The dark night of the soul is a daunting place in life, a place that I would not wish on my worst enemy. It represents a season of obscurity, incomparable to anything else. It is a season of wandering through desert places and navigating through the valley of the shadow of many deaths, producing lack and desperation. Dreadful yes, but nevertheless, necessary! Of course it does not seem necessary when you are in the midst of it, instead it seems asinine. It makes you wonder if God is up in heaven playing some practical joke on you. I know that this sounds awful, but let us be honest here: we have all had that thought pass through our mind.
My dark night of the soul was to be expected. Ever since I learned of the term I despised it and prayed that God would never take me through it. I knew that there were changes He wanted to make in me but hoped that He would do it without a whole lot of pain, tears and nosebleeds. I knew that a season such as this would bring with it hurt and loneliness, and I did not want to experience either. I was not physically alone, in fact there were people all around me, but I was alone in this process. Even though people said they understood what I was going through, I do not see how they could have.
How in the world could they have understood my doubts, my fears, and my worries? How could they have understood my aching heart that was so broken and confused? How could they have understood my faith, my changing faith that provoked me to challenge God on them? Never for one moment did I stop believing in God or negate his power and reign over my life. But I questioned his love for me. Yes I knew God loved me because the Bible told me so, but my heart could not understand it. I understood the sacrifice of His Son and how because of Him, I have eternal life – words cannot comprehend my gratitude for this. But I wanted to know if He not only loved me enough to save me but to keep me as well.
Reading the Old Testament, I question the actions of the Israelites. God delivered them from so much and yet they acted like barbarians, choosing to worship a golden calf made out of their own hands instead of God himself. Looking at them, I shake my head in disdain but it is because I see how I fit perfectly in their shoes. I resonate with their process and their sentiment, understanding that they were being taken out of their comfort zone here. Although they were slaves, they knew what to expect from their slave masters. They knew that if they performed well, certain things would happen and that if they did not, the reverse was true. They could count of a roof over their heads and food on their tables, and although they may not have been very happy, their needs were met. And so, when God led them out to go to this place of abundance, they probably expected Him to lead them directly there. They had been in chains so long that they yearned for the release of their spiritual and physical beings.
Yet God saw fit to lead them through the desert first. He decided that it was necessary to walk them through this dark valley before taking them to the Promised Land. They were not used to trusting God like this, with food dropping out of the sky and water coming out of a rock. I am sure they questioned His hand, and I am sure they doubted His sanity. How come after 400 years was He suddenly interested in their well-being? Why did He lead them out just to bring them down? These are the questions that they asked their leader Moses, ultimately believing that it would have been better… to serve the Egyptians than die in the wilderness (Exodus 14:12).
As I reflect on my own experiences, I see some similarities. God called me out of Egypt, out of slavery and is leading me into a place of prosperity, abundance and overflow. But I did not expect him to take me through all of the things that He has in order to get me there. Yet he began to show that it is in the wilderness where He prepares His people for the life of the Promised Land. If we look at the Israelites, we will see that it was in the wilderness where they learned how to defend themselves from their enemies. It was also in the wilderness where they learned to rely more on God than themselves, well at least Joshua and Caleb did! These two caught a glimpse of what God had before them and held on to it even though everyone around them did not.
These two lessons came in very handy when they finally crossed over into the Promised Land. Because they knew how to fight and defend themselves from their enemies, no one was able to take their land from them. It was because they were able to trust God that Joshua was able to lead his men in a march around the walls of Jericho and that enabled Gideon to lead an army of 300 trumpet playing water lappers in defeat of their enemies. Without the wilderness experience, these things would have never been accomplished.
Reflecting on the experience of the Israelites, I see that it was in this dark season in my life that God prepared me to inherit His promises. There were dispositions, and so many other things deep in me that if God granted those promises when I wanted him to, I would have ruined them instantly. Although this was, and still is, hard for me to sometimes get, I am beginning to understand.