Archive for September, 2015

Why Dark Nights of the Soul?

You may have heard of the expression, “The Dark Night of the Soul.” It sounds scary. But what does it mean?

The Dark Night is basically a withdrawal of some of God’s blessings so that we will cling to him more. It is painful to let go of good things so that we will depend on something better.

Let me explain by giving you an example from my life. To some extent, much of the last three years have been a Dark Night experience for me. In that time, I lost my church family of 31 years where I was loved and respected, I lost my health for over a year in recovering from major heart surgery, and I lost having positions of leadership.

God had used this loving community, leadership positions, and good health to help me realize that he loved me, I was important to him, and that I was secure. Now, he wanted me to believe these things were true without the props.

But in the short run, my soul went through a Dark Night. In that time, I grew stronger in relying on who I was to God, and not so much on what other people and things told me.

A silhouette of man free climbing on rock, mountain at sunset. Adrenaline, bravery, leader.

What It Is

One of the key things God does in bringing us to maturity is to remove the idols from our heart. Idols are anything we depend on other than God to meet our needs. For some of us, it’s food instead of God’s comfort. For others, it’s power instead of the worth that comes from being God’s precious child. And for others, it’s pleasing people instead of pleasing God. You name it and someone has probably made it an idol.

We will tend to tenaciously cling to food, power, and pleasing people at all cost, until God pries them from our clutching fingers through Dark Nights. It’s then that our hurting soul discovers that even though we don’t have these things anymore, we still have God and his better ways to meet those needs.

Why God Allows Them

Most of us want this Christian life to be comfortable. There are often a lot of benefits in following God, such as improved marriages, better health and some of the nicest people on the planet to be with. But God wants us to grow up. He wants us to love him for himself, and not just for his benefits.

In the Dark Night, we lose many of the idols that keep us from relying on him. We realize that all our efforts at earning praise, being liked, and being comfortable don’t work well enough. We are learning to “cease striving and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). And that is enough to satisfy us.

In the Dark Night, we are being disciplined (trained) by God to find our needs for love, power, and purpose met in a more intimate love relationship with him. We realize that “no discipline is enjoyable while it is happening–it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way” (Hebrews 12:11, NLT).



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Wrong Ideas

I have always wanted to be happily married. But as I searched for the “perfect” wife, I had many wrong ideas about what a happy marriage was and how to have one. Two of the biggest wrong ideas were:

  • My wife would solve all my big problems and make me happy
  • Marriage was a getting thing, not a giving thing

Fortunately, I got these wrong ideas corrected before I got married at age 32. This has helped us enjoy a happy marriage for the past 38 years.


The Secret of a Happy Marriage

Probably the most important secret is that the deepest, most satisfying marriages stem from God empowering the relationship. Marriage is God’s idea and he has purposes for it that go beyond our enjoyment. He also is giving a picture to the world of the intimate love relationship that he yearns to have with each of us. He gives us our marriages not just for our pleasure, but also for his ministry to others.

Another secret of a happy marriage is for us husbands to love our wives as God loves us. “What? I can’t do that,” you may say. “That means I need to put her needs ahead of my own and nurture and cherish her” (Ephesians 5:29, paraphrased). But no one said that being happily married was going to be easy- even with God’s help.

Another secret of a happy marriage is that wives need to submit to their husbands in everything (Ephesians 5:24). “Are you crazy? He will walk all over me if I do that,” you may say. But God says, “You wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words” (1 Peter 3:1, NLT).

This doesn’t mean that you wives are to be squashed or dishonored, for God commands that husbands honor their wives and to seek what is best for them.

“But what happens if my husband doesn’t love me as he is supposed to?” you may ask. “Aren’t I free to rebel against him?” No, you aren’t, unless your safety or obedience to God is threatened.

Instead, God wants us to overcome evil with good and to “suffer according to the will of God and entrust ourselves to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (1 Peter 4:19).

This also applies to us husbands when our wives are rebellious. We are still to love them and to treat them with dignity and respect.

Final Thoughts

Satan hates godly marriages. This is probably why marriages are in such bad shape these days. We can’t have a godly and happy marriage without God’s protection from the One who comes to steal, kill and destroy. May we learn to rely on God to help us fulfill our responsibilities so that we can have a deep, satisfying, and happy marriage that God can use to bring much praise to himself.

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Equipped for War

Last week we talked about the vicious war that we are in. It was not with ISIS. It was not a racial war. It was a spiritual war for where people live after they die.

We are all soldiers and fight for one of two sides. Many of us unknowingly fight for Satan. We conform to the ways of the world. A few of us have the privilege of fighting with God in a giant rescue operation to save people from their appointed destiny (Hebrews 9:27).

This time we will discuss what weapons we need to fight with and win this spiritual war – that people may “come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:26).

team of soldiers are reconnaissance

Being Equipped to Win

Our most important weapon is prayer. Prayer connects us to God. Only his power can defeat our enemy. “The effective prayer of a righteous [person] can accomplish much” (James 5:16).

Another important weapon is to be filled with the Spirit. “How do you do that?” you may ask. Ask confidently to be filled, for God commands us to be filled with the Spirit and obey him as he leads. If he convicts you of sin, ask forgiveness and keep on obeying (1 John 1:9).

Another important weapon is our new identity in Christ. “The old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). We don’t need to be led astray by trying to please the wrong people, earn worth by not doing what God wants us to do, and trying to meet standards that waste our energy. Living in our new identity means resting in God’s great love, acceptance and worth he has for us. This frees us to avoid the traps that Satan lays for us.

A final weapon that we need to use to be victorious is the Bible. The truth of the Bible frees us from the lies that can dominate our lives – lies like “I am what other people think I am,” and “I will be more important if I get promoted.” These are lies and are exposed to us as we learn to live in the truth of the Bible.

The Bible is also an offensive weapon. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword… and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). As the Spirit leads, he often takes the Word that we share and supernaturally uses it to convince people that they need God.

Closing Thought

Jesus’ final command to his disciples was to equip others to be good soldiers (Matthew 28:18-20). May we not only use the weapons of war for ourselves, but also to teach others how to use them.

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