Where to Go When You Are Facing a Dark Night of the Soul
In the Bible we are told of a man who needed food in the middle of the night to feed an unexpected guest. He went to a neighbor and persistently banged on the door and asked for food. Finally the neighbor realized he would not get any sleep until he got up and gave the man some food for his guests.
When thinking about this story I notice that there are at least two very rude people. First, the unexpected guest who arrived in the middle of the night and demands to be fed! Second the homeowner who goes to a neighbor and demands that he get up to give him some food for his rude guest. If that happened often the neighbor probably listed his home for sale the next morning.
This is sort of a complex story when applied to the lives of everyday Christians.
First, the man had an unexpected ‘guest’. In our lives we often have unexpected ‘visitors’. These visitors could include financial difficulty, illness, family strife, job loss, accidents, and many other unwanted things.
Second, the man dealt with the unexpected guests by looking outside his own abilities and resources for help. He went to his neighbor. For Christians, when these unexpected circumstances and events come upon us, we also need to go outside our own abilities and resources. We need to run to the Lord for help. It is time to beat on His door until He gives us help.
That does sound simple doesn’t it? Feed the unexpected – and probably uninvited - guest – and then get on with your life. Unfortunately, that dreadful ‘guest’ will usually overstay his welcome. That is especially true when you are unhappy about the visit in the first place.
So, what do you do when the problem visitor moves in? You keep knocking on the neighbor’s door. However, Christians are not really ‘neighbors’ when it comes to God Almighty. They are family. I mean they are actual legally adopted family members. When you pray to God through Jesus Christ the Son you are not banging on the door of a neighbor. You are directly asking your adopted Father for help.
Read Matthew Chapter 7:7-11. The entire chapter is good, but these verses are especially helpful in this.7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
And there you have it. God is going to answer your prayers. What often happens is we have a specific answer and a specific order in which we want things to happen. Instead, God answers our prayers in a manner and order that is most beneficial. It is like sewing a garment, or repairing an automobile. For everything to work properly everything must be done in order. For instance you can’t pour the oil into a new engine before all the gaskets and hoses are put in. Sometimes, when we are pouring our heart out to God for help in one area He has to get things in order in another area before our particular prayer can be answered in a way that will actually work.
Remember the man who went to his neighbor kept beating on the door until the neighbor got up and gave him what he needed. However, when going to God Almighty with a request remember that you do not have to wake God up. He doesn’t sleep or slumber.
Remember Psalm 121 which says:
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
2 My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
3 He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
4 Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
6 The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
8 The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.
Verses 2 & 3 both tell you that God does not sleep. You don’t have to wake him up.
It has been said, and I believe correctly, that prayers are not answered because people give up and stop praying. Don’t let that be your story. Keep praying. Remember Luke 18:1-7 which says;
And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
2 Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:
3 And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.
4 And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;
5 Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
6 And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.
7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?
Keep praying. Don’t give up on God. He IS working on your behalf. No matter how dark the night; no matter how deep the sorrow; or even no matter how trivial your request may be, God is with you and He will help you.
We have the tragic story in the Bible of Abraham and Sarah who had a direct promise from God regarding the birth of a son. They grew impatient and took matters into their own hands. Abraham had a son with his wife’s maid. The entire world is currently reeling with the sorrow of that lapse of faith! Of course we are to do what we can do, but we are not to manipulate a situation to make things come out in a manner that seems good to us. God does not need us to manipulate a situation, or to take matters into our own hands on a large scale like Abraham or a small personal scale. Also, none of us actually know what a small scale happens to be. I am positive Abraham had no idea of what was going to happen to all the earth because of his impatience in waiting for the promised son. God wants us to be obedient and patient in everything whether the matter is great or small. He wants us to believe Him. He wants us to trust Him that His blessings and His time table is the best for everyone concerned.
Keep on praying. Pray without ceasing. Keep on knocking on God’s door. As you pray do not forget to give thanks. The Bible says in everything we are to give thanks. He doesn’t say to give thanks for terminal illness, heartbreaks, deaths of loved ones, financial disasters, or any other dreadful situation. He says to give thanks during these times as well as during good times. When my sister died unexpectedly at age 33 one of the first things I remember doing is to thank God that she was in heaven. Giving thanks to God for His daily benefits is obedience to God, but it is also to our benefit as well. Thankfulness gives order to things when the entire world may seem to be spinning out of control. Do not discount the benefit to you personally of giving thanks and praising God during difficult situations.
Do your best to listen to God as you pray. You don’t want to miss your answer, or you don’t want to miss the first step in getting your prayer answered. God is not going to speak to you from a burning bush. He speaks through His word. Read your Bible. Bible reading does two things. First, and possible most important during a difficult situation, reading the Bible provides a distraction from your problems! Yes, that is right. You can get so caught up in the story that you forget for even a few minutes that you have a problem or sorrow at all. I definitely know what I am talking about. Second, sometimes when you are prayerfully reading the Bible something will almost seem to speak to you personally. It is usually a word of comfort or a word of hope that was written by God thousands of years ago, but the message is absolutely timeless. It is inerrant, relevant, and it is enough! You don’t need a sign or wonder outside God’s word and the comfort that it can give you if you are willing to look for it and accept it.
You can also find help and comfort in the written word of sound preachers and Bible commentaries. These do not supersede the Bible in authority, but they are helpful.
Solid Christian friends are also helpful. You do have God with you all the time, but a human shoulder to cry on can also be very comforting.
In all this, pray without ceasing. Don’t stop. Don’t doubt. Don’t despair. Unfortunately, we are all prone to stop praying, to doubt, and to despair. Fortunately, the Bible tells us that ‘if our hearts condemn us God is greater than our hearts’. How wonderful is that? If you fall into despair like Elijah did when he ran to the cave God will seek you out and speak to you again in that still small voice. Read the Bible. Don’t give up.
Another thing to do when in the sucking blackness of despair is to pray for your friends. I know, that really sounds impossible. After all, isn’t that when your friends are supposed to be praying for you? Well, yes it is; but that is their job. If they fail you that is on their record. The Bible tells us that when Job was in the middle of sorrow, loss, and a discussion with God regarding exactly why everything had happened to him, Job’s so-called friends asked Job to pray for them. Job did what a true friend would do. He prayed for them. THEN, the Bible tells us that God turned the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends’. So, from a selfish point of view, pray for others. It will help them, but it could help you more. Once again, pray without ceasing.
God bless you.