I present this for personal contemplation.
Not a “wake up call” of any sort. For it may apply to few, but certainly not all. For that possible misunderstanding, I am reposting.
Depression can be a killer — or it can be a life-giver, enhancing a burst of spiritual growth in volumes that would not be produced without its painful impetus. Painful, yes. But without pain how could we know something dire needed addressing even unto life and not death? Emerging from such experience(s) can produce an explosion of new light, new life, and a clarity of new insight that never could occur if held in a static-state of low-level comfort or ennui. Whether physical or spiritual, painful is gainful if it leads to life more abundant.
I have heard some very sincere souls, in a rapturous inspirational moment, proclaim how they would like to get so close to God it would be no effort to hear His voice, see His eyes directing, or follow His leading in any way He called them.
I make no fault of them for not having a true understanding of what they desire or what that may mean. As in martyrdom, closeness with God is a noble goal but not to be lightly romanticized. As the Savior says, “count the cost.”
Many who are desirous of a close, personal walk with our Lord will experience 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.
Moreover, the suffering brought about by this dark night experience will bring the end result of knowing God more purely, more simply, more deeply. It is a place where old loves are shed and replaced with a new and deeper love for Jesus – and others. The Lord is continuously working to develop, shape and fashion our souls according to His desires for us 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 as both vivid and wintry/hazy.
There were two which happened both concurrently and separately, but so closely related almost blended. I had a five year episode of alcoholism that was very deep, though it was relatively short-lived compared to some I heard about first hand. This ended when I entered a long term faith-based Christian live-in recovery program. Being in this program, along with getting the call to go on-staff after graduating, was my second expedition through the “dark night.”
I considered myself in “God’s woodshed” of discipline.
My bout with alcoholism I now interpreted 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. Just 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. (Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered-Heb 5:8) 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 of His calling, I said yes to the invitation. And although those of whom I was made shepherd over — those put in my charge — 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 believed it very likely 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 as He lead me.
The numerous blessings that came about because of this perseverance are too many to list here in this short space. However, I can say His determined faithfulness was always evidenced by me.
His promise of impending bright sunshine chasing away the darkness was never guaranteed nor even hinted. 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)