May 8, 2013

Why do we sometimes experience "dark nights of the soul?"

<p>What is the purpose of the dark nights in general?&nbsp;Two things. The first one is the development of a spiritual hunger and a purging of the heart. If you would&nbsp;look with me to Deuteronomy 8. In Deuteronomy 8:1-5, this is actually the text that Jesus quotes when He&rsquo;s being tempted. The first temptation by the devil. I&rsquo;ll start reading in verse 2: &ldquo;You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. [And notice verse 3 and] He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna [right, the people didn&rsquo;t like manna after awhile, right? What is this white stuff? This manna] which you did not know [meaning, you didn&rsquo;t make it], nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone [meaning, we do not live by what we make and do but we live by everything that proceeds from God]. [NASB]</p>

<p>What is the purpose of dark nights? Why does God send us to deserts? It says right here, &ldquo;God lets His people go hungry.&rdquo; He lets his people go hungry for the purpose of testing us, humbling us, these are times to show what is in your heart. Those of us who are in our 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s, what do you love? What do you really love? Don&rsquo;t you want to know what you love? Don&rsquo;t you want to be tested? Dark nights are times when we&rsquo;re going to be allowed to be hungry. In fact, dark nights are times where the self is hungry and it may not even know it until it opens up to that hunger and then we might find that we&rsquo;re starving. We&rsquo;re so hungry. These dark nights are the times when God wishes to purge away the vices. He wishes to show us what&rsquo;s going on in our heart. He wishes to get us used to seeing our self in truth and what is really going on in our life.</p>

<p>This is my experience now of evangelicals right now.&nbsp;I think that dark nights are so mysterious to us. When I have taught on dark nights, people often are, &ldquo;This is bizarre. I&rsquo;ve never heard of this.&nbsp;This way of thinking about my spiritual life&nbsp;is so unpopular. It&rsquo;s not part of my spirituality. It&rsquo;s not part of our congregational rhythms.&quot; It doesn&rsquo;t mean that every hymn that we think, every song that we sing, is a funeral dirge psychologically, but it means that it&rsquo;s part. It&rsquo;s part because it has something to teach me. And so, the purpose of these dark nights is to open the heart in truth and develop spiritual hunger.</p>

<p>And number two. It&rsquo;s not just that though. It&rsquo;s to lead me ultimately to union in God and love. That&rsquo;s where all this is going. And for a moment, just turn to Ephesians 3. The kingdom of God in its fullest will not be a dark night. Are you happy about that? Amen. The kingdom of God will be the fullness of love. So I read in Ephesians 3:17-19,&nbsp;Paul prays, &ldquo;So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,&nbsp;may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.&quot; [NASB] That&rsquo;s where all this is going. It&rsquo;s so that I would and you would come to know all the length and depth of the love of God. To be filled up to His fullness. In fact, that is what transformation is. That is what it is to be filled with the Spirit. That&rsquo;s what it is to be conformed to Christ is that His life would actually move through us. And so you know where dark nights fit here? They prepare your heart to be His home. They are places to purge your heart so that your heart can be His place where this can go on.</p>