Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Dark Night of the Soul

Below is an excerpt from a good article by R.C. Sproul on The Dark Night of the Soul:

"The dark night of the soul. This phenomenon describes a malady that the greatest of Christians have suffered from time to time. It was the malady that provoked David to soak his pillow with tears. It was the malady that earned for Jeremiah the sobriquet, "The Weeping Prophet." It was the malady that so afflicted Martin Luther that his melancholy threatened to destroy him. This is no ordinary fit of depression, but it is a depression that is linked to a crisis of faith, a crisis that comes when one senses the absence of God or gives rise to a feeling of abandonment by Him.

Spiritual depression is real and can be acute. We ask how a person of faith could experience such spiritual lows, but whatever provokes it does not take away from its reality. Our faith is not a constant action. It is mobile. It vacillates. We move from faith to faith, and in between we may have periods of doubt when we cry, "Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief."
After discussing several Scripture passges about discouragement and despair, Sproul concludes:

"This coexistence of faith and spiritual depression is paralleled in other biblical statements of emotive conditions. We are told that it is perfectly legitimate for believers to suffer grief. Our Lord Himself was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Though grief may reach to the roots of our souls, it must not result in bitterness. Grief is a legitimate emotion, at times even a virtue, but there must be no place in the soul for bitterness. In like manner, we see that it is a good thing to go to the house of mourning, but even in mourning, that low feeling must not give way to hatred. The presence of faith gives no guarantee of the absence of spiritual depression; however, the dark night of the soul always gives way to the brightness of the noonday light of the presence of God."
I've been through some times like this; I can remember exact dates when they began and ended. I've watched my wife go through it also and suffered with her. Christians in general, and Charismatic Christians in particular, don't seem to know how to handle these experiences or how to help and support those going through them. It does not always just go away with a quick prayer and an encouragement to "look on the bright side" or "rejoice in the Lord, Brother!" You can't always command it away. Sometimes we just suffer, sometimes for long periods of time. I do know this: the Lord Jesus suffers with us in these times.

May the Lord be with any of my readers who are going through one of these times right now. Weeping may endure for the night, but joy will come in the morning.