Who Experiences the Dark Night?

By: Nancy Missler; ©2001
Why does God send the “dark nights”? Nancy Missler explains how hard circumstances in our lives relate the our salvation, our conviction and our sanctification.


As we saw in a previous article, the Lord allows the dark night to happen to all of His beloved children, and especially those who are the most faithful, the most loving and who want all of Him. As Revelation 3:19 says, God chastens those He loves.

This night season happens to people walking with the Lord for a long time; people who love Him with all their heart, mind and soul; people who have surrendered their lives to Him; people who are obedient to Him; and, people who fear Him. Again, 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?”

Joy Dawson, a wonderful author and Bible teacher, says that if we live righteous lives, then there is an inevitability that all of us will, at one time or another, experience God’s fire (a night of faith). Therefore, the longer we walk with the Lord, the more we can anticipate this experience (if we don’t choose to surrender everything to Him).

Great Christians are made by great trials. Pain, sorrow and failure are what produce men of God. Men with great dreams are often the ones who receive the greatest trials. Eternal lessons seem to require hard places. As Scripture says, the way we are made “perfect” (or whole or complete) is by suffering or by barring ourselves from sin and self (Heb. 2:10; 2 Tim. 3:12). Only by uncovering and exposing our defects, can God really heal us. First, He must take away all our external and internal supports (other than Himself), then, He can then strengthen our inner man and enable us to experience His fulness.

The dark night of the soul happens to people who have already accepted the Lord; those who have already given their lives to Him; those already filled with the Spirit; those who have already dedicated their lives to Him; those who have already asked for intimacy; and those who have already been set aside for God’s purposes of ministry.

Why Does God Send the Dark Night?

There seems to be three things that God is looking for in each of our lives: our conversion (salvation), our conviction and our consecration (sanctification).

God wants to know the full proof of us. He wants to know our real heart. Will we be obedient in all things (2 Cor. 2:9)? Will we obey Him, even when we can’t see Him or feel Him? Will we hold on to His truths even though we don’t understand what He is doing?

The kind of Love that God wants from us is a love that reaches to the point of full and total surrender. Remember, to really love God means to totally give ourselves over to Him. If we are discontent with what God has allowed in our lives, it’s a sure indication that we have not completely surrendered and abandoned ourselves to Him. Just as God had to keep testing and proving Israel, so He must continue to humble, abase and weaken us. That way, He will see if we love Him, and we will see our total inability to live without Him.

The Lord wants believers who have faith like Job, and who can say like he did, “Though You slay me, yet will I trust You.” When Job sought the Lord to know why the bad things were happening to him, he never got an answer from God. And it’s often the same with us. God only tells us that He does have a plan for our lives and even though we don’t understand what that plan is or how it is going to work out, we must trust that He always has our best in view. We must learn to rely upon Him in spite of our circumstances, in spite of our logic and in spite of our human reason. These three things are not sources for spiritual guidance. We must trust that only God knows what is best for our lives and, therefore, whatever He allows into them He will use it for our good.

Lamentations 3:33 tells us that God does not afflict us to punish us or to be mean. He does so only to accomplish the sanctification that will ultimately bring us abundant Life.

Without such a night season, however, very few of us would ever consent to the refining process God must do in each of our lives. Nevertheless, because He loves us so much, He allows the “little foxes” to come so that we will come out of ourselves and into His loving arms. The bottom line is that we must lose possession of ourselves, in order that we might be fully possessed by God.

As John 12:25 says, “He that loveth [hangs on to] his life shall lose it; and he that hateth [is willing to surrender] his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.”

In the middle of our night season, it’s so important to remember who has sent this to us and who will get us out of it. God is the only One who knows how to “perfectly” annihilate us; He is the only One who can be our guide through this time; and He is the only One who can get us through. As Psalm 105:19-20 says, “The word of the Lord tried him” and “the King sent and loosed him.” In other words, if God sends it, then only God can get us out.

God is the One who has called us and, thus, He is the only One who can perfect us and bring us into the inner chamber where He dwells. The initiative is always in God’s hands. No self-effort on our own part will ever work. Our oneness with Him will never be experienced until our soul is freed of itself and enabled to flow into God.

Goal and Purpose of the Dark Night

God’s purpose for all of His actions towards us is that Christ might be formed in us and that we might experience intimacy and fellowship with Him.

God wants to purge our souls from sin and self, so that we will be open and willing to follow Him at any cost. As we explored earlier, our will is what controls everything in our lives. God wants us to have a will that is completely yielded and at one with His own. One of the major purposes, then, of the dark night of the soul is to formulate an unshakable resolve in us, so that even if everything goes wrong in our lives and even if we can’t see or understand a thing of what God is doing, we will still choose to cling unmoveably to God. He wants us to be governed only by our choice of faith—a faith that says whether I live or die, I choose to trust in You, not my own thoughts and emotions.

God wants to produce in us a trust that can never be shaken. He is drawing us away from a life of senses and feelings and forcing us to turn to Him in naked faith (faith without feelings). He wants us to be able to constantly say and mean, “Not my will, but Yours” and “Though You slay me, yet will I trust You.”

God is teaching us, by darkening us, that all that matters in this life is knowing and loving Him. He wants us to love Him and rely upon Him regardless of what we desire, regardless of what our intellect is saying and regardless of what we are feeling.

He wants us to be able to echo what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:8-11: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.”

By going through the dark night season and coming out even stronger in spirit, it shows God that He alone is important. It shows Him that we have left “all” (even ourselves) to follow Him.

Joy Dawson made an awesome audio tape entitled “In the Fire,” in which she describes God’s seven purposes for allowing the night seasons in our lives. These help us tremendously in understanding God’s goals and purposes. They are:

  1. To melt hard substances and produce brokenness.
  2. To destroy anything in our lives that is useless.
  3. To reshape us and make us pliable for more use.
  4. To make us more like Jesus, who is our example.
  5. To endow us with more power. “Fire, glory and power are always linked.”
  6. To experience for ourselves the “fellowship of His sufferings,” and
  7. To teach us how to mentor and help others, by learning more about ourselves and our own responses to the night seasons.

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