soul is exceedingly sorrowful unto death." (Mark
14:34) And His second "night" was on the cross at
Calvary where He cried out, "My God, my God, why hast Thou
forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34)
A perfect analogy that shows the difference
between these two nights is in the pruning of a tree: the first
night would be likened to a gardener pulling off the treeís
branches; whereas, the second night would be likened to the gardener
pulling up the treeís roots.
The answer to the first night season is, of
course, confession and repentance. Through
confession and repentance we can rid ourselves of any sinful acts.
The answer to the second dark night, however, is crucifixion
and death to self. Again, Oswald Chambers describes it
perfectly, "Our natural life is not sinful, but there must be
an attitude of [complete] surrender and of giving it up." (Abandoned
to God, p. 38) God delivers us from sin, but we must
deliver ourselves from self-centeredness by surrendering it to
God. Only one choice is required for us to conquer sin: we must
simply choose to give it to Jesus, but the crucifying of our
"self-centered ways" or our human nature requires a
Even though we are "positionally"
cleansed and sanctified by the blood of Jesus when we are born
again, we will not experience this perfection, this
completion, until not only the sin in our lives is removed, but
also our self-centered ways are nailed to the cross.
Letís explore these two "nights" in
more detail, beginning with the dark
night of the soul.
What Is Our Soul?
Our souls are made up of all our thoughts,
emotions and desires. This is the "self-life" that we
have so often referred to. The Greek word for our soul is psyche
which has a very interesting twofold meaning. Psyche means
it shall have life" or "it shall wax cold." This is
a perfect definition because our soul will either be Spirit-filled
and "have life" because of the free-flow of Godís Life
into our lives, or our soul will be empty and "waxing
cold" because Godís Life has been quenched and blocked from
flowing into our lives. Therefore, you could say our soul is like
a "neutral area" that can either be filled with Godís
Life if we have made faith choices to do His will, or
filled with self-life if we have made emotional choices to
follow our own desires.
When we are born again, our spirit
becomes "new" when it is united with Godís Spirit. At
this time, we also receive a new heart (filled with Godís
supernatural Life), and a new will power. But our soul and body
remain unchanged. They are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb,
but they are not changed, renewed or renovated. This is
what the sanctification process (that we are all in now) is all
about. This is where God is trying to teach us how to constantly
surrender, relinquish and set aside our "self-life" so
that His Life can come forth from our hearts.
Our soul and our body together make up what the
Scripture calls the "flesh." Itís important to
understand that we can never be completely rid of our
flesh; we can never eradicate it totally from our body. This is
what makes us human. Romans 7:20-21 tells us that the power of sin
dwells in our bodies and, thus, we never will be free of its
influence until we receive our resurrection bodies. The only
way we can be free from the influence of our "flesh," is
by recognizing it, crucifying it and then giving it over to God. Itís
Godís will that our entire soul and body be sanctified,
set apart and made holy, so that we can reflect Him in all we do.
What Is the Dark Night of the Soul?
In his book Abandoned to God, Oswald
"The mystics used to speak
of Ďthe dark night of the soul,í 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. Itís a time the person Ďis being brought to an end of
himself,í 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 Christís sake, to
denyónot only his evil self but also his good self." (pp.
The dark night of the soul is the season where
God initiates a purging, a cleansing and a purifying of our souls
from everything that is "not of faith." Itís the time
where God crushes our self will, so that He can merge it with His
own. In other words, itís our own private Gethsemane. As Jesus
said in the garden, "My soul is exceeding[ly] sorrowful unto
death...Nevertheless, not what I will, but what Thou wilt."
(Mark 14:34-36) This is the time where God teaches us to say, as
Jesus did, "Not my will, but Thine."
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 say "Not my will, but Thine."
Because this can often be a time of desolation,
of dried bones and ruined hopes, many Christiansóbecause they
donít understand what Godís will is or what He is doingóget
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 only
"darkness" was there. (Job 30:26) And like Isaiah, who
said "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 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 Godís presence (Exodus 20:21),
so this is the very path God has chosen to put us on. Itís 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 (the fulness of Christ).
Copyright 2006, Ankerberg Theological Research Institute