How Do We Feel
During The Dark Night of the Spirit?
by Nancy Missler
of Life Authors
The distress we feel during the dark night
of the spirit is beyond anything that we have ever experienced before.
In the past, it always seemed
like God protected us, shielded us and guided us. Now we feel like He
must be mad at us, because He has completely disappeared. As Job said:
How long will Ye vex my soul, and break me in piecesÖ?
God hath overthrown me, and hath compassed me with His net.Ö He hath
fenced up my way that I cannot pass, and He hath set darkness in my
paths.Ö He hath stripped me of my glory.... He hath destroyed me on
every side, and I am gone: and mine hope hath He removed like a tree.
(Job 19:2, 6-10)
The feeling that we have been abandoned by the Lord is
one of the most difficult emotions that we will encounter in this night.
We feel that we have lost His Love and there is absolutely nothing we
can to do about it. The reason this occurs is because the work that God
is doing is in the realm of our spirit and not our soul (or our
senses), therefore, we do not feel or see Him. The truth is that God
will never leave us or forsake us, but by withdrawing His
presence from our senses, it produces the feeling in us that He has done
Job talks about the suffering he experienced when he
thought God had withdrawn His presence. "I cry unto Thee, and Thou dost
not hear me: I stand up, and Thou regardest me not. Thou art become
cruel to me: with Thy strong hand Thou opposest Thyself against me."
And itís the same with us. Our greatest suffering
occurs when we feel God has "wounded" us and then left us and we donít
understand why. Itís as if He has placed a "cloud" (or a veil) over
and has withdrawn His presence from
As Gideon questioned in Judges, "...if the Lord be
with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all His miracles
which our fathers told us of?...but now the Lord hath forsaken us..."
Abandoned by God
The horror of this night is the fear that real
fellowship and real love with God is not something that is ever going to
be possible again. Our torment is the feeling that God has become our
enemy and that He has wounded us on purpose. As Job said, "Why have You
set me as Your enemy?"
One of the worst mental miseries one can ever
experience is the feeling that we have opened ourselves up to our
Beloved, thinking He will come and heal our grief, but instead He hides
Himself, flies away and disappears. Itís the feeling that we have
followed God to the edge of a cliff and, at His command, jumped off,
only to find He wasnít there to catch us or to protect us from falling.
Instead, He has disappeared; He has gone; He has withdrawn Himself from
us. "For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies
will I gather thee." (Isaiah 54:7)
Remember the Shulamite woman in the Song of Solomon,
"My beloved put in His hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were
moved for Him. I rose up to open to my belovedÖ. I opened to my beloved;
but my beloved had withdrawn Himself, and was gone." (5:4-6)
It seems so cruel to attract us towards a "treasure,"
which we value above everything else on earth, only to be turned away
from it when we come close. The pain this causes is unbearable. We can
handle rejection from man, but once we have known Godís touch in our
lives, to feel His rejection is beyond imagining.
We have loved Him and walked
obediently, yet now we feel lost and so alone.
Job 34:6 talks about an "incurable wound." This is a
wound of love and also a sense of loss. The dark night of the spirit is
like suffering the incurable wound.
This must have been the feeling Jesus suffered on the
cross. It seemed like at the most important moment of His life, when He
needed His Father the most, God abandoned Him and forsook Him. This is
when Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?"
(Matthew 27:46) As He hung there on the cross, it must have been the
darkest night of His Life. He had never really known darkness up until
thenóthe darkness of desertion. This was the culminating point of His
anguish and the lowest pit of His misery. Jesus had lived in constant
touch with God. He had always known the Fatherís conscious presence and
His Love. Can you imagine what His sorrow must have been like at Godís
But then, Jesus does something thatís completely
opposite to our human nature: He gave Himself completely over to God.
"...Into Thy hands I commend My spirit." (Luke 23:46) Jesus
surrendered His entire "Self" into His Fatherís hands. And this needs to
be our response also.
Philippians 3:10 tells us that many of us will
experience the fellowship of His suffering, which means that we, too, at
some time, might experience the "feeling" of being abandoned and
forsaken by God, just as Jesus did on the cross. David in Psalm 88:14
says, "Lord, why castest Thou off my soul? Why hidest Thou Thy face from
me?" People often say that grief of mind is harder to bear than any
bodily pain, and that spiritual sorrow is the worst of all.
Abandonment must have been exactly what Jesus felt on
the cross. It was the necessary consequences of standing in our stead
and taking the punishment of sin for all mankind. Even though we might
"feel" Godís desertion, the truth is that He will never leave us or
forsake us, as He had to His Son on our behalf. Most of us
have become so attached to the good feelings we experience when we are
"right" with God that when we donít have those good feelings any more,
we become afraid God has left us. The truth is that nothing at all has
really changed, God is simply teaching us how to have "naked faith"
(faith that doesnít depend upon feelings), regardless of the absence of
Copyright 2006, Ankerberg Theological Research Institute