Tuesday, October 19, 2010

In the Darkness of Your Soul... Be Still and Know...

  How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever?
         How long will You hide Your face from me?
  How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
         Having sorrow in my heart daily?
         How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
  Consider and hear me, O LORD my God;
         Enlighten my eyes,
         Lest I sleep the sleep of death;
  Lest my enemy say,
         “I have prevailed against him”;
         Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.
  But I have trusted in Your mercy;
         My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
  I will sing to the LORD,
         Because He has dealt bountifully with me. (Psalm 13, New King James Version)

We live in a performanced based society. Even in the Church there seems to be a mindset that if we are not seen by others to be actively working for God and if we are not visibly seen to be pious, then we must be backsliding. The problem with this mindset is that God is not as concerned with the outward manifestation of our zeal for him as he is with the intimacy of the relationship we have with Him in the depths of our souls, it is out of our relationship with him that he works in other lives. In the beginning of our walk with the Lord we may climb the spiritual mountain tops to the heights of ecstasy in worship. However in the lives of many a believer, there comes a time when we are plunged into a dark valley, plunged into a darkness that evades our very soul. This darkness can be brought about by many different circumstances, but the dark valley we are led into is a crucible that will purify our relationship with God in a way no other experience can accomplish. It is in the "Dark Night of the Soul" (from the title of a poem by St John of the Cross) that we find ourselves at the end of what we believe we are and find God.

The year of two thousand and four is a year that I will long remember. To quote Charles Dickens "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ..." I started out that year full of zeal for the Lord.  I felt the Lord tell me that I was to prepare myself, so I began actively seeking his face.  I was reading, writing about and teaching his word. I was fasting and praying that HE would show me himself. I was seeking to receive from God his Wisdom and discernment and seeking Him. I was praying to HIM, asking for HIM to give me what I desired most, that he would give me a godly husband (a preacher or other minister) and give me a ministry to other people.

I remember that I had a great hunger for the word of God and I was spiritually gorging myself on reading and studying his word, reading books by godly teachers and listening to preaching all about how to become a godly woman. I felt this was what the Lord wanted to teach me, and in a way it was, I learned a lot about what it looked like to live for the Lord. In the midst of that time, I was listening to Chuck Swindoll on the radio and he was doing a study on the book of Job. I remember saying to the Lord one day, "Father, every other preacher and teacher I am listening to is talking about how to be a godly woman, but Chuck Swindoll is preaching on the book of Job, and I am not sure if I want to know why." I did not know then what the Lord had in store for me, however,  in the course of  that year, he laid a foundation for me. A foundation built through circumstances that I would not have chosen if I had known what was coming, but it has made all the difference in my life with HIM.

On October 25, 2004 at 6:00 in the morning, I entered a hospital room in the ICU of Kennestone Hospital, where my fifty five year young mother lay, hooked up to machines that were trying to keep her alive. I had been called to the hospital by my dad, who had taken her to the doctor the day before. I looked at my mom, touched her hand and told her I was here and that I loved her. I stood there for a few minutes, speechless at what was happening. I turned to the nurse and asked her what their diagnosis was for my mom and when I heard it, I knew deep in my spirit that she was not going to live much longer. My world as I knew it, was profoundly changed forever. I sat down next to my dad in the waiting room, placed my head on his shoulder and very silently cried for my mother. I did not have the heart to tell my dad what I knew was coming next, so I gathered myself up and began to call in the family.

I had a mountain top spiritual experience of praising God in a moment of grief following my mother's passing into eternity. I felt the Lord surround me with his arms as we went through that season of grief. I continued for a while doing all the things that I had been doing, I was teaching and going through the motions of ministry. However, in the months and years after her my mom's home going, I entered into a dark valley of desolation and despair. I found that the word of God that I loved, became like gravel in my mouth. I could not pray and I could not study his word. I spiritually was wounded and I had no energy to do the things I used to do. Heaven was silent to me. All I could do was pray "Lord, I am broken, I cannot do this. If you don't hold me together, I am not going to make it." For someone who is strong in the Lord, this is a humiliating place to find yourself. I was at the end of myself and I could do nothing to raise myself from the floor spiritually. 

It was in this time of my greatest despair and discouragement, that the Lord showed himself to me as a intimate friend that sticks closer than a brother. He did not speak to me, but through the course of the next few years when I was angry at him for disappointing me and for taking my mother from me instead of giving me the husband I thought I wanted and when I wrongly accused the Lord for preparing me all that year only for my mother's death, he never left me.  It was during this time that I learned what it meant to truly know the Lord. That he keeps his promises, even when the circumstances we are in appear to contradict his goodness.

It was not until Febuary of two thousand and nine, that I was able to begin actively seeking the Lord again. I had people pray over me and God and I had a long serious talk about many things that year. He picked up where he left off in my studies from 2004 and in the course of about five weeks dealt with me in several areas of my life. He delivered me from a spirit of fear that had taken hold of me and released me from a spirit of jealousy that I had struggled with for all my life. Then he said to me again "prepare yourself". I sullenly said to him, "who are you going to take from me now." He said to me "your mother's death had nothing to do with you, it was merely an interlude. I do not prepare you for death, I prepare you for life." Later on in that year I would find that he allowed me to begin to write again, and even in the midst of me losing my job due to a lay off, he showed himself faithful. He has given me back the thing that I thought lost forever; the joy of my salvation and in addition he gave me a writing ministry to others that I would not have been able to do before I had entered the valley of darkness.

The relationship I have with the Lord now is much different than my relationship with him prior to my mother's passing.  The showy things that I used to do to be pious, the harshness of my judgment of other people's walk with the Lord or lack there of, has dissipated. My relationship with the Lord is much more basic than it was in the earlier days of my walk with him. It is much more intimate and enduring than it was in the beginning. The way I outwardly showed my devotion to the Lord is not so important to me as it was when I was younger. It is much more real now that I am on the other side of this valley. The Lord and I walked through some difficult and dark valleys during the past few years and I am better because of it. He used the darkness to strip me of some presumptions. He taught me that who I am in him, is much more important to him, than what I do for him. That merely being busy with the work of the kingdom, is not the same as doing what he has called me to do and that working for him in the vineyard does not take the place of worshiping at his feet.  I learned that the darkness I went through made me be still and know GOD for who he is and that is what made all the difference.

So I ask you, are you experiencing a similar dark night of your soul? I admonish you to press into the Lord and stay at his feet. You may not have the ability to move, but he will stay by your side until you are healed enough to seek him again. Do not be discouraged, HE is faithful and will never leave or forsake you.

Let us pray:
Father, I thank you that you gave your son as a sacrifice on the cross, so that we may have the opportunity to come into your presence. Lord I love you and I long to love you more. Father thank you for the dark valley that you have allowed me to pass through, and thank you for staying and walking with me through that valley. Even though in the darkness I questioned that you were even there, I thank you for never leaving or forsaking me. Lord please help me to become the woman of God you desire for me to be, use me for the furtherance of your kingdom and help me to glorify you with my life. Lord I bless and praise you for all that you have done and all that you will do. In Jesus holy and precious name I pray, amen.

****** Copyright Brenda J Kent 2010. Unless otherwise cited, all items in this BLOG post are the intellectual property of the writer Brenda J Kent. All Copyright laws apply.