The “dark night of the soul” is a testing of our faith, where God withdraws emotional comfort. God brings tests like this in order to increase our faith, to encourage our transformation from what we are to what we may become, reducing our ego and increasing our faith. God calls all people to him and desires to know them…to those who respond to that call he will make himself known. When he knows we are ready he begins to transform us. Sometimes it happens a little bit at a time, sometimes in huge steps. It happens through trust, faith, and perseverance. The dark night can take what we believe as a well-ordered faith and shake it. Our understanding and practice of prayer, faith, and life may deepen, broaden, shift, and expand. Through it we may experience trauma, betrayal, desolation, assault, abandonment, and confusion, but if we have the correct perspective we see it as a test and not a trial. The healing work is soul work, and it takes time, patience, attentiveness, and persistence.
People who walked with God closely for a long time almost universally experienced a particularly difficult type of test: darkness. Things are rocking along pretty well… God is rich and real and he is answering prayer… lives are changed and great things are happening. Then, nothing. A steel canopy is put over our heads in our prayers bounce off. It seems as though the spiritual phone lines are cut. We can’t call out, and God doesn’t call in. The modem won’t connect. The light of God’s presence, which we treasured so much the day before, has gone out. We feel the barrenness of being alone. Very alone.
I believe this “dark night of the soul” is one of the most severe tests for those who are serious about walking with God. God doesn’t give this test to young Christians. The darkness that immature believers experience has a different source, usually their sin.
The darkness mature believers endure is different. Very different. Those who suffer this darkness search their souls for sin. They plead with God to show them any obstruction, but they hear only silence. Deafening silence. Isaiah gave hope, perspective and warning to these people:
“Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the Word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.” (Isaiah 50:10)
If you and I are committed to loving and serving Christ, sooner or later we will enter a time of darkness. If we search and find no sin that is blocking God’s light, we need to take heart from the prophet Isaiah and trust in the unchanging character of God. If we try to light our own flames by generating emotion and looking for new spiritual experiences, we will only hurt ourselves and feel tormented. Darkness is a severe test, and God reserves it for those who are ready. You may not be at that point in your walk right now, but when the emptiness of darkness covers your spiritual life, remember these words. Many times the tests God gives us are not only for us. God uses them to get the attention of those around us, too. (A Call To Die by David Nasser, p158)
For some who have experienced emotional or spiritual abuse, or who have been hurt and disillusioned by the church the dark night of the soul might be God’s testing and process for transformation to heal you, grow you, and to bring you back to him and his people. Take a look at your heart, are you really open to God’s healing touch that will restore you? Are you truly open and willing to be deeply and fully restored to God and his church? Are you willing to trust people again?