The Dark Night of the Soul

God has promised, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). If you get up from your knees and don’t feel any different, and you don’t feel forgiven, does that mean He has not forgiven you?

So you again tell Jesus you trust in Him as your Savior—because He promised that all those who received Him are children of God (John 1:12). And again you don’t feel any different. Does that mean you don’t really belong to Him?

He promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” And, “I am with you always even unto the end of the world.” If you do not “feel” his presence with you, does that mean he has abandoned you?

Actually this is not uncommon with Christians who want a close fellowship with God. The mystics through the ages called it “The dark night of the soul.” At times this “dark night” continued for years. It is not an unusual experience.

This “darkness” may be because we confuse “feeling” for “faith” — we depend on how we feel.  …how we feel about God’s presence …or how we feel about being forgiven.

I have appreciated a couple paragraphs from a small book called “The Sanctified Life” by Ellen G. White:

            Many who are sincerely seeking for holiness of heart and purity of life seem perplexed and discouraged. They are constantly looking to themselves, and lamenting their lack of faith; and because they have no faith, they feel that they cannot claim the blessing of God. These persons mistake feeling for faith. They look above the simplicity of true faith, and thus bring great darkness upon their souls. They should turn the mind from self, to dwell upon the mercy and goodness of God and to recount His promises, and then simply believe that He will fulfill His word. We are not to trust in our faith, but in the promises of God. When we repent of our past transgressions of His law, and resolve to render obedience in the future, we should believe that God for Christ’s sake accepts us, and forgives our sins.

Darkness and discouragement will sometimes come upon the soul and threaten to overwhelm us, but we should not cast away our confidence. We must keep the eye fixed on Jesus, feeling or no feeling. We should seek to faithfully perform every known duty, and then calmly rest in the promises of God.

At times a deep sense of our unworthiness will send a thrill of terror through the soul, but this is no evidence that God has changed toward us, or we toward God. No effort should be made to rein the mind up to a certain intensity of emotion. We may not feel today the peace and joy which we felt yesterday; but we should by faith grasp the hand of Christ, and trust Him as fully in the darkness as in the light.

Ellen White, The Sanctified Life, p. 89 – 90

God understands the weakness of human nature — that men get tired, fatigued, and discouraged. Scripture says, “He knows that we are dust.” and “He is touched with the feelings, infirmities”

So never trust how you feel. But rather trust in what God, who does not lie, has promised.

The Apostle John said if we do not believe His promises, we are calling God a liar! (1 John 5:10-11) —that’s strong language! Rom 5:8

Faith is Trusting a Person

All relationships are based on trust. If there is no trust then there is no healthy relationship.

Back in the Garden, God’s motives were attacked:  Satan said God could not be trusted. He is not looking out for your best interests. He is not really telling you the truth. (Genesis 3).

If I have reservations about whether God really cares about me, whether He has a hidden agenda, then there is a flaw in our relationship. If I suspect that God is arbitrary, vengeful, stern, or severe, then I will not really trust Him.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17 (ESV)

Faith (or believe – the English verb for faith) is basically faith in a person. It is not just believing a fact or something I was told. It is a relational word. Faith is essentially “trust”.

“Faith, as I understand it, is a word we use to describe a relationship with God as with a person well known. The better we know him, the better this relationship may be.” – Graham Maxwell, Can God be Trusted? p. 43.

The phrase “from faith to faith” in most of our translations is accurate. But in Greek idiom the repetition is for emphasis. The NIV says it is “a righteousness that is by faith from first to last.” or the New Living Translation says, “This is accomplished from start to finish by faith.” In other words, this new relationship with God is totally based on faith – nothing else.

The ticket to heaven is faith or trust. If we truly trust God, He can trust us in His kingdom forever. That’s all that’s required. All else follows automatically.

What do I rely on for my relationship with God? Do I rely on my being “good enough?” Do I trust that my “faith” is great enough – or fear it is not? Or do I simply rely on God’s kindness – characteristics revealed in the life of Jesus?

Isn’t this trust just my response to who God is and what He has done for me?

“I am proud of the Good News about Jesus because it contains God’s power to save everyone who will trust Him. That’s “everyone” whether Jew or not. The Good News is that God puts people in a proper relationship with Himself when they trust Him and there is no other way. As Scripture says, “The person who is in a right relationship with Him by faith will really live.” (paraphrased)