Monday, July 04, 2005

The Dark Night of the Soul

In the 16th century, St. John of the Cross wrote this incredible book. I was captivated by the concepts that he wrote about as I read some of it. I need to write out some of the things I’ve learned. Get them out of my head.

The dark night is a place that every mature follower of Christ can tell you about. It is a place of great darkness and the absence of anything. An empty void that you walk into. Everyone’s journey leads them to this place in every life at some point. Those who have travelled this road never forget it. Those who are yet to, well, I wouldn’t tell them much about it beforehand.

Before I can live my life for God completely, there must be a death to myself. Dwayne must die. The old Dwayne. The one who lived for himself and thought about himself and was consumed by his own desires. My ego. My “old me”. He had to go. Baptism was my symbol for this. When I was baptised, my old Dwayne died. A new Dwayne began. But I was young when I was baptised and I only understood this so much. I had to relearn that lesson several times since then. The dark night.

I asked God to make me more prayerful. To make me more humble. To make me more mature in my walk with Him. Never did I dream the process He would need to use to answer those prayers in my life! Had I understood them, would I have prayed them? Probably not.

John 12:24-25
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

God brings us to places in our lives where He “deserts” us. A place of suffering and pain. A place of humiliation and shame. A place of sorrow and sadness. There we are alone. And what do I do? I call out. I pray like I’ve never prayed before. I cry out! “God, where are you?” Exactly like the psalmist.

Psalm 102:1-2
Hear my prayer, O LORD;
let my cry for help come to you.
Do not hide your face from me
when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me;
when I call, answer me quickly.

But God doesn’t. He doesn’t answer at all. He watches. He yearns for us. But I feel absolutely nothing of His presence or His watchfulness. I feel completely abandoned. Why would God do that? Why would He abandon me in such a state? Why would I be left feeling absolutely alone?

“Sometimes I get this feeling
My prayers bounce back off the ceiling
And they spin around the room with me
And they never get to You....
My one wish is to break through,
When I try to get to You
My one fear is a deaf ear,
Please tell me it ain’t true”
(“Bouncing off the Ceiling” by A Ragamuffin Band in Prayers of a Ragamuffin)

Well, nothing inspires prayer like adversity, sorrow, and humiliation. In broken times we pray at our best. Humility is learned not from books and theology, but from humiliations. When I’m stripped away of my self-sufficiency. I don’t learn trust in God without God stripping away all my supports. So that I’m totally dependent on Him. That’s trust. You can’t learn it any other way.

Do I worship God, or do I worship my experience of God? Have I come to rely on His comforts or His character? I must move past a worshipping of His comforts to a faith in His promises. Mature faith can’t grow when surrounded by the comforts of God.

The experience of the dark night of the soul is a painful one. God seems absent. Words spoken to Him ring hollow. Oppressive feelings of guilt sharpen the pain of loss. “I have failed.” The worst fears surround me and they attack me. Jesus experienced this. In the garden of Gethsemane. For hours he called out to God. Begged his disciples to pray for him. “If it’s possible, take this cup from me.” Then on the cross. Crying out to God. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

And does my faith grow through this painful experience? Not necessarily. In fact, I think it can have a terrible effect. I could grow cynical and hardened by the absence of God’s presence and comforts. I could allow bitterness to nestle in and turn away from Him. Rebellion. Pride. Apathy.
Or I could turn to distractions. Back to myself and my needs. Seek to meet them or find them met somewhere else. Self-indulgence. Self-centeredness. Selfishness. Eating humble pie till the bakery is bare doesn’t guarantee humility. Ego-slaying remains. Old Dwayne must die. Faith must be refined.

What I needed is to press in further. Pray in a deeper way. Allow the hindrances of false humility to be stripped away. Allow brokenness to happen. And it does. Out the other side of the dark night is a newfound much deeper faith. A worship experience not grounded on the comforts but the character of God to sustain me. A hunger not just for the gifts of the Giver, but the Giver of gifts. A peace in knowing the face of God, not just His hand of blessings. I have walked through the desert and I’m ready for the Promised Land. I have prepared myself for revival. I have matured in my faith. I have deepened my prayer life. I have learned a lesson in trust. Real trust.

I’m waiting for the biopsy results to tell me what kind of renal cancer I have been diagnosed with. Are there treatment options? Waiting is the hardest part. I want to do something. But there’s nothing to do. I’m trusting. I’m believing that God has something for me in this. What is His purpose? Why won’t He tell me? I’m calling out to Him. Crying out. Silence. Stillness. Some mornings my prayers echo back to me.

“Yet will I trust Him.”

8 Comments:

At July 04, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are on holidays from our regular ministry and so worshipped at another church in Regina. Your family and needs were prayed for during the service specifically and we were so touched! Then the pastor proceeds to preach on Psalm 88 and his question was: is God deaf? He talked about your cancer and the darkness of "unanswered prayer"! We bawled through the whole thing! We thought we were on holidays but God knew our need to pray for you with others and to experience His grace as we process our emotions as your friends.
So be assured that God is doing sovereign things...
We send our love and prayers.
Cindy Selke, Regina, SK

 
At July 04, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dwayne,

When Randy Klassen announced to the Bethany Staff on June 22 about your situation, my mind went to John 12:24-25, the same passage that you posted today. I had thought of you then as a seed already giving up life to produce more life.

I read this today - Isaiah 50:4-5, and 7 New Living Translation (read the stuff around it too):
"The Sovereign LORD has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know what to say to all these weary ones. Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will. The Sovereign LORD has spoken to me and I have listened. I do not rebel or turn away....Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be dismayed...I have set my face like a stone determined to do his will. And I know that I will triumph."

And Psalms 25:14 - "The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them"

Thank you for your thoughts,
Lisa Braun

 
At July 04, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dwayne, you probably don’t remember, but during our pastoral search process when we were “searching’ for a pastor for the church plant, God gave me an incredible dream. It was around July 26, 1999. In the dream He showed me a man, a faceless man, sitting in a chair with an urgency in his heart and passion for God. His knuckles were white as he clutched the arms of the chair. In the dream, as he sat in the chair, God said, “ You have found the man I have chosen for you. His name is David.” It was followed by three great shouts of triumph. Wow. I expressed this dream to the search committee, a little timid to say the least. After all, who believes God really talks through dreams. Anyway I really felt you were the candidate God wanted for the position because you were the only faceless one of the applicants (no picture enclosed) and your application sounded like you had a heart for God and his people. The committee at that time was still considering offering the candidacy to you, even though most of us had not met you. You really were faceless.

Now my own heart races as I write this message. Today you are again faceless to all the hundreds of people reading your Blog every day. Many of them have not even met you. You are ministering from a chair with a passion for God. I always wondered why He called you David, but now I see you are ministering through a method that David used. Through written words. Expressing your cries and praises to God, just like the Psalms. I am humbled to have had God show me in a dream His plans to use you in this mighty way. Be encouraged that He is using you!
D. Kerney

 
At July 04, 2005, Blogger funkdubius said...

While at the "Lake" this weekend, my wife and I had "cabin church" and this was one of the verses we read. I think it ties in to what you wrote today.

I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. So I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20


Jason and Sandi Funk

 
At July 04, 2005, Anonymous Rick Guenther said...

Dwayne, Janet & family,
Our whole family has been saddened by the news of your cancer, hard to believe...hard to comprehend.
And yet as I read about your journey it is good to see how God is teaching, guiding and sustaining you. And still using you to encourage others.
I have so appreciated your friendship & encouragement to me and the ministry we are involved in.
May God continue to be your strength and shield - Psa. 28:7,8.
Your friend in Christ,
Rick Guenther

 
At July 07, 2005, Blogger Brad said...

Dwayne. It sounds like you are in a state where you could pray this prayer...

Psalm 27 vs4:

ONE THING have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple. 5 For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.

When we are happy with this ONE THING we truly begin to trust in his love. My prayers continue with you.

Brad

 
At February 16, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best regards from NY! » »

 
At February 21, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nice site! » » »

 

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