Two Night Seasons

By: Nancy Missler; ©2001
In the next few articles we want to explore not only how we “feel” going through the dark night, but also what we are to “do” in the dark night. In addition, we want to highlight some of God’s goals, purposes, benefits and blessings. If we understand a little of what He is doing and why, we might be able to get through this time more easily.


In the next few articles we want to explore not only how we “feel” going through the dark night, but also what we are to “do” in the dark night. In addition, we want to highlight some of God’s goals, purposes, benefits and blessings. If we understand a little of what He is doing and why, we might be able to get through this time more easily.

The dark night is not just a dry time in our walk, a period where we are having a few problems, or simply a trial from the enemy, it’s a “season” sent from God to draw us closer to Him. As He says in 1 Kings 12:24, “This thing is [sent] from Me.”

In general, there seems to be two aspects to the dark night, two “winters” so to speak. The first winter (the dark night of the soul) is where God focuses on our “outward man” and our sinful acts. In other words, He concentrates on what we do. The second winter (the dark night of the spirit) is where He focuses on our “inward man” and our self-centered ways. This is where He highlights who we really are.

In the first dark night, God asks us to surrender or to sacrifice to Him everything in our lives that is unholy, unrighteous and “not of faith.” In this dark night, God seems to focus not only on our sin, but also on “outward” things. Anything that we put first in our lives or that we rely upon other than Himself (our own natural strengths, physical attributes, possessions, friendships, gifts from Him, power for service, etc.) would be things He would want re-prioritized. Whereas, in the second night, God asks us to sacrifice or to hand over to Him everything “inwardly” in our lives that is self-centered or self-oriented (all our natural ways—our own goals, our own expectations, our own aspirations, our dreams, our presumptions, our reputation, etc.).

As Oswald Chambers reminds us, “Deliverance from sin is not deliverance from [our] human nature.”

If you recall, Jesus also had two dark nights: His first “night” was in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He sweated great drops of blood and cried out, “my soul is exceedingly sorrowful unto death.” (Mark 14:34) And His second “night” was on the cross at Calvary where He cried out, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)

A perfect analogy that shows the difference between these two nights is in the pruning of a tree: the first night would be likened to a gardener pulling off the tree’s branches; whereas, the second night would be likened to the gardener pulling up the tree’s roots.

The answer to the first night season is, of course, confession and repentance. Through confession and repentance we can rid ourselves of any sinful acts. The answer to the second dark night, however, is crucifixion and death to self. Again, Oswald Chambers describes it perfectly, “Our natural life is not sinful, but there must be an attitude of [complete] surrender and of giving it up.” (Abandoned to God, p. 38) God delivers us from sin, but we must deliver ourselves from self-centeredness by surrendering it to God. Only one choice is required for us to conquer sin: we must simply choose to give it to Jesus, but the crucifying of our “self-centered ways” or our human nature requires a lifetime.

Even though we are “positionally” cleansed and sanctified by the blood of Jesus when we are born again, we will not experience this perfection, this completion, until not only the sin in our lives is removed, but also our self-centered ways are nailed to the cross.

Let’s explore these two “nights” in more detail, beginning with the dark night of the soul.

What Is Our Soul?

Our souls are made up of all our thoughts, emotions and desires. This is the “self-life” that we have so often referred to. The Greek word for our soul is psyche which has a very interesting twofold meaning. Psyche means it shall have life” or “it shall wax cold.” This is a perfect definition because our soul will either be Spirit-filled and “have life” because of the free-flow of God’s Life into our lives, or our soul will be empty and “waxing cold” because God’s Life has been quenched and blocked from flowing into our lives. Therefore, you could say our soul is like a “neutral area” that can either be filled with God’s Life if we have made faith choices to do His will, or filled with self-life if we have made emotional choices to follow our own desires.

When we are born again, our spirit becomes “new” when it is united with God’s Spirit. At this time, we also receive a new heart (filled with God’s supernatural Life), and a new will power. But our soul and body remain unchanged. They are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, but they are not changed, renewed or renovated. This is what the sanctification process (that we are all in now) is all about. This is where God is trying to teach us how to constantly surrender, relinquish and set aside our “self-life” so that His Life can come forth from our hearts.

Our soul and our body together make up what the Scripture calls the “flesh.” It’s important to understand that we can never be completely rid of our flesh; we can never eradicate it totally from our body. This is what makes us human. Romans 7:20-21 tells us that the power of sin dwells in our bodies and, thus, we never will be free of its influence until we receive our resurrection bodies. The only way we can be free from the influence of our “flesh,” is by recognizing it, crucifying it and then giving it over to God. It’s God’s will that our entire soul and body be sanctified, set apart and made holy, so that we can reflect Him in all we do.

What Is the Dark Night of the Soul?

In his book Abandoned to God, Oswald Chambers says,

“The mystics used to speak of ‘the dark night of the soul,’ as a time of spiritual darkness and dryness; not the direct result of sins committed, but rather a deep conviction of sin itself within the heart and mind. It’s a time the person ‘is being brought to an end of himself,’ and made aware of the utter worthlessness of his own nature when stripped of all religious pretensions. Moreover, there was the willingness to abandon all for Christ’s sake, to deny—not only his evil self but also his good self.” (pp. 37-38)

The dark night of the soul is the season where God initiates a purging, a cleansing and a purifying of our souls from everything that is “not of faith.” It’s the time where God crushes our self will, so that He can merge it with His own. In other words, it’s our own private Gethsemane. As Jesus said in the garden, “My soul is exceeding[ly] sorrowful unto death…Nevertheless, not what I will, but what Thou wilt.” (Mark 14:34-36) This is the time where God teaches us to say, as Jesus did, “Not my will, but Thine.”

By depriving our soul of spiritual blessings, God can begin to transform our reliance on soulish and sensual things to things of the spirit. He wants us to learn to walk by faith, not by our senses, our feelings or our understanding. God wants to teach us how to detach ourselves from all physical, emotional and spiritual supports, so that we will be able to say “Not my will, but Thine.”

Because this can often be a time of desolation, of dried bones and ruined hopes, many Christians—because they don’t understand what God’s will is or what He is doing—get so discouraged and defeated, that they give up and turn back. Many will feel like Job who “looked for good,” but only “evil came;” and for “light,” but only “darkness” was there. (Job 30:26) And like Isaiah, who said “We wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness. We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes; we stumble at noonday as in the night; we are in desolate places like dead men.” (Isaiah 59:9-10)

If we can only remember that the Holy Spirit has led us into this darkness on purpose. He desires not only to “replace us with Himself,” but also to make us holy so that we can fellowship and commune with Him. As Moses was led into the wilderness to experience God’s presence (Exodus 20:21), so this is the very path God has chosen to put us on. It’s a path that will lead us to greater light than anything we have ever known before. “Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness.” (Psalm 112:4)

The whole purpose of the sanctification process is not only to learn how to reflect Him, but also to learn how to have intimacy with Him (the fulness of Christ).

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