Introduction—Walking in Darkness
|By: Nancy Missler; ©1999|
|Nancy Missler begins to explain how the verse “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye sees Thee,” (Job 42:5) came alive to her. How can her story be an encouragement to others who, like Job, are suffering for reasons they don’t understand?|
There once lived a man who feared God and continually turned away from evil. God Himself said, “there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man.” (Job 1:8). He was blessed with many children and much wealth, and the favor of the Lord rested on him like a fine cloak. As he himself so beautifully describes: “…I was in the prime of my days…the friendship of God was over my tent…my steps were bathed in butter, and the rock poured out for me streams of oil!” (Job 29:4,6 NAS)
Could it be that this man, so loved and favored by God, was the same man who later cried out, “…nights of trouble are appointed to me. When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ But the night continues…” (Job 7:3,4 NAS) How could a man so blameless and so upright ever experience such a night of darkness? Job never strayed from God in unbelief, yet God allowed this precious man to endure a season of sorrow. Why?
That is the question which saints, mystics and theologians have been asking throughout the ages. Why does God allow nights of sorrow to come to men and women of faith? It seems to contradict everything we know and believe about a loving and protecting Father.
But look further into the story of Job. He himself shines a powerful light upon this mystery when he speaks of God at the very end of his affliction, “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye sees Thee….” (Job 42:5 NAS)
Something incredible happened to Job during that very darkness. The word “see” is the word ra’ah in Hebrew, which also can mean to “experience.” Ironically, it was the darkness that ultimately caused Job to spiritually “see” (or experience) his Creator as he never had before. During that long night of loss, God’s faithful servant was transformed into God’s intimate friend. And the Bible ends his story with these remarkable words,“…the Lord blessed the latter end [days] of Job more than his beginning.” (Job 42:12 NAS)
As we consider the book on the life of Job, most of us would probably say, “That’s an amazing story of redemption and resurrection, but I sure hope it never happens to me.” Yet today, as I travel around the country speaking and sharing with other believers, I meet so many who are enduring a similar season of sorrow or hardship.
These are not disobedient people who have spurned the counsel of the Lord, but rather these are faithful men and women who have continually sought Him for direction, loved Him and even taught others about Him, as Job had. When God allows crushing circumstances to enter our lives, if we are not prepared and do not understand what is happening, we can often find our faith shipwrecked and our trust shattered.
“Now, I See”
How well I understand this pain, because after 35 years of walking closely with the Lord, I, too, experienced a “night season” in my soul that almost devastated me. Strangely enough, this unexpected darkness did not descend upon me as punishment for sin or chastisement for disobedience. I had feared, honored and obeyed the Lord for many years, so I identified completely with the words of 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)
Since I had no understanding concerning this night season, I desperately sought guidance as to what was happening to me. How could I get through this? How long would it last? Had others gone through this before me? Was this normal for all Christians? What was God doing? What was His will in all of this?
While holding fast to the Book of Job and the hundreds of other Scriptures on “night seasons” that I had found, I scoured the bookshelves for virtually anything that would shine a light on my situation. Most contemporary Christian writings, however, offered little or nothing on the subject, and I began to feel that I was lost and alone.
I yearned for comfort and understanding, but strangely enough, the only references to the dark night that I could find (apart from the Bible) were in the works of two Catholic mystics, St. John of the Cross and Jeanne Guyon. Although I’m neither a Catholic nor a mystic, I searched their books for glimmers of understanding, and ultimately gained something far more important. God used these dear saints to let me know that I was not alone. No matter how much these people differed from me theologically and culturally, God used their words to let me know that many, many others before me had experienced this very same thing. Through these writings, God encouraged me to keep on trusting, keep on obeying and keep on enduring.
These precious saints had not only survived their own dark nights, but had gleaned amazing treasures from that very darkness. Rather than being destroyed by their suffering, these saints had been enriched by it, and their testimonies gave me insight and courage.
As I continued to read and seek understanding concerning this dark night, I discovered a peculiar dark thread woven into the tapestry of many Christian lives. Little by little, God began to show me a recurrent theme in the lives of Jesus, Joseph, Moses, David, Paul, Martin Luther, Oswald Chambers, John Wesley, Hudson Taylor and countless others.
They, too, had been discipled by a season of emptiness and sorrow. And for them, as well as for me, the darkest hour came just before dawn. It’s true. Our weeping does last for a night, but oh what strength of faith and joy awaits us in the morning!
“Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: Thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; to the end that my glory may sing praise to Thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto Thee for ever.” (Psalm 30:11-12)
For me, the dark night was simply the forerunner of greater Light. My night season came forth from a Creator who yearned for me to “see” Him and to experience Him as Job finally saw and experienced Him. “I had heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye sees Thee.” It came forth from a Father who wanted me to know His presence, His friendship and His Love in a way I never had before truly, being filled with “the fulness of Christ” and living the abundant Life.
The Purpose of This Book
The purpose of this book, then, is to encourage those of you going through your own night seasons and those of you yet to experience a time like this not to be frightened or scared, but to persevere through to the incredible riches God has planned for you as you begin to know Him in an even more intimate union and experience His abundant Life. In the end, you will see like Ezekiel did, that God has not done “without cause” all that He has done. And, you will also come to see the depth and the width of God’s unconditional Love for you.
“Yea, I have loved [you] with an everlasting Love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn [you].” (Jeremiah 31:3)
This does not mean to say that everyone will come to an experiential union with God in the same precise way or that everyone in their journey will pass through a dark night, but for those of you who do, I pray this book will help to clarify exactly what God is doing and why. I pray that the words on these pages will help you to understand what God requires of you, and, most importantly, how you can get through your “night” as quickly as possible.
In Chapter Two we will see that almost every major man and woman of God in the Bible have gone through similar night seasons. Some say that these dark nights are God’s way of preparing us for a special ministry and for a life totally centered on God.
My heart’s cry, then, through these pages, is to assure you that God has neither abandoned you nor slated you for destruction. Jeremiah tells us, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” (29:11, emphasis added) God is the One who will see you through, because He is the One who promises never to leave you or forsake you.
- For the most part I will be using my own King James Reference Bible (see Bibliography for particulars). However, in a few places, I will use the New American Standard version because it expresses more clearly the meaning I am trying to convey.
- 5. Gene Edwards says in his epilogue to Madame Guyon’s book, Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ, “…most of the truly helpful Christian literature penned on the deeper Christian experience, was written after 1500 and before 1800. Virtually nothing of lasting worth has been written in either this century or the last.” (Page 147) He continues, “…this age has simply recorded no such people….Historically, this century must be categorized as the most universally shallow age ever to parade across the pages of church history.” (Page 151)
- Psalm 30:5.
- Ephesians 3:19.
- John 10:10.
- Ezekiel 14:23
- 2 Corinthians 1:4; 2 Corinthians 4:17.
- Hebrews 13:5.