The dark night of the soul often comes upon us suddenly and without advance warning. This night can end in one of two ways. If we understand what God's basic will is and we relinquish ourselves to Him, we can experience the glorious presence of the Lord even in the midst of our trial.
If, however, we are confused about what the dark night is, why God allows it and how we are to respond to it, then doubt, unbelief, hardness and a falling away from the faith can result.
When we allow even a little bit of unbelief, this doubt can turn into bitterness and resentment that can harden us for the rest of our lives, and we can end up closing ourselves off from the only Source of Life there is. Unless we can continually look at our night seasons through God's eyes and remember His goals and His purposes, we may slide into the darkness and never come out.
I've been at this point several times over the last ten years, and I know how hard it is emotionally to pull yourself up and cry, "No matter what is going on in my life, I choose to trust and believe in You, God." (Job 13:15) The bottom line is: there is no other choice! God is the only answer unless, of course, we want to end up shipwrecked, as expressed above.
Last month we began a series of articles entitled, "Passing Through the Night" - what we are to do in order to get through our night seasons. We shared that whether we advance, withdraw or simply stay put is determined by our responses in our times of crisis. We listed the actions we must take in order to get through our night and explored how we must stand still, rest in His promises and stop asking, "Why?"
In this articlewe want to continue our examination by studying how we cease doubting and fighting, and how we guard against discouragement. In the next article, we will conclude our survey by examining how we stop blaming others, put on the whole armor of God and praise Him in all things.
Doubt in God's faithfulness and His Love during our dark night affects everything we do. Doubt quenches God's Spirit and brings us down faster than anything else. It can devastate and paralyze us simply because it affects every choice we make.
Satan, as you are well aware, will do anything he can to get us to doubt God's faithfulness. He begins by inserting suggestions like, "See, you're not special to God anymore." "He doesn't care about you." "Who do you think you are to...!" Of course, when you are going through a night season, everything you feel and see at this time "validates" Satan's poisonous words. The enemy loves to agitate us, unquiet us and make things miserable and tormenting for us. Then, he moves in for the kill and begins to twist Scripture to confirm the doubts he is inflicting us with.
An Example: Shar
A dear friend of mine lost her oldest son last year in a horrible automobile accident. He was only 20 and he loved the Lord with all his heart. My friend had been a Christian for years, had taught numerous Bible studies, and had exhorted many others to know Christ. But losing her son absolutely crushed her. She could not understand how a loving God would allow this horrible loss to happen to someone who loved Him so much.
The more she questioned God, the more doubt and unbelief grew in her soul. Finally, she found herself at the lowest point in her walk with God. When she prayed, she couldn't hear His voice. It seemed as if He had covered Himself with a cloud, abandoning her in her deepest need. When she read the Bible, the enemy twisted its meaning to convey something totally opposite from what was intended.
Faith reads the word accurately; whereas, doubt allows Satan to give it a whole other meaning. For example: When my friend read in Hebrews about our need to be disciplined by suffering, because of her doubt she thought it said that God took away her son to discipline her, which, of course, devastated her. And since she had no idea why she was being disciplined, she simply let go of God's hand. Her painful experience demonstrates that when our hearts and our spirits are covered by doubt and unbelief, we give the enemy huge holes and entrances into our soul.
My friend became so depressed that she wanted to die. She no longer cared about anything or anyone. When we cut our "life line," our lives become absolutely meaningless. The Lord in His Love, however, arranged some precious circumstances to show Shar how much He did care for her and to what extremes He would go to communicate that Love to her. He sent a woman from the other side of the country at the precise time and in the precise way, to let her know that she was loved. Shar is slowly, once again, beginning to make faith choices, acknowledging her doubt and unbelief and giving it to Him. These faith choices bar Satan's attacks and allow God to, once again, manifest Himself to her, minister to her and comfort her with His Love.
Jesus is our example and we must remember what He did on the cross. In spite of all that was going on with Him physically, He kept turning his head towards God; kept crying out to Him; kept abandoning Himself to Him; and kept praying. Jesus never once gave up faith in His Father. Even though He felt as if His Father had abandoned Him, He continued to allow the Holy Spirit to minister to Him and to comfort Him. Even though He "felt" very little help from His Father at that time, He still abandoned Himself to Him and cried, "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit." (Luke 23:46)
We must do the same thing. Even though we feel and experience very little help from our Father in our night seasons, we must entrust our souls into His hands. Whether we sink or swim, we must never let anything, anyone, or any situation drive us away from holding on to God. Only He can show us the way. If we doubt Him, we will never make it through.
Remember, when doubt becomes a part of our lives, then our own ideas, our own intuitions, our own work and our own inferences can also become sources of delusion.
If you are in the middle of a very difficult situation now, and doubt has already crept into your thinking, don't wait another moment. Turn to the Lord right now. Acknowledge your real feelings, confess and repent of them, and then make the appropriate faith choices to give your unbelief and doubt over to Him. There truly is nowhere else you can go for help - to be healed, to be freed - but to God Himself, as Jesus taught us. And until you do, that doubt and unbelief will affect everything you think, say and do.
Sources of Doubt
Let's take a moment to point out the three primary sources of doubt, so we don't fall into the trap that Shar did and end up quenching God's Spirit.
First of all, doubt comes to us through the strategies of Satan and his demonic horde. The devil has been active from the beginning of the world. He won his first victory when he convinced Eve to doubt in the goodness of God. Even though insinuating doubt has been Satan's best strategy since the Garden of Eden, human beings are still falling for it today! "Yea, hath God said...?" (Genesis 3:1)
By destroying our trust in God's faithfulness, he devours our commitment to God. And when we surrender to doubt, we quickly become a backslidden statistic, wide open to deception.
We must be diligent to guard ourselves against such thoughts as: "God doesn't love me"... "He doesn't care"... "He's not faithful"... "His promises are not true"... "God is mad at me"... "Others have fallen before me, how am I supposed to make it through?"
Satan not only deceives us through our own questioning minds and through careless remarks of others, but also through our misunderstood circumstances, as in Shar's case. He is our mortal enemy, and when we are emotionally weak, physically exhausted, mentally confused and spiritually unprepared, he closes in for the kill. Thus, he thrives in our "night seasons."
A second source of doubt comes from dwelling in a world saturated with human wisdom. Worldly values are often the direct opposite of godly values and human wisdom is often the opposite of the wisdom of God. For instance, many Americans believe in evolution simply because it's what they were taught in school and yet, this popular theory is in direct conflict with the truth of creation. Worldly wisdom can easily infect every aspect of our lives, and the only way to survive this contamination is to constantly renew our minds with the truth of God's Word.
A third source of doubt comes from our own spiritual immaturity and our own double-mindedness. The Greek root word for doubleminded is psyche, which literally means double-souled. It means two lives are being lived. God's Life is still resident in our hearts, but because we have emotionally chosen to follow our own doubt and unbelief instead of what God has told us, self-life has taken over our souls. Double-mindedness is lethally dangerous, because it leaves us wide open for greater deception, which can ultimately lead to more doubt. When we blindly follow Satan by being doubleminded, we will eventually lose our faith in God and our hope in His promises.
Don't ask God why you have to go through this fire. This is not a time to speak to Him, but simply a time to humble ourselves before Him and suffer politely. Just know that what God is doing in you and through you is both very important and essential for your growth.
It's also important not to run to a friend or to the phone first, but choose, instead, to be alone with the Lord. Reaffirm to Him that all that matters to you is knowing and loving Him. Quote Psalm 73:25 to Him, "Whom do I have but You?" Say in faith, as Job did, "For I know that my redeemer liveth and...in my flesh, shall I see Him." (Job 19:26)
Refrain from any emotional or intellectual security of knowing, understanding and being right. One single attachment is enough to prevent you from attaining the union that God so desires. Be patient, believe in Him and listen for His voice. He knows about your every thought, emotion and desire.
The best thing you can do is to accept the trial graciously and stand back and see what God does. Surrender yourself to the suffering. Don't look for a way out. Stay in the trial if that's God's will and be willing to die to your "self." Be willing to be stripped naked and obliterated if that is what He requires.
There is an instinctive rebellion in us against what is happening. It's called "survival." We must stop all efforts to deliver ourselves and learn to lean on His breast. Because we feel what is happening is not deserved, not warranted and not fair, this is the time we often take matters into our own hands by "lighting our own fires." This resistance we put up without realizing it, is the source of much of our trouble and as Isaiah 50:10 tells us, if we do this, "we will lie down in sorrow and be destroyed."
The less we struggle, the less it will hurt. We need to cease trying to figure out what God is up to and simply wait for Him to act. Cry out to Him, "Lord, I give up. I can't fight. I confess my self-pity, my rebellion. It's all yours. I'm simply going to trust You."
Remember, the battle is not ours, but the Lord's. He has not forgotten us. He will always be faithful. Thus, we must stop acting as if He has forgotten all about us and abandoned us.
We mustn't pray for relief from the trial, but rather pray for strength to endure it with courage, humility and love, and to be changed by it. We won't be able to weather the storms unless we are willing to persevere and overcome. Romans 5:3 tells us that tribulation brings about patience, and patience, if we allow it to, will bring about hope.
Much of our trouble springs from our not wanting to give up our attachments, our support systems and everything else we rely upon. The more we fight to save these things, however, the sharper our trials will become. If we can willingly surrender ourselves to what God is doing in our lives and permit the crucifying process to go unheeded, then the blows will be much softer and the process will go a lot faster. It is God who holds us fast to the cross and it is God who will loose us from that cross when He sees fit. No one can change His plans. We must simply seek His strength to endure.
Let's keep our eyes upon Him and run towards Him like that eagle. Even if we don't see Him or feel Him or understand His ways, He promises us that the darkness will eventually shrivel away and the light will begin to shine. "Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness...." (Psalm 112:4)
All the trials and tribulations God has allowed are simply a part of the preparation process that He is implementing in each of our lives. These night seasons are a necessary part of learning to love and learning to know God intimately.
Guard Against Discouragement
As we read the words of David in Psalm 38, we find this godly, righteous man discouraged and at the end of himself. Listen:
I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long...I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart...My heart panteth, my strength faileth me: as for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone from me...I, as a deaf man, heard not; and I was as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth. Thus I was as a man that heareth not, and in whose mouth are no reproofs. -Psalm 38:6, 8, 10, 13-14
One of the emotions I struggled with the most in my own night season was discouragement. Nothing seemed to bring me down faster than allowing disappointment and discouragement into my soul.
When we become discouraged and cling to our anxieties, our fears and our self-pity, it not only strengthens them, it also impedes what God wants to do.
We must be careful not to fall into the mode of self-pity or wanting sympathy from others. Be assured, you won't get it. Besides, it does no good anyway - we only end up deeper in the pit than when we started. Our eyes cannot be on anyone or anything but God Himself. His approval and His support is all we need.
Our greatest failure during this time is in allowing our interior agitation and depression to become exaggerated. If we allow our negative thoughts to go unchecked, our agitation and our depression will not only quench God's Spirit and deprive us of hearing God's voice, but it will also become an obstacle to our union with Him.
Thus, it's imperative that we learn how to "see" in the darkness. We need to see and to understand not so much what God is doing, but rather what He desires of us. We must continue to walk abandoned to His will and wait upon Him without anxiety and without hunger for any experience. Our dependence must rest completely in His Love and faithfulness so that, no matter what events are transpiring in our lives, our spirit and our inner man remain at rest.
This is one of the main reasons for our night seasons - God wants our spirit to be strengthened, so that what happens to us on the outside (in our soul), does not determine our composure on the inside.
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 [our] body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. -2 Corinthians 4:8-10
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This series has been excerpted from Chuck and Nancy Missler's book, Faith in the Night Seasons.