The Goal and Purposes of the Dark Night of the Soul
By: The John Ankerberg Show
|By: Nancy Missler; ©2002|
|Among the goals Nancy Missler gives are: freedom from self-ownership; developing unshakable trust and faith; and abandoning ourselves to God’s will.|
God allows the dark night of the spirit in our lives because He wants us to experience the fulness of His Life and enjoy His presence through the complete union of our spirits. Thus, God will allow us to remain in this dark night until His will is accomplished—until our spirit is purified and able to communicate freely and directly with Him. He wants our spirit freed from any soulish entanglements so that it can rightfully rule over our soul. Once this occurs, then He can begin to lead and guide us and teach us “the deep things of God.” A purified and strengthened spirit will constantly be sensitive to God’s voice, whereas a polluted, tainted or weakened spirit will miss His leading and His guiding altogether.
We have already mentioned several of the purposes of the dark night of the spirit: to expose (our often hidden) self-centered ways, beliefs, habits and value systems; to separate the soulish things in our lives from the spiritual; to purify our spirit; and to accomplish a deeper death to self. A few more goals of this night might be:
Freedom from Self-ownership
Not only does this dark night free our spirit from our soul’s domination, it also frees us from self-ownership. God delights to hear us say, “Do whatever You like with me, Lord, I belong to You. I abandon myself into Your hands. May all that You want and all that pleases You happen.”
The dark night of the spirit is to rid us of our own self-will, self-love, self-interest and self-energy. All our own plans and purposes, our own intellectual and emotional ways, our own egotism and possessiveness and our own inner talking, delusions and fantasies must go, so that we can rest and rely only upon Him. “Any high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God” must go. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
The goal and purpose of this night is that we might look only to Christ for our fulfillment, our satisfaction, our security, our strength, our meaning and purpose, etc., and not to anything else. God wants us to rest in Him, not only in our enjoyments but also in our adversities. He wants us to be able to say, may “none of these things (people, events, feelings) move me.” (Acts 20:24)
God desires that this dark night free us from all emotional entanglements, so that we can love others unconditionally without the shackles of “self.” Once we are freed from self, we no longer will have the need to judge others, be over-sensitive to them or over-react to them. Since “self has been blotted out, God will give us the ability to love, without fear of rejection or any longing for approval in return.
Instill An Unshakable Trust and Faith
The whole exercise of the dark night of the spirit is to instill in us a real spirit of faith. The goal of this night is for us to be able to walk “trusting in God,” without seeing or feeling Him, but nevertheless, knowing that He is there. When all around us is falling apart, if we can sit before Him without any questions and without any doubts, then the test of our commitment will be established.
Only after every support is taken away (house, job, friends, family, husband, ministry, pastor, church, reputation, etc.,) does our journey to real faith begin. “[He] made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:7-8)
[Now, again don’t let this make you afraid. This does not mean that God will take away all these things. It simply means that He wants nothing before Him in our lives. If we willingly release these things to Him, He will have no need to take them. Right? However, if we remain afraid to release them to Him, it shows Him that we don’t have that unshakable trust in Him and that we do have other “gods” before Him.]
In this dark night of the spirit, God is testing our faithfulness. Will we believe and trust in Him when everything around us is in disarray? Or will we collapse in utter agony and disbelief and turn the other direction? God wants to get us to a place where we will never challenge His character or His nature again. He wants to build in us an unshakable trust and resolve so that no matter what happens in our soul, we know that He will never leave us or forsake us in our spirit. God wants us to no longer put any trust in ourselves, in others or in our circumstances, but only in Him. The further removed we can get from sight (and from our faith relying on our sight), the more deeply we will enter into real faith and intimacy with God.
God wants us to cut off any reliance we have on “other things” besides Himself and He wants us to get to the point where we can truly say, and mean, “none of these things move me.” (Acts 20:24) In other words, we won’t allow any of the hard things in our life “move us” from the intimacy that we are experiencing with Christ. This attitude will begin to occur when we come to realize how much God loves us and that everything He allows in our lives is “Father-filtered.” The ultimate place He wants us to be, is where we can experience an unconditional trust and faith in Him in “all” things. This is where we will be able to say, no matter what is occurring in our lives, “Though [You] slay me, yet will I trust [You]…” (Job 13:15) “…because [You are always] at my right hand.” (Psalm 16:8)
The bottom line is, the further removed our faith is from resting on our feelings and our sight, the closer we are to true faith in God.
Abandon Ourselves to God’s Will
One of God’s most important goals during the night of the spirit, I believe, is to show us the difference between relying upon our own human expectations and presumptions and being completely abandoned to God’s will.
The turning point in my own life came when I finally realized that abandonment to God’s will and “human expectations” could not co-exist in my soul. In other words, if I put my eyes upon any other thing (any promises, any circumstances, any visions, any people) other than God and His Word, that human expectation would end up becoming, once again, disappointed hope.
Our expectation can only be in God and His faithfulness, not in some promise or vision or prophecy. When we receive God’s promises through various means, we often make the mistake of putting our hope in those things, rather than in the Creator who gave them. Our eyes, our hope and our expectation should only be in the Person of Jesus, His character and His Word.