When the Dark Overwhelms

I have been a Christian for my entire adult life, imperfectly devoted to Christ. In those decades I, like every human being, have known seasons of sickness, death, and disappointment. Sometimes there is wonderful peace and great comfort and sometimes it seems, from where I stand, that God is silent. Sincere and caring friends assure me that “God has a plan.”  I never doubt that He does, nor do I question His love, but I find the assurances something less than comforting. 

In the dark times I long for is a word from Heaven, the Spirit’s comfort. “Jesus, please touch me anew with Your love,” I pray.  My faith in God is not called into question for I know Him well and trust Him. It is His silence that is hard to bear.

John of the Cross gave us the phrase “dark night of the soul.” If you are experiencing spiritual silence, know that you are not unique. David alludes to his spiritual thirst when he  lived in a “dry desert.”  “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1, NIV)  Jeremiah is called, “The Weeping Prophet.” Martin Luther, father of the Reformation, said that he went through times of melancholy that felt as if they would ruin him.  

Ah, yes, my fellow pilgrim, ‘dry times’ and ‘dark nights’ are a common experience among the faithful.  David’s words comfort for me  when he sings – “I will praise you with songs. I will be careful to live a blameless life— when will you come to help me?” (Psalm 101:1-2, NLT) In a much more desperate tone, he cries: “Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry for help come to you. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly. For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers. My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food.” (Psalm 102:1-4, NIV)

There are some important decisions we make when our way seems hidden, when the night presses in our us.

What then can we do?

First is to continue faithfully in what He has said in the past through His Word.
God’s will for us does not change in those seasons when His voice is stilled. He is God. Our love and service continues and He knows.

Second is to keep things eternal at the forefront of thought.
We may well be tempted to try to find solace for our soul’s ache in food, sex, buying some new thing, or a vacation.  Rest is important. Taking a ‘break’ can bring renewal, but beware of the Tempter’s desire to turn your eyes to lesser things in an attempt to satisfy the thirst of the soul for Living Water.

Third is to go “Steady on, to endure!”
This is the directive of the Word for such times. “Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.” (Hebrews 12:13, NLT)

Fourth, “stay with the flock!

When we are feeling the stress of a broken heart or a troubled soul, we may feel like isolating ourselves. The company of other Christians who appear to be full of joy, who seem to know Him as their Friend, may grate on us. Stick with the flock. Let the faith of others carry you. If you know someone in a dark time the Lord’s direction is this – “Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law.” (Galatians 6:2, The Message)

Finally, let yourself weep.  

I am not talking about self-pity. That is an ugly thing.  Our emotions are one of the ways our God alerts us to an unmet need, a hidden sin, or even His desire to mature our faith.  If we pretend that we are ‘just fine,’ if we will not admit to our ache, we may miss His grace. To question God’s seeming absence is no sin. To wonder why we are not able to hear His voice or sense the comfort of the Spirit is quite acceptable. However, if we accuse Him of being uncaring, unloving, or unjust we have believed a lie and in that falsehood doubt will flourish and bitterness will take root. The Word warns that from that root of bitterness comes great and troubling discontent!

If you are bearing the silence of God, I invite you to reach out to a friend, to a pastor, and ask for prayer. Let a Psalm such as the 23rd fill your mind. And, wait patiently.  The Lord sees our weakness and Jesus, our Heavenly Advocate, prays for us. “O God, keep me faithful.” He will do it, for His glory and His own Name’s sake.

The word from the Word today reminds us of our choice to trust His faithfulness.
“All praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the source of every mercy and the God who comforts us.
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.
You can be sure that the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.
So when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your benefit and salvation!
For when God comforts us, it is so that we, in turn, can be an encouragement to you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer.
We are confident that as you share in suffering, you will also share God’s comfort. …

We are confident that he will continue to deliver us. He will rescue us because you are helping by praying for us.
As a result, many will give thanks to God because so many people’s prayers for our safety have been answered
.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-11, NLT)

______________

Mourning Into Dancing

You have turned my mourning into dancing, Lord
Now my feet are filled with your praise
You have clothed my spirit with a robe of joy
You’ve cast my sorrow away

For Your anger last but a moment, Lord
And my tears endure for the night
But Your favor lasts for a lifetime, Lord
My joy returns with the morning light

For . . .

You have turned my mourning into dancing, Lord
Now my feet are filled with your praise
You have clothed my spirit with a robe of joy
You’ve cast my sorrow away

All my foes lose heart when they hear my voice
For I speak in Jesus’ Name
They turn back in fear at the sound of praise
I’ll not keep silent, I must proclaim

That . . .

You have turned my mourning into dancing, Lord
Now my feet are filled with your praise
You have clothed my spirit with a robe of joy
You’ve cast my sorrow away

Words and music by John G. Elliott

Copyright 1989 LCS Songs (a div. of Lorenz Creative Services)/Charlie Monk Music. All rights reserved

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