Resuming the stages of faith and leadership.
The “Dark night of the soul” provokes The Inward Journey. The questions of the dark night lead us to wonder about our purpose in life, about our identity. These questions are about our inmost selves.
I have seen several ministers who came up to the dark night and simply shied away. It’s too frightening. In phase II, Discipleship, we learned a the rules, al the disciplines, all the right things to do. In phase III, Success, everything worked. Now, in phase IV, we discover that the disciplines and rules don’t actually work. They seemed to in level III, but that was a shallow III. Now we must look beneath the rules, beneath the disciplines, beneath the doctrines and proof texts. This is a crisis of existence, an existential crisis. And that’s what makes it so frightening.
There is no way out except through. It feels like a long, winding tunnel. And long before we find the light at the far end of this existential tunnel, we have to leave the light of certainty and proof behind. Thus, this is also a journey of faith, not sight. For we lose sight of the light behind, and must feel our way forward. Only then does the light ahead become visible.
And this new light is a light from within. Not that we become our own light, but that the light God has put within us becomes visible to us. And the reward for letting go of the light behind, of the certainty and proof of the early stages, is that we gradually are able to reclaim them, and make them our own.
If we are willing, we can emerge from the dark night of the soul and the resultant inward journey with a new confidence, a new and deeper sense of identity. We hear all the same texts, the same explanations, but now we see new and deeper meaning in them. That’s because we have more meaning in ourselves.
Accept, even embrace the dark night, and we emerge with a depth of understanding, a new sense of identity, a greater confidence in God’s design and purpose. Reject the dark night, out of fear or discomfort, and we reject the opportunity for growth.
The psalmist says that God “gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.” I have seen such people. Stunted in their Christian growth, with a broad but shallow ministry. And the tragedy is . . . they almost never realize their loss. They literally don’t know what they’re missing. And they often look on those who are going or have gone through the dark night as either foolish or lacking in faith.
If you are facing a dark night of the soul, be of good courage. Like Elijah in the cave, running for his life, you will discover that after the whirlwind, after the firestorm, after the earthquake– God is there, in the silence. And you will hear His voice.