Many who are desirous of a close, personal walk with our Lord will go through what is referenced as a Dark Night of the Soul. This “dark night” was written of and described by St. John of the Cross in his 16th century work by that very name, “Dark Night of the Soul.” In it he describes his personal experience and interpretation of that event. But as in most things we each have our own personal experience of similar occurrences in our relationship with the Lord. If you undergo this it will be your encounter. And it may not be a one-time phenomenon. It may happen more than once to different degrees of depth and longevity. But the suffering brought about by this dark night experience will bring the end result of knowing God more purely, more simply, more deeply. Where old loves are shed and replaced with a new love for Jesus – and others. The Lord is working to shape and fashion our souls according to His desires throughout our life on earth and some of this work is going to be understandably very intense and painful. It’s not a pleasant experience but very necessary.
I remember my episodes both vividly and hazily. There were two which happened concurrently and separately, but so closely related almost blended. I had a five year bout of alcoholism that was very deep, though it was relatively short-lived compared to some. This ended when I entered a long term faith-based Christian live-in recovery program. Being in this program, along with being called to go on-staff afterward, was my second experience of the “dark night.” I considered myself being in “God’s woodshed” of discipline.
My bout with alcoholism I now saw as ignorant rebellion against the Lord. Ignorant because I didn’t realize at the time I was rebelling against Him. I thought it was against other persons only. But ultimately rebellion is rebellion. Ignorant or otherwise. God hates sin because of the destruction and pain it causes to us or others. When we inflict pain, whether upon ourselves or other people, the Lord feels it keenly. And it’s no light thing to endeavor to crucify the Lord of Glory a second time. Nor is it a minor thing to trample underfoot the blood of Christ. And so – my first round with the Dark Night of the Soul was brought on by my rebellion. However, my second was the result of discovering the personal pain that obeying Christ can bring. I did not want to serve Him in the way and the place that He bid me go – or I should say, “stay.”
I did not desire to remain in the place of my disciplining by going on-staff as a counselor. Although I was well qualified it was something I did NOT want to do. Through obedience alone I succumbed, and through obedience only I said yes to the invitation. And although those I was made shepherd over responded very well to my leading and counsel a low level of depression began settling over me, piercing my heart. I was learning a deeper discipline. The discipline of obeying the Lord when I truly did not desire to go in the direction He was taking me. And I thought that darkening depression was now going to be my life-long companion. But I was also willing to bear even that, if that was what it meant to trust and obey the Savior of my life and soul. The numerous blessings that came about because of this are too many to list here in this short space, however. His stubborn faithfulness was always evidenced by me.
His promise of impending bright sunshine chasing away the darkness was never guaranteed me. It just happened – suddenly. One morning I awoke and the darkness was gone! I was still alive when I assumed I was at deaths door. He brought me through the dark, dank cold forest of midnight into the warm sun-drenched spring meadow of renewal. I saw my Savior in the land of the living. My Redeemer lives!
This is but an abbreviated rendering of the full story of my experience with the Dark Night of the Soul. But the full story is His story.
“I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27)