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Dark Night of the Soul

darkNightCroppedThe Dark Night of the Soul is an Essential Aspect of Healing Abuse/Trauma
by Bill Fuller

I wrote this paper for Denver Seminary. It will give you a proper perspective on the transformation of your heart, renewal of your mind, conforming of your will, and in general how God wants to move you through your “dark nights of the soul” to a place of restoration, healing and intimacy

 

How Long, O LORD, Will You Forget Me

O Lord, the God of my salvation, the redeemer of my soul,
You breathed life into my spirit when I was dead,
You softened and renewed my hardened heart, and
You gave hope to my weary body.

But why, O Lord, have You forgotten me,
for so long You have allowed me to suffer.
I cried out by day and in the night before You.
Where were You when my prayers were lifted up to You?
Why did You not incline Your ear and hear my cry?

How long, O Lord, will you ignore my pain?
My grandfather robbing me of my innocence and purity;
My mother stealing my sexual soul;
My father ignoring, abandoning, and neglecting my masculine heart, and
Even my culture giving in to greed, perversion, and unbelief.
Will You forget me forever?

From my childhood where were you, my God and Savior?
Did You not see the words caught in my throat?
Did You not care that I was lost inside myself?
Were You not powerful enough to guide me out of my lonely darkness?

This pit of despair engulfed me, wrapped around me like a cold fog.
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long will the enemy have ruin over me?

The enemy will say, “I have overcome him, defeated him, and deceived him.”
My adversaries rejoice when I am shaken, abused and tossed aside.
The demons have their way, tormenting my mind and soul, the lies never cease.
The presence of the enemy and the avenger has suffocated me.

Why have you rejected me and brought me to dishonor and shame?
Enlighten my eyes or death will overtake me.
Many times my life has drawn near to hell.
In the lowest pit I live, a man without strength or purpose,
In the dark places forsaken among the dead,
Slain in the grave of disillusion and cut off from Your hand of love.

I am one whom You remember no more.
My body has wasted away because of my affliction.
The lingering anguish of past abuse feels like hell.

When in hell do as the enemy influences,
I accuse, yell, curse, defend, blame, and sin against others.
Pain turns to fear, fear turns to anxiety, and anxiety turns to anger.
Anger turns to unspeakable ugliness, deep and severe agony and mental torment.

O Lord, is this why you created me, is this why I was born?
Why has Your wrath rested upon me from the day of my birth?
I have been used and rejected every day,
Isolation, depression, anger and self-loathing have been its fruit.

You have afflicted me with Your absence
And my humiliation has overwhelmed me.
Has not my soul had enough troubles and pain?

But I, O Lord, have cried out to You for help.
Deep hopelessness and despair has always covered and penetrated me.
All that I know, as a past, has been in darkness.
Redemption seems impossible.

How Long, O Lord, will you forget me?

My personal “Dark Night” adaptation of Psalm 88


Introduction—My “Dark Night of the Soul”

“We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

What wells up in your heart as a response to the above scripture? As a Christian you have experienced His love and forgiveness and the Lord asks you to respond to His love and mercy by loving and being merciful to other people. You are not only asked to believe that He loves you and is gracious towards you, but He asks you to live it. He desires to empower you to love others every moment you are alive. It means relating to others, living in a community, and putting others before yourself. Simply put, the grace He extravagantly pours out on you should naturally result in your showing grace and love to others.

But what if you can’t? What if the pain in your life: abuses (sexual, physical, emotional, spiritual, verbal, neglect, abandonment), traumas, failures, and weaknesses have damaged you to the point that you give up on love and relationships? Does the old man (your flesh reactions) seem to be too powerful where the new man (Spirit responses) seems to be just a fantasy or a dream to good to be true? Thus the myriad of best-selling Christian books with strategies and formulas to show you how to manage your sin and then manage your sanctification. I read them for thirteen years. In the dark times I still find it frustrating that I can’t seem to manage my sin—specifically my angry reaction to rejection that always slips into hopelessness and self-contempt.

Due to the abuse in my family of origin (sexual/verbal from mom and neglect/ abandonment from dad) I felt used and rejected everyday which turned into depression, anger and self-loathing. I thought it was good to be alone and isolated, because no one else could hurt or abuse me. However, loneliness takes its toll on a little boy’s and eventually a man’s heart, it becomes unbearable. The lingering anguish of past abuse feels like hell. When in hell do as Satan does; accuse, yell, curse, defend, blame, and sin against others; pain turns to fear, fear turns to anxiety, anxiety turns to anger, anger turns to rage; unspeakable ugliness, deep and severe agony and mental torment—the kind that causes deep hopelessness and despair, a truly “dark night of the soul”.

Redemption seems absolutely impossible. It seems that when I am in hell (feel the absence of God’s presence) the “dark night” I am capable of any form of sin and offense against myself and others! I am once again a slave to my flesh (carnal desires). I am once again walking as the “old sinner man.” It is as if Jesus never saved, redeemed or reconciled me to the Father. Where is God’s love and intervention now? Why doesn’t He pull me out of the miry clay, and this hopeless dungeon of gloom? Where is my God of Grace? Where is the power to change? Why, am I not the man God re-created me to be—a saint in Christ? Where is the hope and faith that once restored me? I seem to be always tormented by demons, as was Martin Luther, struggling to embrace the Father’s unconditional love, mercy and faithfulness. I cannot go back under the law with its bondage to works and performance. What is still in me that resist’s the flow of God’s love, the power of the Holy Spirit and the redemptive grace of Jesus?

Is the “Dark Night of the Soul” Biblical?

The book “A Grief Observed” by C.S. Lewis, one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably the most influential Christian writer of his day, was first published under the pseudonym of N.W. Clerk. In its stark honesty and unadorned simplicity, it has a power which is rare: it is the power of unabashed truth in the midst of a “dark night of the soul”. At the death of his wife he becomes a man emotionally naked in his own Gethsemane who questions where God is in the midst of his pain and grief. He recounts the agony and the emptiness of a grief such as few of us have to bear, for the greater the love the greater the grief, and the stronger the faith the more savagely will Satan storm its fortress.

Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms (of the dark night). When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be—or so it feels—welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble? Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s not God after all,’ but ‘So, this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.’” Is it any wonder that he didn’t put his own name behind these words of raw unfettered pain? [ii]

Sometimes I wonder if the church of the Western world can handle allowing the members of its congregation to actually experience the “dark night of the soul”. There is hope in the form of “spiritual reorientation” or healing! Look at the disciple Peter. He felt the “dark night of the soul” when he betrayed Jesus. In his hopelessness and despair he went back to his old life of fishing. He was sure that he could never be redeemed, forgiven and used by God. However, he did believe and respond to a resurrected Jesus and became a leader in the church.

“The risen Christ brought Simon Peter deep, inner healing and integration in his spiritual reorientation. Formerly strong-willed and opinionated, Peter developed integrity in his inward self. Formerly impulsive, he became self-controlled. Formerly unstable, Peter was made strong and steady. Formerly captivated by religious phenomena, Peter was grateful for, but not fixed on, powerful spiritual experiences. Formerly fearful of others’ power over him, Peter now had confident strength ruling his heart. No longer ashamed of Christ, reoriented Peter boldly and courageously testified to the Savior, confessing him Lord of all (1 Pet 3:15). . . Simon Peter, after his denial of Jesus and subsequent restoration, was redirected outward, assuming leadership in the early Jewish-Christian church.” [iii]

Unlike Judas whose “dark night of the soul” turned to selfish sorrow and death because he failed to believe in God’s sufficiency and sovereign will. As with Peter, my “dark nights” as a Christian have been redeemed by Christ. Jesus always shows up for me by redeeming my failures and brokenness. He has kept His promise to be faithful even when I am floundering in “darkness”. More examples of the “dark night of the soul” in Scripture:

“I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer . . . When I hoped for good, evil came: when I looked for light, then came darkness.” (Job 30:17, 20, 26)

“But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals; you covered us with deep darkness.” (Psalm 44:19)

“You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths . . . Why, Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me? . . . You have taken from me friend and neighbor—darkness is my closest friend.” (Ps 88:6, 14, 18)

“He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than lights; . . . He has made me dwell in darkness like those long dead.” (Lam. 3:2, 6)

Even Jesus experienced the dark night, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Matt. 27:46) [viii]

Abuse and Shame

When the abuse occurs there is a “dark night of the soul” and during the trauma it creates shame in the innocent victim. The enemy uses shame that comes from abuse to attack your identity in Christ and promotes the lie that says that you are bad without value and worth. He also attacks the character of God and abuse becomes a perversion of the Image of God. Steven R. Tracy, a Canadian Pastor, shows us in his book “Minding the Soul—understanding and healing abuse” how abuse perverts the image of God.

“Sexual Abuse – a perversion of “one flesh”

Sex is the most powerful bonding activity in which we can engage in. Sexual abuse can powerfully wound the victim and all “one flesh bonds”. All sexual abuse and prior sexual partners (sexual sin) need to be broken before a spouse can fully enter into their marriage bed with complete freedom. (Gen. 2:24)

Physical Abuse – a perversion of “let them rule”

Cultivating and exercising responsible dominion over our lives and God’s creation. It results in disrespectful inter-actions with people they care about and self contempt and shame of oneself. (Gen. 1:26)

Neglect or Abandonment Abuse – a perversion of “cultivate the ground”

A failure to act, passivity, and is very related to the outcomes above of physical abuse, and leads to not being able to control anger, emotions or have consistent, loving interactions with the people they care about. (Gen. 2:5)

Emotional or Verbal Abuse – a perversion of “be fruitful”

Unable to give life through their words, instead they may use verbal power, not to bless but to curse self, others and God. Also habitual lying, gossip, and strife may be used frequently. Can’t trust their feelings or they feel they deserve to be abused. (Gen.1:28)

Spiritual Abuse – a perversion of “image”

Inappropriate use of spiritual authority in the child’s life, failure to protect the child from harm, an emphasis on external performance, rigid adherence to rules with shameful punishment, legalistic and lack of balance in leadership. This causes the child to have a distorted image of God, the people of God, the Word of God and who they are in Christ. They grow up distrusting their own emotions, needs, and convictions. (Gen. 126)” [ix]

So abuse becomes a physical, emotional and spiritual violation. During the healing process we must in our brokenness be willing to observe or deal with the “dark nights” and see them as a valuable resource that God uses in the healing process. It is the truth that sets us free no matter how painful it may be! (John 8:31, 32) [x] Every “dark night” is followed by “reorientation” or a new healing.

“Reorientation brings inner healing, that shatters our old patterns in favor of a new reality—restoration of the image of God in us. This healing facilitates the flowering of our true self as God intended it to be. Spiritual, emotional and physical healing enables us to live as dynamic disciples, empowered to serve God’s high kingdom purposes. The Hebrew prophet eagerly anticipated this holistic rejuvenation: ‘For you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays’ (Mal 4:2).”[xi]

So How Does God Use the “Dark Night” to Heal Abuse or Trauma Issues?

I found in my counseling practice that I had to make a decision on who would be the agent of change during the counseling session. Would I emphasize my abilities and training and help the client process and grow through self-awareness and protocols which promote cognitive behavioral therapies (about 95% of all counseling) in which the counselor is the agent of change. The alternative is to believe that all healing comes from God and ultimately He’s the only agent of change. I see that any form of counseling and spiritual formation revolves around God transforming the heart allowing true change and restoration to take place. In this counseling approach the “dark night of the soul” which leads to brokenness (a relinquishment of human effort) is an essential element of the healing process. Therefore, one of the core beliefs of my counseling practice is “God Heals and that He alone is the agent of change in transforming the heart into the image of Christ, renewing the mind into the mind of Christ and conforming the will into the will of God.” He heals us emotionally, spiritually and physically. The first proclamation of Jesus’ earthly ministry was,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor, He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives (KJV, heal the brokenhearted) and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18, 19).

A major assumption of mine is people are capable of being healed (by God) and living in freedom, strength, joy and intimacy with the Holy Trinity. I believe that God offers healing to those who have been abused (especially from emotional anguish and mental torment from the enemy) and are stuck in playing the “dark night” tapes in their heads repeatedly or have disassociated to take away the pain and shame. But what is my actual experience and what do I see happening in my counseling practice?  First of all, there are those who fall into a category who contact me and say they want to be healed (counseling), but never follow through because they feel the cost is too great for them to face whatever the enemy is harassing/tormenting them with. Or they begin counseling and stop in one or two sessions. They are not willing to face their “dark nights”.

When traumas and abuses occur in our lives, the enemy attempts to capitalize on our innocence and vulnerability by offering deals or bargains, similar to his style of tempting Jesus in the desert (Matt. 4:1-11).[xiii] In our moments of abuse that cause fear, pain or anger the enemy offers coping strategies and he makes false promises to us. Our hearts can be deceived and we believe lies and make vows or even formal agreements with him that end up supporting negative symptoms in our lives (strongholds or fortresses). Every human being is susceptible to being tempted, especially when faced with abusive traumatic events. So unfortunately these people never even begin counseling or run away when the Lord gets too close to the fire or reminds them of their “dark nights”. They continue to believe the lies of the enemy.

One thing that surprises me in scripture is Jesus asking people if they want to be healed. It’s an intriguing question for sure! Why would He ask that of a person who has been blind/crippled/suffering/abused who is obviously seeking to get well? Because there is a cost involved in getting well and something will be required for the person to walk in wholeness. The first thing is, are we willing to face the “dark nights of the soul” that have caused so much pain and fear in our lives? The beautiful thing about the Lord’s question is that the Lord never asks a person to implement changes without Him. He promises to walk right beside them in the darkness and He always offers a better way: Himself! Jesus is not a codependent in any way. He initiates the healing but He does require us to respond to what He is doing and say to Him, I trust You to heal me and walk with me in my darkest hours no matter how I feel.

Another interesting point in scripture is after the “Fall” in the Garden of Eden Adam covered his masculinity/genitals with fig leaves and ran and hid. When the Lord found him he asked him why he was hiding. Adam answered, “I was afraid, because I was naked (vulnerable and exposed) and so I hid!” (Gen. 3:10)[xiv] We all have this nature that wants to run and hide to cope with our shame and pain, because we are afraid of being exposed and we don’t trust the Lord to heal us.

“For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, The fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13).

We either run toward the “Fountain of Living Waters” or we can run to the broken cisterns of depending on ourselves – trying to figure out a new way to handle it and implementing our own strategies to solve our problems. Peter ran to the living waters (life in Christ) where Judas ran to his broken cisterns (death). We allow fear to take over our darkest time, but wait: isn’t it His perfect love that casts out all fear? We were never meant to carry this alone, we need Jesus and He offers more than we can imagine.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls (heart, mind, will). For My yolk is easy, and My load is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).

Jesus offers rest in Himself.

For the clients who have been abused who actually come to see me and participate in Christian healing (transformation) I see three categories they fall into: 1) most receive complete healing along with the freedom and restoration of the heart; 2) some obtain tolerable recovery; and sadly 3) a few clients have very little change or spiritual growth at all. Since I know that God does not change and it is His character to heal, restore, redeem and comfort I must examine the difference between the attitudes and beliefs of my clients in regards to healing. I have come to the conclusion that God heals victims of abuse in the same way that He saves them. The cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ was sufficient to save the entire human race. Is everyone saved? No! Why? Because God requires everyone to appropriate this salvation by responding to what God has done, in this case believing by faith in Jesus Christ. The Theological foundation for this is called “the Prevenience of God” or God before us (Eph. 1:3-14; John 6:44; Rev. 3:20).[xvii]

A.W. Tozer in his book The Pursuit of God states, “We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit . . . and it is by this prevenient drawing that God takes from us every vestige of credit for the act of coming (in our context healing).”[xviii]

The key Biblical truth here is, “God initiates and His children respond.” There are three more Scriptures that clearly demonstrate this:

“For God so loved the world (He initiates by loving), that He gave His only begotten Son (He initiates by giving), that whomever believes in Him (we respond by believing) should not perish, but have eternal life (God fulfills His promise)” (John 3:16, NASB).[xix]

“For by grace (God initiates grace) you have been saved through faith (we respond by faith); and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God (He initiates the gift of salvation); not as a result of works, that no one should boast (works and boasting is apparently an inappropriate response)” (Ephesians 2:8, 9, NASB).

“We love Him (we respond by loving) because He first loved us (God initiated loving us first)” (1 John 4:19, KJV).

I see in the process of salvation God initiating by loving, giving His Son and grace and fulfilling His promise of salvation/eternal life. We see people responding or appropriating what God is doing in them by belief, faith and love. I believe this same concept of God initiating and people responding applies to emotional healing caused by abuse. God initiates healing through His love, grace and Son—Jesus, therefore, we appropriate or receive His healing by responding to Him by believing with faith in love. He allows the “dark night of the soul” to provide the crisis or disruption that demands movement (a response) towards God or away from Him. What are the reactions to God’s initiation that do not bear fruit or the appearance of healing? According to the preceding Scriptures inappropriate reactions to God are: works or self-effort, unbelief, doubt, and boasting or pride.

 

Case Study

 In the past four plus years I have had at least three couples that fell into the category of very little change or spiritual formation at all. It is very puzzling to me because in every session God showed up and revealed Himself (His character, love and faithfulness) and healed emotions and strongholds for them just like He did for everyone else. One couple ended in divorce, another in the narcissistic endeavor of self-introspection and the third gave up and remain two bitter ships passing in the night, disconnected and full of shame.

The wives had the following in common: they came from a religious or legalistic mindset and were abused. The only reason they sought counseling was to be obedient to God. They believed that following the rules and being obedient made them good Christians. Their sense of value and worth came from what they did for God and that identified who they were. They all demonstrated the characteristics of works, self effort and trying harder but they avoided the “dark nights” of the past and present with a vengeance. What the men had in common were physical, emotional, and spiritual apathy and abuse which looked like being emotionally shut down or disconnected from their wives, family and God.  They had a hard time identifying how they felt and had very little remembrance of their childhood or their own personal story, especially their spiritual journey. They all demonstrated the characteristics of doubt, unbelief and pride. God was distant and not ever-present.

So what’s wrong with self-effort? Self-effort is what I refer to as works, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, broken cisterns or any coping mechanism that we use to deal with our pain, shame or guilt apart from God. A Scriptures that comes to mind is “instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us” (Romans 8:4, Message). It is hard to live in God’s healing when we are running away from Him, trusting our own self effort no matter how holy and religious those efforts may seem to be and not allow the “dark nights” to lead us to dependency on God and brokenness.

Let’s examine the difference between working for God and responding to what the Spirit of God is doing in and through you? The difference is who initiates! When we work for God we are trying to get God to do something on our behalf—answer our prayers, heal us, bless us—and it is dependent on what we do and God being obligated to respond to obedient behaviors and attitudes. Life is reduced to living out of the Old Covenant Law—rule following, rigid dogmas and formulas. We initiate by choosing to be obedient and we expect God to respond and bless/heal us. Responding to what the Spirit of God is doing in and through us is New Covenant grace. God initiates by saying I have already blessed you, and I will continue to heal, restore, and redeem you (sanctification). It’s as if God is saying I have already given you eternal life and forgiveness; respond to what I have already done, by the cross and My resurrection with belief, faith and love. We are not trying to get something, we are living and moving and having our being out of what we already have—“Christ in us, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27)[xxii]

The following Scriptures are a great example of the difference between works/pride and belief/faith.

“Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored. … So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance (salvation, healing)! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him (dark nights), then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!” (Romans 8: 5-8, 12-14, Message).

Therefore, I believe God heals those who are abused, how we respond to God’s gift of healing determines what it looks like and how it plays out in our personalities, behaviors, intimacy and relationships with God, spouse, family, body of Christ and the world. Allowing God to do His work through the “dark nights of the soul” is an essential response to God’s initiation.

So how does the “Dark Night of the Soul” lead those who are ABUSED to a new healing and restoration of the heart—“Reorientation”?

“Each experience of the dark night gives its gifts, leaving us freer than we were before, more available, more responsive, and more grateful. Like not knowing and lack of control, freedom and gratitude are abiding characteristics of the dark night. But they don’t arrive until the darkness passes. They come with the dawn. The dark night is a profoundly good thing. It is an ongoing spiritual process in which we are liberated from attachments and compulsions (even past abuse traumas) and empowered to live and love more freely. Sometimes this letting go of old ways is painful, occasionally even devastating. But this is not why the night is called “dark”. The darkness of the night implies nothing sinister or negative, only that the liberation takes place in hidden ways, beneath our knowledge and understanding. It happens mysteriously, in secret, and beyond our conscious control (or self-effort). For that reason it can be disturbing or even scary, but in the end it always works to our benefit. It is a deeply encouraging vision of the joys and pains we all experience in life. It inspires the desire to minimize suffering and injustice wherever possible, and at the same time it sheds a hope-filled light on the pains (abuses) that cannot be avoided. The divine presence doesn’t intend us to suffer, but is instead with us in all the experiences of life, in both suffering and joy. And that presence is always inviting us toward greater dependency, freedom and love. I am convinced that instead of being a once-and-for-all experience, the dark night of the soul appears in various ways throughout our lives, always mysterious and always hopeful.”[xxiv]

First, we begin to run to God (fountains of living waters) not away from Him (broken cisterns) (Jer. 2:13)[xxv]. Second, as God shows up to comfort and transform us He becomes more important than the actual healing or circumstances that we are trying to change (Heb.12:3)[xxvi]. Third, we begin to hear God’s voice of love and grace and responding to it becomes our hearts desire (John 10:14-18).[xxvii] Fourth, we begin looking for the movement of God’s Spirit and desire to become a part of what He is doing, we then tend to stop asking God to become a part of what we’re doing. “In Him (Jesus) we live and move and have our being (existence)” (Acts17:28)[xxviii]. Fifth, we begin to remember and rest in what God has already done with a thankful heart and stop trying to get Him to do more according to our needs, wants or desires (Psalms 13).[xxix] Sixth, we learn how to rejoice in the fact the He is faithful even when we are not (2 Tim. 2:13)[xxx] and that He has already given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:2-4)[xxxi]. Seventh, putting others first becomes more important than self, we become God centered and others centered – not self-centered (Phil. 2:3, 4)[xxxii]. According to Dr. Demarest,

“Spirit reorientation also heals emotional wounds and other issues that impede transformation in Christ. Because the human person is a unity of soul/spirit and body spiritual problems cannot be isolated from psychological problems. We humans suffer emotional and relational shortfalls that impede spiritual growth. But through the grace of reorientation the deep roots of bitterness, feelings of inferiority or superiority, areas of mistrust and painful memories are graced with new healing. Destructive works of the flesh yield to the life-giving fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:19-24). Moreover, we joyfully exchange pride for humility, anxiety for peace, fright for reverential fear, despair for hope and worthlessness for the assurance of being valued and loved. Men strengthen underdeveloped feminine qualities, particularly intuition, empathy, vulnerability and relationality. Women strengthen underdeveloped masculine qualities, such as strength, courage and assertiveness. . . We now live not in the head alone but out of the richness of the heart. The Spirit frees us from compulsive behavior patterns, enslaving addictions and vulnerability to satanic deception, and we are better able to obey and honor God under all circumstances.”[xxxiii]

Here are some questions that will help an abused Christian process when they’re in the midst of the “dark night of the soul” and will help them to transition from the “dark nights” to “spiritual reorientation” which leads to healing of all traumatic abuse and restores the true character of the Holy Trinity and the human created in His image (imago Dei).

  1. Am I more concerned with or excited about God’s healings and blessings than I am with His presence?
  1. Do I go to counseling to fix the problems and feel better or to learn how to embrace what the Spirit of God is doing in me?
  1. Am I committed to getting rid of discomfort and crisis (dark nights) or do I embrace it as the first step of knowing God intimately on my way to heart recovery, healing, reorientation and spiritual transformation?
  1. Is there anything else I can do to help myself (self-effort, broken cisterns) or am I completely at the end of my rope and broken before God (brokenness and dependency)?
  1. What is more important: obedience or faith, healing or intimacy, being right or being free?
  1. Do I believe that “nothing can separate me from the love of God” and that I am secure in my salvation, healing, restoration and redemption? (Rom. 8:26-37)[xxxiv]
  1. Do I embrace life “adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike, ‘What’s next, Papa?’” (Rom. 8:5-14)[xxxv]

 

Conclusion

 In conclusion God offers healing and comfort amidst our trials, sufferings and abuses. I love the way the book, “Seasons of the Soul”, puts it:

“Through a distressing event, God may be calling us to engage unfinished spiritual and emotional business from an earlier stage of our journey. . . Perplexity and distress, then, constitute tools by which God refines us.

Paul put it this way: ‘There’s far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting’” (Phil. 1:29, The Message).[xxxvi]

Therefore, I believe the “dark nights of the soul” are a valuable resource God uses in the healing process. In fact, it is essential that during the healing process we must — in our brokenness, pain and shame — be willing to observe or deal with the “dark nights” as a gift from God knowing that it will eventually bring about “reorientation” or a new healing. I have found this to be the case in my own personal journey from abuse to restoration to an intimate relational life in His presence.

The “40-day experiential Christian meditation” will be an exciting tool to catapult you into God’s divine presence where transformation of the heart, renewing of the mind and conforming of the will actually takes place. It is a way of experiencing first hand God’s amazing grace, His love, mercy and faithfulness. One of Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible definitions of grace (charis) is, “God’s divine influence upon your heart and its reflection in your life”. May this experience with the Lord deeply touch and influence the deepest part of your core being (heart) and then reflect transformation, renewal and redemption in your daily walk and spiritual journey. May you receive all of God’s grace and allow it to work in and through you. Again, if you have any questions, feel free to email me at Godsgraceforyou@msn.com.  I’d also love to hear about what the Lord is doing in you through this experience!

 

End Notes

[i] Holy Bible, NASB/The Message Parallel Study Bible, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004) 2069.

[ii] Lewis, C.S. A Grief Observed, (New York: Harper Collins Publisher, 1196), 5-7.

[iii] Demarest, Bruce. Seasons of the Soul—Stages of Spiritual Development, (Downer Grove: InterVarsity Press,
2009) 135, 136, 140.

[iv] Holy Bible, NASB/The Message Parallel Study Bible, 872.

[v] Ibid., 939.

[vi] Ibid., 988, 989.

[vii] Ibid., 1382.

[viii] Ibid., 1672.

[ix] Tracy, Steven R. Minding the Soul—understanding and healing abuse, (City: Publisher, Year), pg.

[x] Holy Bible, NASB/The Message Parallel Study Bible, 1797.

[xi] Demarest, Bruce. Seasons of the Soul—Stages of Spiritual Development, 136.

[xii] Ibid., 1722.

[xiii] Ibid., 1617.

[xiv] Ibid., 5.

[xv] Ibid., 1260.

[xvi] Ibid., 1633.

[xvii] Ibid., 1976, 1791, 2056.

[xviii] Tozer, A.W., The Pursuit of God, (City: Windspread Publishers, 2007) 11, 12.

[xix] Holy Bible, NASB/The Message Parallel Study Bible, 1782.

[xx] Ibid., 1978.

[xxi] Ibid., 2069.

[xxii] Ibid., 1995.

[xxiii] Ibid., 1903, 1904.

[xxiv] May, Gerald. The Dark Night of the Soul, (New York, HarperSanFrancisco-A Division of HarperCollins Publisher, 2004)

[xxv] Holy Bible, NASB/The Message Parallel Study Bible, 1260.

[xxvi] Ibid., 2041.

[xxvii] Ibid., 1801.

[xxviii] Ibid., 1864.

[xxix] Ibid., 903.

[xxx] Ibid., 2017.

[xxxi] Ibid., 2059.

[xxxii] Ibid., 1988.

[xxxiii] Demarest, Bruce. Seasons of the Soul—Stages of Spiritual Development, 133, 135.

[xxxiv] Holy Bible, NASB/The Message Parallel Study Bible, 1904.

[xxxv] Ibid., 1903.

[xxxvi] Demarest, Bruce. Seasons of the Soul—Stages of Spiritual Development, 57.

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