|By: Nancy Missler; ©2002|
|When you are in the middle of the “dark night of the spirit” do you feel like giving up, shutting down and dying? Do you feel like death would be a relief? Nancy Missler explains why such reactions might be “normal” but it’s not necessary to act on them.|
The dark night of the spirit occurs when the worst possible thing that we could imagine happens. Like Job said, "The thing which I greatly feared is come upon me" (Job 3:25).
The dark night of the spirit comes when our life is already in ruins, our hopes already destroyed and our hearts already broken. Only God, out of His Love and compassion, knows how much more we can take. Only He knows the perfect timing and the perfect way to show us ourselves and to orchestrate all the events in our lives according to His will. We, of course, feel that we are being unfairly stripped, flayed and laid out bare for everyone to see and that what is happening is cruel and completely undeserved.
Since we are already covered with inexplicable confusion and humiliation, God’s ways become totally incomprehensible to us. The desperation we feel at this time defies explanation and surpasses all sensory pain.
Often we feel like just giving up, shutting down and dying. In fact, we feel death would be a relief. We become numb and conscious of very little else, except our own suffering and our own pain. We hate what we see ourselves thinking and doing, and we feel we are the most miserable of creatures. We begin to experience great insecurity in doing the things that we used to do with great ease. We have the feeling that we are being cursed and crossed out by God, certainly not blessed. Thus, we despair of life itself.
Paul understood this. In 2 Corinthians 1:8 he says: "For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life."
Not only do we feel abandoned by God, we also feel that our family and friends have deserted us. As David said in Psalm 69:20, "Reproach hath broken my heart, and I am full of heaviness; and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none." And Job experienced the same thing, "He hath put my brethren far from me, and mine acquaintances are verily estranged from me. My kinsfolk have failed, and my familiar friends have forgotten me" (Job 19:13-14).
Not only has our hope been cut off from God, it has also been cut off from others. No one reaches out to us; no one takes pity on us; and no one takes the time to listen or counsel us. (Job 19:19; Psalm 55:12-14)
Often in the middle of all this horror, our reputation vanishes and we become unable, for various reasons, to justify ourselves and clear our name. Thus, we become even more repugnant to our friends and family. I believe losing our reputation is one of the hardest experiences to endure. Our reputation is difficult to let go of, because it’s who we are.
Jesus was humiliated and betrayed by His own family and His friends. His reputation was unjustly tarnished. However, Jesus’ way of dealing with these things was not to run around and try to save and repair that which was already lost, but to simply relinquish Himself to God and trust Him implicitly. Listen to Isaiah 53:7 and 1 Peter 2:23: "He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth…." "When He was reviled, [He] reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not, but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously."
This needs to be our response also—to commit ourselves unreservedly to God (in naked faith) and trust Him to carry us through.
It’s a very painful lesson to learn that we can’t always depend upon our friends and our family. How desperately we want to look horizontally for the support and the love we need, but God is graphically showing us that we must only look vertically to Him for our strength, our esteem and our love. Sometimes our loved ones will be there for us and those times will be wonderful; but, at other times, they will have their own issues to deal with and they will be unable to support us. God, however, is always there for us and we must learn to look only to Him. "Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide: keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in they bosom" (Micah 7:5-7).
Again, God is the only One who can give us the consistent Love, esteem and comfort that we need. So we shouldn’t be crushed when others do selfish and mean things to us. God already told us they would. We can be assured, however, that in the end the truth will all come out.
The bottom line is, how much do we trust God? Do we trust Him enough to give Him everything in our lives? Or, do we only trust Him with the things that don’t really matter to us? This is what He is asking in our night seasons. Whether it’s our reputation, our job, our marriage, our health, our children or our friends. God’s question to all of us is, "Will you trust Me to carry you through?"
Another emotion we’ll experience at this time is rebelliousness. I know this was certainly true with me. As God began to work in my life and everything began to fall apart, I struggled and strained to "control" what was happening. At the time, I didn’t realize I was fighting against God. I thought it was the enemy who was doing all of these things. I thought if I could just fight him harder, I would break free. Of course, just the opposite happened; the more I fought, the worse things got.
Now the truth is that the enemy is always at work in our lives. But when we have a situation where we have done all that God has asked of us (renewed our minds and put on the Armor of God, etc.), and the circumstances still don’t improve, chances are these are God’s circumstances and He is orchestrating them for His purposes. At this point, we must cease striving and struggling, and simply surrender, relinquish and abandon ourselves to God’s will.
There is a fine line between apathy and passiveness and relinquishment and abandonment. I am not suggesting that we just lie back and do nothing. That’s foolishness, and certainly not God’s will. I am suggesting, however, that once we have gone through all the doorways that are open and available to us, and if there are no more options left, then we must rest in peace, knowing that God has allowed this particular thing into our lives. And we must know that He will work it out in His timing and according to His perfect will, if we lie still.
Our continued resistance should only prove to us how far we are from truly possessing the courage and the faith we thought we had.