This post series is for the soul who is genuinely seeking God regardless of how difficult the journey becomes. According to God’s Word and church history, those who truly sought Christ experienced seasons of darkness, confusion, and the feeling of abandonment. St. John of the Cross, a 16th Century Catholic Priest wrote about his “dark night of the soul.” He discusses how God works through our spiritual darkness to draw us closer to Himself (simplified explanation of his work). As I’ve mentioned in previous writings, Abraham, Moses, the disciples, and Paul all faced times of difficulty, testing, waiting, and darkness. All quotes are from Larry Crabb’s: Shattered Dreams: God’s Unexpected Path to Joy unless otherwise noted. Quotes are used according to fair use copyright rules. Please considering purchasing and reading this excellent book:
We will all face times of doubt and uncertainty in our journeys!
Every believer will face times of uncertainty in his or her journey of faith. It’s easy to feel alone, misunderstood, and cast aside when it seems as though everyone else is living victorious and happy lives. I plan to address the difference between happiness and joy in terms of God’s work in our lives in a future writing. If we could see others as our Savior does we would quickly realize that most aren’t as joyful as they might appear to be.
Have you ever encountered a saint who is struggling; who isn’t afraid to admit that things aren’t going well? Such saints often confess that each day is a struggle to find, experience, and understand God. Often we pretend that all is well when around others especially in church. Who likes being around someone who is sad or disturbed? So we put on our happy faces and “all is good” mask when all isn’t well. Larry remind us on page 63: emphasis mine
“Church is too often a place of pretense and therefore a place without hope. When brokenness is disdained, where the real story is never told, the power of God is not felt. Where brokenness is invited and received with grace, the gospel comes alive with hope.”
If we were honest and willing to tell the truth about our brokenness and genuinely, actively listen to others, what might happen? Perhaps someone visiting or struggling themselves might see grace, hope, and community instead of hypocrisy. Larry suggests that we are truthful about what is going on in our lives and ask for help when we need it.
Encountering God brings change and initiates a journey of dependence
Have you considered that anyone who encounters God in scriptures is profoundly changed? This encounter leads to a transformational struggle and journey of dependence on God. Isaiah and Jeremiah’s lives became more difficult after hearing from God. What about Moses? So much for the calm and quiet of sheep pasturing in the desert. After hearing from God, he was sent to confront Pharaoh and endure years of rebellion and complaining.
Consider Jonah. He was so disturbed by God’s grace and mercy for the wicked in Nineveh that he fled immediately! He did this because he knew about God’s mercy and grace. He feared that they might repent and God wouldn’t destroy them. He spent time in the dark belly of the fish after being thrown over board. He asks God to end his life sitting in the desert as he hopes to see God’s wrath fall on Nineveh. Jonah is angry at God!
The Twelves Disciples all had jobs, families, and plans for their lives. Christ arrives and their hopes for the restoring of the Kingdom of Israel blossoms only to be transformed into something unexpected-a brutal execution, Resurrection, and ascension into heaven! Paul was serving in his ministry as a Pharisee until Jesus confronts him. Acts clearly recounts the many beatings, trials, and dangers that Paul faced in his missionary and teaching ministries.
I have a better option for you to consider! Without being the self-piting Eeyore that most people seek to avoid, is it possible to live authentically?
Yes, when we recognize that God is present even in our dark nights of confusion and feeling abandoned. Larry Crabb expounds his idea that God deliberately withdraws from us to cause us to desire Him more. He reminds us that we often try to “spiritualize” the difficult and confusing events/struggles of our lives. We do this when we mention a difficulty then try to explain how God is working through it in the same conversation.
Let’s be honest with God, ourselves, and others when facing this situation! Often times we don’t know what God is doing or why. We speculate and try to make it more pleasant for others to hear. It terrifies us when we can’t see or perceive His involvement. We have a tendency to respond to tragedies and deaths this way. We have this compelling need to understand why and try to assign some meaning or see some “greater good”. Perhaps the wise option is to recognize and accept the tragedy and grieve with our suffering brothers and sisters!
In short, we have a mistaken idea that understanding what God is doing or the “whys” will make it easier. Sometimes we “try” to help others understand the whys in our attempts to help. Consider Job’s friends and their attempts to explain God’s activities and purpose. The friends had it all wrong! What if we aren’t meant to understand why? God doesn’t explain the why to Job. God shows up and asks Job questions that he can’t answer. Job agrees with God. Below is a helpful article in understanding how Job reacts to God and what’s really going on!
God demands that Job’s friends repent from their wrong ideas and statements about Him. Perhaps knowing the why becomes more important to us than knowing and trusting God. Job is ultimately comforted by God’s appearance and presence. Are you letting the why questions keep you from God? God isn’t done with you and He will never leave or forsake you even in your darkest moments!
Encouraging Truths for Dark Moments
1. You’re not alone in the struggle–real faith that honors God is faith that is proven and endures–Hebrews 11. God has a purpose and plan even though we don’t see or understand the “whys”.
2. “God is working when we see nothing but darkness. He is moving with rhythmic purpose though our agony and pain to unimaginable joy.” pg 57. This is in reference to the account of Naomi and Ruth.
3. “Knowing that He’s moving at all sometimes becomes the central piece of faith we need to keep ourselves moving. The courage to not quit, to not settle for immediate pleasure . . . often depends on our conviction that God is moving . . . that there is no other way to get there.” pg 57
4. Paraphrase from Oswald Chambers, Jan. 22–Be certain to build your faith on Christ and keep your gaze on Him when things start pressing against you. The key is to keep looking to Christ!
Our knowledge and faith that God is working through all things then encourage us to grow in our dependence on Him. The uncertainties and difficulties cause us to “look up to God” instead of the pleasures and happiness of the world. Oswald Chambers provides some excellent advice on this in his January 22 devotional. The devotional is available at https://utmost.org/
5. Seek professional assistance when the “darkness” begins to significantly impact your daily life/activities/thoughts. Covid19 pandemic and other stresses are causing mental health problems in many people’s lives including children and teens. Watch for signs that others around you may be in crisis and voice your concerns.
In concluding this post, I want to remind you that it’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to struggle and wrestle with the hard things and sorrows of life. It’s important to understand that a “dark time” can be anxiety, depression or some other medical condition that needs to be diagnosed then treated by a professional! When dealing with prolonged anxiety, grief, and/or major life changes, a professional counselor can help you to gain clarity and work through the intense emotions/thoughts you may be experiencing.
A licensed counselor (LPC) or licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) can assess your situation. CBT [Cognitive Behavior Therapy] helped me to identify and work through some issues that led to long term healing and better mental health for me. God graciously blessed me with good counselors who helped me to recognize and deal with past traumas!
I also want you to recognize that depression is a real illness that has spiritual, emotional, and physical components that requires medical/counseling treatment for improvement. I believe in God’s Word, prayer, and God’s ability to heal broken spirits. Sometimes people are afraid to seek mental health treatment when that’s the key to getting better. God uses medical and counseling professionals’ treatment to help us to heal! They are His agents of mercy and healing!
For Christ’s glory, honor, and to encourage you, I write these words