Light for ‘the dark night of the soul’


My friend, Cec Murphey, calls it “When God turns off the lights.” Corrie ten Boom described it as a long, black railway tunnel. And over 500 years ago, St. John of the Cross called it “The Dark Night of the Soul.” But King David perhaps expressed it best: “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me!”

Have you experienced those times in your spiritual life when everything goes dark and God seems silent?

Since I finished The Psalms of Asaph: Struggling with Unanswered Prayer, Unfulfilled Promises, and Unpunished Evil, I’ve been experiencing a dark night of the soul. All I seem to hear from God is “be still.” Now, for a Type A workaholic with ADD, that is not easy. But I see it everywhere: in reading Scripture, in Facebook and Instagram posts, in wall plaques, bookmarks, and in music such as Hillary Scott’s Still. My friend, Twila Belk even sent me a book with “Be Still” in the subtitle!

After five months of writing virtually nothing and just one small speaking engagement, I thought Maybe God wants me to write on being still. I was sure I could hear God chuckling, “Jim, Jim, Jim.”

So, for almost nine months I’ve not been writing much, speaking much (or selling many books). I’ve just spent time reading the Bible and classic devotional books, praying, journaling and trying to be still. This past Good Friday, I visualized nailing WRITING and SPEAKING to the horizontal beam of the cross. I wrote in my journal: “I’m done fighting a battle I can’t win. If God wants to resurrect my so-called writing/speaking career that would be great, but if not, I’ll try to be okay with it—and just be still.”

Then this morning (April 11, 2018), I just happened upon these words of F. B. Meyer. (Okay, okay, I know there’s no such thing as “just happened” in God’s economy!)

      “What I tell you in the darkness, speak ye in the light” (Matt. 10:27).

      Our Lord is constantly taking us into the dark, that He may tell us things. Into the dark of the shadowed home, where bereavement has drawn the blinds; into the dark of the lonely, desolate life, where some infirmity closes us in from the light and stir of life; into the dark of some crushing sorrow and disappointment.

      Then He tells us His secrets, great and wonderful, eternal and infinite; He causes the eye which has become dazzled by the glare of earth to behold the heavenly constellations; and the ear to detect the undertones of His voice, which is often drowned amid the tumult of earth’s strident cries.

      But such revelations always imply a corresponding responsibility—”that speak ye in the light—that proclaim upon the housetops.”

      We are not meant to always linger in the dark, or stay in the closet; presently we shall be summoned to take our place in the rush and storm of life; and when that moment comes, we are to speak and proclaim what we have learned.

      This gives a new meaning to suffering, the saddest element in which is often its apparent aimlessness. “How useless I am!” “What am I doing for the betterment of men?”

      Such are the desperate laments of the sufferer. But God has a purpose in it all. He has withdrawn His child to the higher altitudes of fellowship, that he may hear God speaking face to face, and bear the message to his fellows at the mountain foot.

      Were the forty days wasted that Moses spent on the Mount, or the period spent at Horeb by Elijah, or the years spent in Arabia by Paul?

      There is no shortcut to the life of faith, which is the all-vital condition of a holy and victorious life. We must have periods of lonely meditation and fellowship with God. That our souls should have their mountains of fellowship, their valley of quiet rest beneath the shadow of a great rock, their nights beneath the stars, when darkness has veiled the material and silenced the stir of human life, and has opened the view of the infinite and eternal, is as indispensable as that our bodies should have food.

      Thus alone can the sense of God’s presence become the fixed possession of the soul, enabling it to say repeatedly, with the Psalmist, “Thou art near, O God.”

Suddenly, the sun came out—literally! (The first time in days here in gray, dark, lifeless Indiana.) The lights are still off, I’m still in the long, black railway tunnel, feeling my way along by faith through the dark night of the soul. But there is hope. Refreshing. Revitalizing. Resurrecting hope! I honestly don’t know how long this command to “be still” will last, but today I’m content to stay still until God has provided me with my next message to proclaim on the rooftop. Maybe this is it! “Jim, Jim, Jim.”

Copyright © 2018 James N. Watkins

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