When God Stops Talking: The Dark Night of the Soul March 17, 2012


Does it ever fe…

by jonbalun

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Does it ever feel like God has stopped talking to you? How do you react to that? Do you panic? Do you pray louder? Are you tempted to quit believing altogether? This time of silence is very common, but rarely talked about. Some refer to it as a “wilderness experience.” Others call it the winter season of life. The best descriptive term I have heard is “The Dark Night of the Soul.” It can last days, months, or even years. It is often misdiagnosed as depression, but it goes much deeper because it doesn’t just affect your mind or your emotions; it affects your soul. Here are some of the symptoms:

1. What used to work doesn’t work anymore

When I was a young Christian, I felt God’s presence all the time. If at any time I didn’t feel His presence when I thought I should, I would just pray harder or read my favorite passage of Scripture or listen to Christian music or anything else that gave me goose bumps and helped me feel God again.

One day I realized that I had not felt God’s presence in quite a while. I tried all of the remedies that used to work, but I felt nothing. During this time, God taught me that I can’t press a button and find God; that would make ME God.

2. Basic disciplines like prayer, reading the Bible, and going to church actually make you feel worse

I have heard people complain that they “can’t hear God” or “it feels like God is far away.” Often well-meaning people advise them to pray more or read the Psalms or go to a soup kitchen. Though this is generally good advice, during the Dark Night these things might actually make you feel worse. That doesn’t mean you should stop praying; it just means that it has become an act of faith just to pray because it no longer energizes you and you don’t feel like God is listening. God is letting you mature by holding back that conditioned response that used to motivate you to do spiritual things.

Think about it. As a child, you had to be bribed to eat your vegetables. As an adult, hopefully you learned to eat broccoli even if it looks and tastes like tiny trees. Or maybe as a child you would only drink your medicine if it tasted like bubblegum. As an adult, you take your medicine even if it tastes like, well, medicine. You do these things because they are good for you – even if it might even hurt a little. It is the same thing for your spiritual health. There comes a point in time when you don’t like doing spiritual exercises, but know you need to in order to become stronger.

3. One or more “Christians” have told you that you have lost your faith

“I haven’t seen you at church in a while. Did you backslide?” “God never stops talking; you just stopped listening.” “Turn that frown upside down. Today is the day the Lord has made!” Christians can say the stupidest things or the right things at the wrong moments. If it bothers you at all that God might have stopped talking to you, then that proves you care. You’re still saved, but you’re going through something that some Christians can’t relate to. Don’t worry about it. Sooner or later, they’ll go through something similar.

4. You have begun questioning everything you believe in – even the basics like “Does God exist?” “Are all my sins forgiven?” “Does God really have a plan for me or has He forgotten about me?”

Though many experience it in different ways, the Dark Night of the Soul is nothing new. Peter wrote about it to the persecuted church in 1 Peter. While many were wondering whether they should give up and abandon their faith, Peter said it was actually through their faith that God’s power was shielding them. (1:5) To drop their shield of faith would not only lead to their destruction here and now, but they would also be giving up their inheritance (heaven). He encouraged them not to give up “the living hope” that they had from Jesus’ resurrection – not a wishful hope like “I hope it doesn’t rain today” but a living hope that since God already raised Jesus from the dead, we can be sure that He will raise us from the dead to be with Him forever in heaven. Peter then explains,

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Notice three things about this passage.

  1. There are “many different trials” that we might go through, but God is the judge and He is controlling the trial.
  2. Though it might feel like an eternity, the trials will only be “for a little while.” Take courage, it is darkest before the dawn.
  3. If you endure the trial, you can be sure that your faith is genuine. The trial isn’t for God – He already knows if you genuinely believe in Him or not. The trial is for you so that you can grow to a more mature faith that is not based only on what you can see or how you feel at the moment.

If you are going through the Dark Night, know that you are not going through it alone. God walks with you and only lets your hand go so your faith can grow as He leads you through the stormy valley silently. Though you cannot touch Him or hear Him to know for sure that He is there, know that He is by your side protecting you the whole time while your faith is proven genuine and grows like it only could during such an experience. Remember Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. (Psalm 23:4)

You would think only so much can go wrong
Calamity only strikes once
And you assume this one has suffered her share
Life will be kinder from here
Oh, but sometimes the sun stays hidden for years
Sometimes the sky rains night after night
When will it clear?

But our Hope endures the worst of conditions
It’s more than our optimism
Let the earth quake
Our Hope is unchanged

How do we comprehend peace within pain?
Or joy at a good man’s wake?
Walk a mile with the woman whose body is racked
With illness, oh how can she laugh?
Oh, ’cause sometimes the sun stays hidden for years
Sometimes the sky rains night after night
When will it clear?

But our Hope endures the worst of conditions
It’s more than our optimism
Let the earth quake
Our Hope is unchanged

Emmanuel, God is with us
El Shaddai, all sufficient
We never walk alone
And this is our hope

(“Our Hope Endures” performed by Natalie Grant)

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Uncertainty: Faith’s Bench Press


The Age of Uncertainty
How much faith are you benching?

Take a moment and step into yesterday’s happenings and get a bird’s eye view of how my faith muscles got a good workout on life’s bench press of uncertainty. I must admit I never understood the benefits of a series of events that are designed to “work out” my faith like this.

In the past, when uncertainty presented itself during the course of a day, I would allow it to rob me of any peace that was present. Uncertainty has the ability to get us all caught up in hypotheticals, ego, pride, fear, shame, guilt, and most of all ANXIETY. I am so glad to have Philippians 4 as a source of encouragement to fuel my spirit. It is one of many gold mines throughout the Pauline epistles that NEVER dries up.

I pulled up into the church parking lot that was almost empty at the height of the early morning service. STRANGE! While walking up to the entryway a friend informed me of the power outage secondary to a car accident. The first service was cancelled. Inside, several saints, including our beloved Pastor, were housed throughout the vestibule. There was a hint of light from the 12′ high windows above that filled that powerless dwelling place. Also present was an unspoken uncertainty filling the air as we engaged each other. Although we were in an unexpected situation, fueled by uncertainty about the future, being there was somehow a heavenly experience. We laughed, had fellowship and collectively affirmed our faith in God‘s power to rectify the matter. After 45 minutes the power was restored. I thought nothing of the wait time.

Church began and we experienced a heavenly service from the devotions, to the praise team, to the choir and most of all the pulpit. Our Pastor preached a sermon tailor-made for me once again. Church ended.  Here is where uncertainty grabbed a hold on me for the next 5 hours. My phone’s home button had stopped working causing routine operations to become tedious. I tried to avoid an unhealthy reliance on the smart phone but to no avail obviously.  I had to go to a store for it to be fixed. I was also very hungry. Furthermore, my GPS was not working properly and I had to trust God rather than the machine to get me there. He did.

The young man at the phone store took my phone and proceeded to troubleshoot the issue. He dialed the tech support team for assistance and took my phone to work on it. I sat and waited patiently while my hunger was increasing. I was in the store for nearly 45 minutes before I got the phone back. I immediately went home and ate a bowl of cereal. I picked up the phone to make an important call that was scheduled and to my surprise the files that contained the call stats and contact info were gone along with SEVERAL other files of HIGH IMPORTANCE.  UNCERTAINTY WAS IN FULL EFFECT.  I will state the obvious – the young man did a factory reset and did not back up my files. They are gone for good.  My immediate response – OK God what are you up to? 

I could have become livid over this. In times past that would be my natural response. Not yesterday. Don’t get me wrong, I did loose my cool on one occasion and even feel some expletives surfacing. I was forced to make numerous calls to handle the issues. The more calls I made the more anger I felt. Furthermore, the uncertainty about the data I lost – and how others and myself would be affected – was trying its best to fuel anxiety, fear, etc.  Yet I continued to look up to my ceiling and say “Ok God, what are you up to?” I continued to acknowledge Him in the midst of the uncertainty. I was on the bench press doing faith reps.

At one point when a four letter word surfaced I had to get down on my knees and pray. I poured out my frustrations and all my feelings to the Lord. It was time to “get low & get real” with God. “Father, I need you to give me peace. I believe that you are working all things out for my good, help me see your goodness in this……..” was a key request in that prayer. I had no idea what was about to happen next. 

I had discovered my Bluetooth was not working and I did all I could to pair the devices. I needed to call in yet again. I was soooo regretting having to call in again. But I did. Amazingly, I got a tech support agent almost immediately. That interaction was the beginning of my breakthrough. The dynamics of the call are consistent with me having the opportunity to share my experience and God’s constant presence throughout my day. It became apparent that uncertainty was fueling my experiences but God was “holding His position.” My direct response to all things uncertain was a continued FAITH in His will. We talked and shared our faith. I forgot all about the issue with the phone as I was able to praise the Lord during the call.  It was in the praise that I received my answer to my request for seeing the goodness of the Lord. The agent gave me specific information to get the blue tooth going and I got a credit on my account that covered my next bill payment. This was a need I presented to the Lord last week in prayer.

Ultimately yesterday’s uncertainty made me have to do steady reps of faith in God’s will yesterday. The more I acknowledged my need for Him the better I responded to all that was going on that I was not sure of. I often want to know the “why” and have the right responses to a situation. It seems that God has given me that desire for sure. This bench press – uncertainty – makes me lie down on the presence of God’s will, accept my inability to have all the answers, and practice faith in El Elyon. Lifting up faith in Him is the workout. “Tis SO SWEET TO TRUST IN JESUS. He is an on time God, yes He is.

 

FAITH! When Family & Friends Don’t……………


 

The Good Comes Through AS U COME THROUGH


“Cast your care on Jesus today,Leave your worry and fear;

Burdens are lifted @ Calvary. Jesus is very near.

Troubled soul, the Saviour can see,Ev’ry heartache and tear;

Burdens are lifted @ Calvary. Jesus is very near.”

Burdens are lifted at Calvary,
Calvary, Calvary,
Burdens are lifted at Calvary,
Jesus is very near.

I Peter 5:6-11(NASB)

 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,

 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion,seeking someone to devour.

But resist him, firm in your faith knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.

 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect,

confirm, strengthen and establish you.

 11 To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Every hardship that you encounter is evidence of God’s mighty hand at work on your life. Trials are God’s designs on your life to shape you, mold you, designate you as a child of God fit for the presence of His Spirit at work in you so that you can arrive at the good works that God has prepared in advance for you with His power and might.  When you realize that path, all of the hardships – losses, fears, insecurities, spiritual battles, trauma, infirmities, rejections, uncertainties……… – were necessary to get you to realize that He deserves ALL the praise, glory and honor for all of the “good” that He allows. And you are responsible for an awareness of His goodness because that’s how you can experience joy and thanksgiving during hardship.

The potter picks up a piece of clay and prepares it for molding. There is a distinct plan in mind from the time he chooses the clay type and all the way through the various steps to prepare the clay to become a beautiful, distinct, desirable piece of pottery that someone will NEED to possess. I will never forget being on vacation in the Bahamas years ago. There was a large display of pottery in the marketplace and there was a lady making a fuss over the “distinction” of a particular vase. It was large in stature and totally unattractive to my eye. However, this woman was enamored by it’s appeal so much so that she let everyone around her know – she found this piece. She was loud, energetic and loaded with joy. She had to have a specific need for it that she was unable to fulfill before her discovery that day.Her joy infected that market. That’s what God’s designs on us are for.

He knows his people and He knows the plan. His mighty hand is CONSTANTLY at work on His creation. So burdens are the training ground for our faith muscles. When I was in my teens and 20’s I was in marvelous physical shape. My training ground for building and maintaining my physique was the gym, the track and the courts.

English: CHARLESTON, S.C. (Jan. 28, 2011) Sail...
The harder you work out the better the results.

I loved to lift weights to keep my natural definition toned and shaped. I ran 2-3 miles a day 5 days a week at my peek so as to keep my legs and my core lean. I would play racquetball and tennis to engage in competitive athletics. That shaped my body, mind and spirit.

Then it happened. I learned over time that my body, that used to respond to exercise and sport so well, was not able to keep up with my spirit for working out because of a defective spine. 2 decades later I am not able to exercise my body at all like I used to. Yet my faith is lifting weights I never, ever thought I would need to try. All of the burdens -heartache, pain, misery, ego-bursting, loss, disappointments, guilt, regrets, failures, etc. – were teaching me how to use my faith muscles. The process of conditioning began when I became willing to trust the “finished work at Calvary” as a sufficient source of God’s power in my life. The cross serves us so much goodness that we just take for granted. Trials give us a more defined aptitude for all of the work Christ “finished.” James put it best when he wrote in 1:2-3

2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,

 3knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

Get happy when you come across a trial that God designed for you just like I used to get happy when I was leaving the ins/outs of my daily life and escaping to the gym,track or court. When I engaged those activities everything else was on hold until I was done. So it is with the Cross. You can let everything go when you take all of your anxieties, fears, temptations, and life issues to Calvary and “Leave Them There.” Don’t get caught up in a pity party along the way. You have plenty of examples in this world to know that you are not the only one who has to endure hardship. Instead, get to the place in you where you realize that you have the best remedy for hardships – Christ. All the good comes through- AS YOU COME THROUGH -the suffering, the trial, the hardship because burdens are lifted at Calvary.

Soaring Through the Storm


English: A tornado with no visible condensatio...

This post is going to offer explanation for why I use “Eagle” imagery. When I first went to my church I was totally bewildered.Life had really been harsh to me. Some of my hardship was because of my actions and some was because of how others responded to my choices. Pastor Black referenced and motioned an eagle “soaring through a storm” during the sermon. Ultimately, I have come to realize that no matter what the issue was, God was up to something good. He was using loss to get my attention and my heart. Thank God He has them today and for the rest of my life. I am completely sold out to this Conqueror lifestyle.

A cousin told me, while I was adjusting to the realities of loss in my personal life, that I was going to one day look back on that heartache, misery, mental/emotional pain, anger, fear and uncertainty and be able to realize that it was the best time of my life. “What do you mean by that?” was my immediate visceral response as I sat straight up in my chair and wiped the tears from my eyes. She offered me no explanation but instead issued a directive, which I have not forgotten – “JUST STAY IN POSITION!”

This experience was way before I got “INTO POSITION.” In fact, I thank God for using my cousin to challenge my faith. You see, at that point I had lost everything I had come to rely on – wife, kids, home, materialism, financial security…………  Every aspect of my life that I relied on, which gave me the power to “BE”, God removed from me. There was nothing left to rely on EXCEPT HIM. That conversation gave me a heightened awareness of my NEED for His power to “reign” in and over my life. I surrendered daily; I surrender (TO HIM) DAILY. “Every day I wake up I ALWAYS think of Him.” (A future ConquerorTune u will love) 🙂

Now, this idea about “soaring through the storm” is based in the benefits of “letting go and letting God” through daily surrender. Paul said it best in Philippians 4:13 “I CAN do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength.” When I was talking with my cousin I was in a storm that seemed like it just would NOT pass. The more work I did to “deal” with the problem, the more I realized the problem was too big to “deal” with. These life changes were totally designed for me to get to the “eye” of the storm (my core issues that I was unwilling to surrender to God) and let God abide.

Like an eagle, I learned that avoiding the storm was NO longer an option. God kept on bringing me these storms so that I could grow to understand this concept at my core, which is what He is concerned with. (Heb. 4:12)

“The eagle is the only bird which flies directly into a thunderstorm? Other birds fly away from a thunderstorm seeking refuge and shelter in the safety of a barn or their nest. But it is not so with the mighty eagle. The eagle flies directly into the thunderclouds.Turbulent winds cause the eagle to fly higher, giving him a larger view, lifting him above harassment, allowing him to use less effort, and helping him to fly faster.These updrafts cause the eagle to reach great heights as he soars with them. From this higher position his sharp eyes are able to see more. As he soars higher, he leaves behind all distractions. The feather structure prevents stalling, reduces the turbulence, and produces a relatively smooth ride with minimum effort – even in rough winds. Thus, when he glides in wind currents, speeds of 80 to 100 miles per hour are not uncommon.”(THE WAY OF THE EAGLES,  Joe R. Garman,http://www.arm.org/eagles.htm)

Yesterday in Atlanta stormy weather prevailed. I had deep concern about the welfare of my family, who I no longer live with or fellowship with as a direct result of a divorce. I was concerned from within. One of the best things about a Conqueror lifestyle is that when you get concerned, fearful or worried about something that is out of your control, you have a direct connection with the One who controls ALL – El Elyon – the Creator and Owner of ALL things Earthly and Heavenly. My words could not change a thing. However, having good talk time with Him offers me an enormous resource – HIS SOVEREIGNTY. I prayed for them without ceasing. As the storm doplar radar weather report system, with the help of Brad Nitz and Glen Burns, reported close proximity to where they live, I was well aware of the danger associated with my former address. I decided to turn the TV off and go lay down.

This morning, when I got up, I turned on the TV and saw the video of the damaged areas. To my surprise I recognized my old neighborhood. The damage was significant as a tornado touched down around the corner from the subdivision. I SAT STRAIGHT UP IN MY BED and CHILLS went down my spine. That could have touched down “around the corner” where their house is BUT it did NOT! The Creator of Heaven and Earth and the SUSTAINER of life PROTECTED, PRESERVED AND PROVIDED for them yet again.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen. (Read Hope & Faith) Yet when I saw this broadcast what I was hoping for became my reality. All the while I was able to REST in Him. That’s how it is to be an MTAC today. There is SAFETY “alone in His Presence.”

Hope & Faith


The Stone of Scone in the Coronation Chair at ...
The chair is only as secure as its substructure

It feels like Christmas today. I have waited patiently for this day to arrive and thank God it is here. As I developed the thematic content for ConquerorShots in January, I got excited then about today’s post. From now on 3/1 will forever be “Hope & Faith” day. You see, we have a progressive transition that is God-ordained.

 

All of my anticipation about this post is fueling my fingers to hit these keys because I no longer have to hold this in. I pray this blesses you all.

Hebrews 11: 1 is often referred to as the “introduction to the Hall of Faith.”

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” 

Hope and faith are clearly defined here. There is ABSOLUTELY no reason for us to misuse these Heavenly gifts UNLESS you are not in agreement with this verse.

Faith is the “conviction of the truth of anything, belief.”

For an example let’s look at the simple act of sitting. When I was a kid, I witnessed my cousin Michael – a tall 6’7″ 300lb solid public figure – sit in a chair which collapsed in the process. The atmosphere was full of celebration and excitement because we were eating Sunday dinner and we had a chance to see our loved one who’s music was being played on the radio hourly. He was most definitely festive because of the meal he was about to eat on the plate he held in his had while chosing what resin chair to sit in on the porch. Without question he was “convinced” that he was about to sit down and “throw down” eating,  after being on the road for weeks performing. My other cousins and I were already seated and eating which made his entry into the scene so natural. He never considered the idea that he was about to “hit the deck”.

As he positioned himself in the chair, the legs of the synthetic material began to buckle outward. It all happened so fast! He sat down, the chair could not hold him and he hit the porch floor as his plate went up and the food landed on him and the porch. It was a total disaster of the worse kind. His faith in the chair failed him. It was unable to hold him up because of the force associated with his stature. It was a lesson for all of us to behold.

We are taught from childhood to sit. In fact, “timeout” is designed to make us sit down, to quiet down  rambunctious activities. Our instinct is to find a seat and sit. The decision to sit in the chair is based in the “conviction” of the truth that it will hold us up. It is a belief that we naturally realize. Yet we do not have to acknowledge our faith in the chair until the chair is not working for us i.e. it is unable to supply us with the rest from standing we need.  At that point,  panic sets in as the thought of the consequences of the chair’s failure yields horrifying circumstances from us hitting the ground. The acknowledgement is based in the fact that “faith failed us.” The expectation was to experience rest, relaxation and comfort. Instead, we are embarrassed, uncomfortable, possibly injured and so on. Faith is the substance………

The word substance in the verse is contained in the overall Heavenly blessing of this passage. It provides us with insight that is often overlooked. Simply put, faith is the “substructure or foundation”  or “confidence, firm trust, assurance” of what your hoping for. This idea is best understood when you consider the structure of a home. The substructure has to be strong enough to support the foundation, infrastructure and superstructure, of the home. It is the firm bedrock for the adjoining structures to rest on securely. The essence of our faith and the confidence of my hope NEEDS a constant attachment to “The Rock” which is CHRIST.   The evidence……………

We are constantly in search of proof to validate truth, whether we are honest about the pursuit or not is irrelevant. Back to the chair example, the reason we can so readily have faith in the chair is because of the continued success we have experienced over the course of a lifetime relative to the chair’s  ability to provide us with rest off of our feet.  When Mike got up off the floor he did not say “I am never going to sit in a chair again!” Instead, he cleaned himself off, got  another plate of food and went inside and sat at the dining room table to eat instead. He was not going to be so foolish as to STOP trusting in the chair to do for him what it was designed to do.  Christ came to this world to save sinners, through the death at Calvary, the burial and resurrection. Long before He established his earthly ministry, He was established as The Rock of our Salvation.

There is no better proof of the essence of His power that is greater than the FACT that He is the Son of God who arose from the dead and ascended back to His rightful place at the Right Hand of the Father where He now intercedes on our behalf.  No matter how messed up life may become, He NEVER FAILS!  HE CONQUERED THE POWER OF SIN AND DEATH AT CALVARY. Proof is further accomplished after we accept this SELFLESS act of salvation personally. I don’t know about you but the life that I now live is SOOOOO MUCH better than the life I use to lead. The difference? The power of sin is NO LONGER reigning over my life – HE IS! Even though we CAN’T see Him!

The evidence of things not seen. “Things” is so misunderstood and taken for granted. It is EVERYTHING THAT IS ALREADY DONE in God’s plan>The results are eternal but everyday I get a glimpse of the proof from the time I open my eyes and realize my lungs an my heart are working, my legs and my arms are still functional, my 5 senses are still in tact and He is present – providing, protecting, and purposing all of the events of the day for my good.  These “good works” that God ordained EVEN BEFORE I TOOK SHAPE IN MY MOTHER’S WOMB, are the “THINGS”. What a MIGHTY God!!!!!