Aug 27, 2015

Dark Night of the Soul

I am an insomniac- I suffer from sleeplessness; meaning that I have an inability to obtain sufficient sleep, and have difficulty in falling or staying asleep. Many nights I wake up after being asleep for a short while and then I will stay up for hours.

No, I am not awake troubled or worried about anything; I’m just awake.  As far back as I can remember, I have always dealt with insomnia in some form or another. Even as a young child when my mom would have me take naps or go to bed early, I can still recall lying on my back counting the tiles or whatever was on the ceiling.

Quite often I will go to bed sleepily and when my head hits the pillow, my mind wakes up as though it was morning. I’ve tried natural sleeping aids such as valerian, melatonin, lavender, magnesium, calcium, exercising, drinking warm milk or chamomile all with the same results: I WAKE UP!

On one hand this has come in quite handy when someone calls me way past midnight because of an emergency or when someone needs me to drive them or pick them up at the airport at two o’clock in the morning!

And (fortunately) I am one of those rare people who can survive on very few hours of sleep night after night until, eventually when my body needs sleep, the eyelids succumb to gravity and I fall sleep. 

But there is a difference between a lack of sleep and a lack of rest or restlessness. As I said, I am not troubled or worried about anything; I’m just awake.

Restlessness refers more to those nights without rest or restful sleep; those nights of tossing and turning due to anxiety or nervousness or problem solving… 

It is those nights when counting sheep leads to counting the bills or other anxious thoughts on how you will pay for the monthly expenses or whether or not your children will be alright. 

Left unchecked, oftentimes these periods of restless nights can lead to what some theologians call a “dark night of the soul”; which can be filled with emotional or spiritual anguish as we look for answers.

“I found myself in trouble and went looking for my Lord;
My life was an open wound that wouldn’t heal.
When friends said, “Everything will turn out all right,”

I didn’t believe a word they said.
I remember God—and shake my head.

I bow my head—then wring my hands.
I’m awake all night—not a wink of sleep;

I can’t even say what’s bothering me.” (Psalm 77:2-3 MSG)

This is when nights of sleeplessness go from wondering how we will solve earthly problems to nights we are awake wondering where God is. It is a time where not only do we have problems, but we wonder whether or not there is a God to solve them.

“Will the Lord walk off and leave us for good?
Will He never smile again?
Is His love worn threadbare?

Has His salvation promise burned out?
Has God forgotten His manners?

Has He angrily stalked off and left us?” (Psalm 77:7-9 MSG)

This “dark night” lasts for days, weeks, and even months as all around us seems dark because we can’t seem to find the One who is supposed to be there for us.

“Just my luck,” I said. “The High God goes out of business
 Just the moment I need Him.” (Psalm 77:10 MSG)

 So we toss and turn and find no rest for our bodies or for our souls in this period. We question what is wrong with us and what we did wrong…even questioning our salvation.

But I would submit to you that these seasons of spiritual emptiness, or times when we feel abandoned by God, are actually quite normal and even natural in the process of growing closer to Christ. Because it is in these times where real faith is developed; real persistence is formed as we learn to press past the natural and take to spiritual truths.   

The results of this “tossing and turning”; this dark night of the soul is a more solid foundation upon which we build a faith that cannot be shaken; no matter how strong adversity blows against it.  

The “trick” is to allow the Spirit of God to open the Bible up for you; to speak to your situation. Allow Him to remind you how He has come through in the past. Allow Him to build faith in you.
“Once again I’ll go over what God has done,
Lay out on the table the ancient wonders;
I’ll ponder all the things You’ve accomplished,

And give a long, loving look at Your acts.” (Psalm 77:11-12 MSG)

“O God! Your way is holy!
No god is great like God!
You’re the God who makes things happen;
You showed everyone what you can do—
You pulled your people out of the worst kind of trouble,
 Rescued the children of Jacob and Joseph.” (Psalm 77:13-15 MSG)

The results, when we allow the Lord to walk us through this “valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4), are that we understand His care more intimately. 

If you’ve come here today looking for hope in a time of the dark night of the soul. I want to give you some hope. It doesn’t necessarily mean you did something wrong.

If you think that you did do something wrong; ASK Him to tell you what it is…He will tell you so that you can get things right!

You may actually be doing right and this is a normal part of your walk as a Christian (or one who is searching for Him).
         “If the struggle you’re facing is slowly replacing
          Your hope with despair.
Or the process is long and you’re losing your song in the night
You can be sure that the Lord has His hand on you
Safe and secure He will never abandon you
You are His treasure and He finds His pleasure in you.
He who began a good work in you      
He who began a good work in you
Will be faithful to complete it
He’ll be faithful to complete it
He who started the work will be faithful to complete it in you

c. 1987 Birdwing Music/Jonathan Mark Music/Adm. by Birdwing Music/ASCAP

The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson