The devil is a liar and manipulator, the king of fear who makes you question the most important things you hear from God. This is not a new trick of his, clearly, he has been up to these shenanigans since we roamed the Garden with God. And here on earth, this is never clearer to us as people than when we go through “The Dark Night of the Soul”. There is no greater joy for a Christian than to feel close to God. The peace His presence brings is like the warm embrace of a loving mom and dad who give you a group hug, sings to you that everything is good, and tells you “we’re going to have some fun today”. The dark night of the soul is the opposite of that. It is when you feel far off from God and you’re not sure where He went. You feel like you’re a kid lost in a crowded place and at the same time isolated and alone in a remote part of the world where no one ever goes because there is no food or water to survive.
It seems impossible or at the very least illogical to feel both at the same time but that’s what It is like for me. My experience going through the dark night of the soul has very much been like being surrounded by the enemy completely cut off from God, but the reality is that I am more like a kid at the grocery store who turned down an aisle when my parents kept going straight. God is still very near, but you don’t know how to get back to the place by His side. For me, the normal prayer, worship, and scripture reading has not been doing it anymore. It no longer brings me back into the arms of the Father and the embrace of the Holy Spirit. It got so bad and so lonely that I needed to seek the help of medical professionals because I started to want it all to just end. I needed it to stop to the point where it was all I could think about.
I feel blessed that these suicidal thoughts have not won the day. I believe that they easily could and I have to fight to survive. God gave me the strength and the resolve to hand my guns over to family members and admit to everyone that I wanted the pain of this life to end. Asking for help was the hardest part I had to deal with and then God surrounded me with grace. Going to therapy and getting on medications was the right move for me and while I am hopeful to not have to take pills the rest of my life, I am also not willing to risk going back to that place, that state of mind. I am not yet out of this spiritual battle but the pain and suffering has been quieted enough for me to realize that part of my problem has been living an unsustainable rhythm of life. Not so much that I have been overdoing it, but I have been tremendously off balance. I have been going up to the proverbial mountain to meet with God but I have been failing to be in true community with others and I have failed to reach out to those who are still struggling to hear and understand the gospel.
I believe I know why I have failed to do this and I don’t want to admit it but I am going to share my theory. I have been afraid of opening up to a group of people who might not be there for me next year. After being a part of a church where I was finally able to experience life sharing discipleship that had to close, I have been hurt and I am afraid of getting hurt again. It didn’t feel good to watch those relationship go away and I tried to hold on to them as tight as I could. But, for me, I think the reality is that I needed to let them go so I could go somewhere as well, and start over. Because that’s what making disciples is all about. We are supposed to be fishers of men but we should be fishing, catch and release style, when it comes to discipleship. I should not have mourned the loss of what I had without celebrating what these other churches were going to get when they received my people. Not my people in the sense that they belonged to me but that I belonged to them. This is of course just one theory and not that of someone who is impartial.
Today I am hopeful with a side of pessimism. I have many reasons to stay secluded and could easily let my fear of losing relationships and grieving that loss keep me from engaging but I know this is not the will of the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit. The path that should be taken in times like these is one of vulnerable transparency. It is only when my hurts are exposed that I can draw people out of their protective walls and be able to get close enough to people that we can both be healed. Feeling withdrawn from community hurts and it makes you think pulling farther away from community is the only way to make it stop, but that’s a lie (that the king of lies is whispering in your ear). That when it’s time to be intentional and press into the relationships around you.
The dark night of the soul is more than just depression. Depression is a mental and emotional state of sadness, feeling isolated, hopeless, and with a pain that has no way of being bandaged. The dark night of the soul is that but also with a deep spiritual component that makes you feel separated from God when you once had closeness. It makes you question your calling, your purpose, your worth to the kingdom, and even your standing as an adopted child of God. I don’t know why God will let you go through it, but I do know that God is faithful while you do and is waiting for us on the other side. There is no quick fix to this, it is something that must be worked through. You must claw your way out with purposeful, intentional, faithful, and focused effort. You cannot defeat the valley of the shadow of death but if you look for it you will find the light that will lead you out and back to life.