Are Night Seasons Part of God’s Will
By: John Ankerberg Show
|By: Nancy Missler; ©1999|
|God uses the “deep waters” in our lives to help us to grow spiritually. But many Christians misunderstand God’s purpose and “drown” in the deep waters rather than learning to lean on Him. How can you be one of those that does not “walk away bitter and confused”?|
Kingdom of God
If you have longed for greater intimacy with the Lord and to see Him “always before [your] face,” the journey you must take is an inward one. As believers, we don’t have to travel far to find the kingdom of God, because Luke 17:21 says it lies within us. This is where God now makes His dwelling.
“Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” (1 John 4:15)
Thus, in order to really experience intimacy with God and His moment-by-moment presence, we must learn to live in that inner chamber of our spirit where God now dwells. “I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes…and ye shall be My people, and I will be your God.” (Ezekiel 36:27-28) This is the place where God teaches, guides and communes with us and the place where we worship, praise and love Him. In other words, it’s only through our spirit that God’s presence can be known.
Now, when I say “inward journey,” I do not mean a “self-ward” journey, nor detachment and flight from the world, but rather, a process of sanctification by which we can meet with God in our spirit and experience His fulness. However, because this realm of the spirit operates outside of the reach of our human understanding, we cannot approach it logically or emotionally. We cannot see, hear, smell, taste or feel our way along this narrow path, thus the journey inward can sometimes be very dark and confusing. There is no introspective technique we can use, no seminar we can attend, and no instruction manual we can study in order to reach this place of spiritual intimacy with Jesus. We must learn to walk purely by “faith,” not by our feelings, our sight or our understanding. This journey is accomplished only by learning how to totally abandon ourselves to God by faith.
Those of us who want this deeper relationship with God will find the inward journey towards intimacy much different than any other spiritual path we have ever been on. Many of us will struggle against it because we don’t realize what God is doing. And, because of our ignorance, our journey inward can often turn out to be a night of confusion and darkness.
Listen to how Madame Guyon describes it in her book Final Steps in Christian Maturity:
There comes a time in the believer’s life when the Lord withdraws the joy. He will seemingly withdraw the graces. At the same time, the Christian may also find himself in a period of persecution—persecution, no less, than that coming from Christians in religious authority. Further, he may find much difficulty in his home or private life. He may also be experiencing great difficulties with his health. Somewhere there will be a great deal of pain or other losses too numerous to mention. The believer may also be undergoing experiences which he feels are totally unique to himself. Other Christians, in whom he has put his trust, may forsake him and mistreat him. He may feel that he has been very unjustly treated. He will feel this toward men and he will feel it toward his God, for—in the midst of all this other pain and confusion—it will seem that God, too, has left him!
Even more believers give up the journey when the Lord seems to have forsaken them in the spirit and left their spirit dead—while the world and all else is crashing in on them, friends forsaking them, and great suffering and pain abounding everywhere in their lives. But, the true land of promise always lies beyond a vast wasteland. Promise is found only on the far side of a desert. When you can go beyond that place and not seeing your Lord, believe He is there by the eyes of faith alone; when you can walk further and further into Christ when there are no senses, no feelings, not even the slightest registration of the presence of God; when you can sit before Him when everything around you and within you seems to be either falling apart or dead; and when you can come before your Lord without question and without demand, serene in faith alone, and there, before Him, worship Him without distraction, without a great deal of consciousness of self and with no spiritual sense of Him, then will the test of commitment begin to be established. Then will begin the true journey of the Christian life.
Remember Isaiah 50:10, “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of His servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light?” (emphasis added) Notice something important here: this person not only fears the Lord, but he also obeys His voice. In other words, there is no disobedience or sin involved, and yet, this person still walks in darkness.
Although it’s hard for us to imagine that God, who is light  could ever dwell in darkness, the Bible tells us that at times God does dwell in the dark. This is His “secret place.” (Psalm 18:11) In 1 Kings 8:12, it says, “The Lord said that He would dwell in the thick darkness.” And in Exodus 20:21, Moses approached “the thick darkness where God was.” The Bible tells us that God not only “forms the light,” but He also “creates the darkness.” (Isaiah 45:7) Darkness and light are the same to Him.
This is simply saying that the “things of God” are far beyond the human eye and the human ear. They are “dark” to us, because they are beyond our human understanding. Thus, if we are to continue our inward journey towards intimacy with God and experience His fulness, we must choose to walk purely by faith in the darkness, clinging to the assurance that God has allowed this for a purpose and that His will is being accomplished. Being able to unconditionally trust God in the darkness is essential, because if we give in to doubting His Love and care at this time, we can easily lose our way.
Many of us will struggle in this new realm of faith, just as a swimmer fights the powerful current that draws him into deeper water. The swimmer will drown unless he quiets his fear and calmly rests in the water. The believer, likewise, will drown in this dark time unless he learns to be still and to quiet his soul. God is simply using the darkness to accomplish His will: to form Christ in us so that we might enjoy His fulness and His Life.
Yet, many of us completely misunderstand this aspect of discipleship. And because we cannot grasp God’s mysterious ways, we often distrust His motives. When God allows painful circumstances into our lives, we hastily assume that He is punishing us or that He has forsaken us, yet nothing could be further from the truth. He is simply attempting to “free us” from our soulish limitations and lead us into the wider realm of His Spirit.
But, because so many of us lack understanding of this spiritual discipline, we naturally assume the darkness has come forth from the enemy, and that it is intended for our destruction. Nevertheless, Alan Redpath, the notable English writer, assures us that, “The devil has nothing to do with (these dark times). God has brought us to this experience. He wants [simply] to replace us with Himself. I love that! God uses these dark times to simply “replace us with Himself.” This is the whole Christian life in a nutshell! This is God’s will: to empty us of ourselves so He can fill us with Himself.
However, because this “replacement process” is so painful, God knows that many will walk away from Him bitter and confused. He also knows that others will reject Him for a season, and still others, forever. But, for the joy that He has set before those who are willing to go “all the way” with Him, God risks being misunderstood.
- John 3:3 says that only believers will be able to “see” the Kingdom of God. Other Scriptures are Matthew 3:2 and 1 Corinthians 4:20.
- Romans 14:17
- Psalms 32:7; 91:1-10; John 14:23; Romans 8:9; Deuteronomy 33:27
- Psalm 140:13; Colossians 3:3
- Acts 14:22
- From Final Steps in Christian Maturity, by Madame Jeanne Guyon, found in the book, Burnout by R. Loren Sandford, page 115-117.
- 1 John 1:5
- Exodus 24:16; Job 38:1; Psalm 18:11; 97:2; 2 Chronicles 6:1
- There are three kinds of “darkness:” unbelievers (John 3:19); demonic powers (Luke 22:53; Acts 26:18; Ephesians 6:12; Colossians 1:13); and the “darkness” allowed by God that we are talking about in this book.
- Psalm 139:12
- Psalm 131:2
- John 8:36
- Victorious Christian Living, Alan Redpath, page 15