Dark Nights

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Psalm 90:13-17 (NLT)

O Lord, come back to us!
    How long will you delay?
    Take pity on your servants!
Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love,
    so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives.
Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery!
    Replace the evil years with good.
Let us, your servants, see you work again;
    let our children see your glory.
And may the Lord our God show us his approval
    and make our efforts successful.
    Yes, make our efforts successful!

If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by doubt or abandoned by God, take heart. The best of Christ’s followers have such experiences.

The Israelites, including today’s psalmist, regularly expressed the sense that God was no longer with them. And God did sometimes abandon them for periods of time in response to their forgetting who is Creator and Rescuer.

Just before Moses’ death, God explained to Moses and his replacement, Joshua, the pattern the Israelites would find themselves experiencing over the centuries.

“After you are gone, these people will begin to worship foreign gods, the gods of the land where they are going. They will abandon me and break my covenant that I have made with them. Then my anger will blaze forth against them,” God told the two. “I will abandon them, hiding my face from them, and they will be devoured. Terrible trouble will come down on them, and on that day they will say, ‘These disasters have come down on us because God is no longer among us!’ At that time I will hide my face from them on account of all the evil they commit by worshiping other gods.” (Deuteronomy 31:16b-18)

God did give Moses and Joshua a song to teach the people for such times. While lengthy, its elements are obvious: Declare who God is, confess the sins of idolatry and forgetfulness, and recognize God’s goodness and desire to restore his people.

Sin obviously separates us from God, taking us to the dangerous point where we might question God’s love or even his existence. Christian mystics have also recognized through the centuries that Christ’s closest followers can experience similar feelings, what a 16th-century poet called St. John of the Cross described as the “dark night,” sometimes now referred to as “the dark night of the soul.”

The mystics see these moments as a time of spiritual purging. This includes a simultaneous acknowledgment that God is unknowable in full but also worth pursuing.

Regardless of the cause of why we may feel abandoned by God or filled with doubt, the appropriate response remains the same. Never stop acknowledging who God is. Root out sins, confess them to God, and take the necessary time to grow in understanding of what God is doing in the world through Christ’s sacrifice.

Fear not, the morning does come.

Dear Lord, pour out new grace on those who struggle with their dark nights. Return them to a sense of assurance and keep within them a deep desire to serve your kingdom. Amen.

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