“John of the Cross, a 16th century believer, coined this term to describe a unique kind of spiritual suffering. Distinct from the pain God’s children feel when their fellowship with Him is broken because of sin, this sense of darkness seems actually to be inflicted by God in order to do a deeper work in those who long for more of Him. By stripping us of things we’ve come to rely upon – even good things like answers to prayer, or feelings of joy, or experiences of His presence – God brings us to a new place where we know and love Him for who He is alone.”
The dark night of the soul is a common occurrence to all who are seeking hard after God. I wish I had understood it many years ago when my husband and I entered into a season of darkness that lasted a number of years. I didn’t understand at the time what was happening to us, but now in looking back, I see it as the most important time in our spiritual journey with God. It not only brought us personally into a depth with God that we had never known before, it has been the key and the stepping stone into the ministry we are now involved in called the Elijah Company, Inc. and Intercessors Arise.
“I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remain (just one grain; it never becomes more but lives) by itself alone. But if it dies, it produces many others, and yields a rich harvest” (John 12:24, Amplified).
In order to bring us deeper, God needs to strip us of ourselves. He needs to remove all the wisdom and ways of the world, all the sense of human accomplishment we may have in our ministry, and all of our nervous energy and soulish activity. He wants to draw us to Himself alone, and He even takes away the good things in order to give us the best. Although this time may seem bewildering, God has His perfect plan, and He knows every moment what He is doing. He lets us experience a dry and lonely desert experience where He, alone, sustains our spiritual life. He teaches us the ways of the Spirit.
Moses, Job, Joseph, Paul and a number of Biblical characters went through a dark night of the soul. This is where they learned valuable spiritual truths. This is a special class in the school of God’s Spirit from which we gain much spiritual strength for whatever we do for God in the future. It is personalized with our name on it, and it is designed to change us from the inside out.
It is a choice place to be. We can learn a lesson from the Jewish potters.
“When Jewish potters make new pots, they set aside the very best pots and pottery for special treatment. After they put their name on the underside of these extra good pieces, they put them away in a cold, damp room for storage, away from the public view. It is only when the more selective buyers ask for the ‘very best’ of the potter’s products that the craftsman will retrieve the chosen pots from their hidden storage place.” Lori Wilke
The dark night of the soul is the most difficult experience for each one of us. God doesn’t seem to tell us what we are going through. It would be easy if He would just say, “This is only a test.” It seems as if our life has reached a place where there is no way out except God. This is where He wants us, which is a place of absolutely dependent and at the very end of our human ability and resources.
I remember this dark night well. It has become a memorial in my everyday experience for I was marked for life by the lessons I learned during those days and years of loneliness and loss. It is the place where we find our deepest treasure and where we find true hope in God alone. It is the place where we are set free from ourselves in a deeper way. The dark night of the soul has been the place where our life ministry was truly birthed in all its fullness. But I must admit that it was extremely difficult each and every day, and it seemed as if that dark season would never end. But God always knows what He was doing. He is developing a hidden place where true faith and fruitfulness is birthed.
“The Master Potter may have placed you in a cold storage room for a season while you mature and grow strong in the silent darkness. You can only wait for the appointed time of the Lord when He, with pleasure, places you into His service. To believers, though, the life of faith doesn’t always make sense. You may feel lost in that dark night of the soul, seemingly gathering dust in the Lord’s storage room of the wilderness. Set your heart and desire on the Master Himself, not merely on the outward activities and blessings of his household.” Lori Wilke
How to Face the Dark Night of the Soul
“Yet how do you pray when the heavens are silent, when you go to the fountain only to find that it seems to have dried up? Prayer through the dark night is unlike any other kind; by necessity, it draws upon some untapped reservoir of raw faith.”
- Trust God and rely on Him – You may feel that you made some mistake during this dark time, but God is really maturing you for greatness.
- Study the Biblical characters – Realize that they spent time in the desert. Study the lives of Moses, Elijah, David, John the Baptist and Paul. All of them experienced the dark night of the soul.
- Obey God, and walk in repentance – Let God touch every area of your life with His refining fire. Repent as He lets the weaknesses and sin in your life come to the surface.
- Cling to God and His Word – He is the one who will carry you through this season of your life. Don’t hurry it along but learn to cling to God even when He seems far away. Hold onto Scriptural promises.
- Wait on God in persistent prayer – Keep on pursuing God, and cry out to Him in persistent prayer. Wait on God for He has an appointed time to release you.
- Love God for who He is – Learn to be a lover of God for Himself and not what He can give you. Worship and praise Him throughout the day.
- Thank God for this hidden place – Recognize that it is a necessary part of your growth. Character is not developed overnight. There will come a time where you are eternally grateful for this season in your life. Thank Him now.
- Recommit your soul to God afresh – Don’t give up or complain. It will only lengthen this time. Commit your life afresh to God’s purposes and plans. Allow Him to re-fashion your life according to His design.
“Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God” (Isaiah 50:10).
“Proven vessels have been oven-baked and refired again and again in the kiln of commitment until they’ve proven their ability to withstand the pressures and temperature of the fire. Once you cry out, ‘God, I want to be like you,’ then you will probably be broken up, made over into a brand-new vessel, and whisked out of the bright light into a deserted and dark back storage room until the appointed time. Remember, diamonds were just pieces of coal formed in a dark, pressurized environment.” Lori Wilke
I thank God for every day I spent in the dark night of the soul. Without it, I could never do what I am doing today. It was the hardest time in my life, but it changed me forever. Now I treasure the seclusion I learned during that season of my life. I can now look forward in a new way to desert moments when God brings me alone to Himself because I know how He is deepening the quality of my life.
I do not know how any of us as intercessors can do without this dark night of the soul, because through the dark night God brings forth the brightest faith, the greatest freedom, and a diamond that could be formed in no other way, not just for ourselves alone but for the world. For those of you who are facing a dark night, I encourage you to embrace this season for you will truly receive memorial stones that will change you forever for God’s glory and for your greatest good.
A glorious dawn awaits you.
“I know now that for every dark night, a glorious dawn awaits. Wherever you may be in your spiritual journey, I pray that this truth will encourage you to reach for all God is, regardless of the cost. He will not hide Himself from you even one minute beyond His sovereign plan. He holds you, even when you feel completely deserted, and He’s shedding His love into your heart. Cling to Him through the darkness. The trials that overwhelm right now will one day appear as memorial stones – monuments that testify to His great love and power to redeem. This is the legacy of the soul’s dark night.” Unnamed quotes by Tracey McCary Rhodes
By Debbie Przybylski
Intercessors Arise International
For additional training, read Deeper Still: Secrets to a Deeper Prayer Life by Debbie Przybylski.