A recent television commercial campaign introduced various scenarios when people really embarrass themselves and greatly desire to get away from it all. For instance, a lady at work opens an email attachment which introduces a virus to the entire network of her co-workers. All stand in their cubicles and bore down on her. She wants to hide under a rock. The announcer asks, “Have you ever wanted to get away from it all?” This reminds us of David’s words in Psalm 55:6, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.”
Why do we want to fly away and be at rest?
There are two primary reasons for a desire to escape: external and internal difficulties.
All of us have this desire to flee from difficulty. Those among us who draw close to God each day know the obvious: we cannot escape. God is at work through difficulties. While that makes the trial less difficult to bear; it is still very overwhelming at times. Give ear to our prayer, O God (Psalm 55.1). Don’t hide Yourself from our requests, attend to us; hear us (Psalm 55.2). We are a restless people. We are restless because of people who seek to hurt us and because of all the oppression they bring into our lives (Psalm 55.3). As with David, our hearts are severely pained within and the terrors of death have fallen upon us (Psalm 55.4). Fearfulness and trembling have come upon us and horror overwhelms us (Psalm 55.5).
David wanted to fly away from it all because of trials arising inside of his own family. “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest” (Psalm 55.6). He goes on to say, “Indeed, I would wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest” (Psalm 55.7-8). David’s family life was a chaotic tempest of sorrow and grief. Our families should provide us a sanctuary or a place of rest and happiness – a refuge. But often our greatest struggles and sorrows come from within the confines of family life. The fact that we are so close to a husband, father, mother, wife, or child only deepens the sorrow. It drives us to the point of even seeking death for relief.
You might say, “David brought this on himself!” That is true, but sometimes trials and difficulties come even when no apparent sin is the culprit. Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. This observation is made in the Book of Job. Job faced great sorrow and pain. So much so that he tired of life even as David did. One man invited the trouble through his sinful actions; the other was afflicted with difficulty and sorrow to become a trophy of God’s grace.
Job asked, “Why did I not die at birth” (3.11)? “Why did I not perish when I came from the womb?” He observed that had he been stillborn and never witnessed the light of day, he would not have known the great sorrow of living life because it is…
There [that] the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest. There the prisoners rest together; they do not hear the voice of the oppressor. The small and great are there, and the servant is free from his master. “Why is light given to him who is in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, who long for death, but it does not come, and search for it more than hidden treasures… (Job 3:17–21)
Of course, we all know why people murder themselves. They cannot face the tempests of life. It’s all too much. When it caves in around them, the only way out they see is death. You say, “But surely the believer does not find himself in this depressing, spiraling tempest!” It is one thing to know truth; it is quite another to live it.
But external circumstance isn’t the only burden we face. We are both physical and spiritual beings. The physical may grow sick, impaired, or disabled. “But who can bear a broken spirit?” (see Proverbs 18.14). When sin is crushing us and when we are trembling under God’s chastening, we face the storms and tempests David speaks of in Psalm 55. We desire to escape from the burden and oppression within. We want the pain to go away. There is great inward pain during the dark night of the soul. It intensifies when God seems far off. Observe Job’s example…
Oh, that my grief were fully weighed, and my calamity laid with it on the scales! For then it would be heavier than the sand of the sea …the arrows of the Almighty are within me; my spirit drinks in their poison; the terrors of God are arrayed against me …Oh, that I might have my request, that God would grant me the thing that I long for! That it would please God to crush me, that He would loose His hand and cut me off! (Job 6.1-9)
David in another Psalm puts it this way…
Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and You have afflicted me with all Your waves …My eye wastes away because of affliction …LORD, why do You cast off my soul? Why do You hide Your face from me? I have been afflicted and ready to die from my youth; I suffer Your terrors; I am distraught. (Psalm 88.7-15)
This internal difficulty stays with us …anticipating the wrath of God. Waking up to the lack of God’s presence day after day, the afflicted long for God to remove the rough east wind of judgment (Isa 27.8).
Flight or Fight: Focusing on Reality
Paul wrote that to him dying was gain (Phil 1.21). He went on to say, “For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless, to remain in the flesh is more needful for you” (Phil 1.23-24). All believers expectantly look to the sky for the return of the Lord Jesus. We are commanded to watch for it and to anticipate the end of life as we know it. So, longing for Heaven and our ultimate rescue is a good thing. But longing for that day on our own terms is wrong and ought to be abhorred by each of us.
If we writhe under difficulty and welcome death just to escape family problems, financial disaster, or living in a crooked and perverse generation, we no longer are operating under God’s terms. We have foisted our own terms upon Him. Paul didn’t want to escape from it all just so that it would all end. He said:
For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. (2 Corinthians 5:4)
So whether we live or die, we must focus on two realities…
- God desires to show Himself strong when we are weak.
If God permits struggle, difficulty, affliction – the chaotic storms of life – then He will provide the grace we need to see us through. By so doing, He will also show Himself strong to the world around us. Pure gold comes from the refiner’s fire. Pure faith comes from the refining that is found only in the crucible of trial. If you are grieved by external or internal trial and affliction, the Bible teaches you to rejoice. You say, “Why?” It is so “that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1.7).
Jesus Himself faced external and internal trial…
“Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” (John 12:27–28)
So, whatever affliction we face, we must conclude that if God shows Himself strong in our weakness, it will be worth it all.
- God’s desire is far better than our own desire.
As His child, you are alive today. In Him you move, breathe, and even owe to Him your very existence. No matter how difficult the trial, it is but a light affliction which is for a moment. It is working in you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4.17). God will with the affliction accomplish eternal work in and through us. We must stay the course.
We want to escape the pain and struggle of this sinful life, but nevertheless God’s desire is superior to our own. Jesus prayed in the Garden, “Not My will but Thine!” The will of God is superior to our own will to flee and escape. Sometimes we imagine how difficult it would be to die for Christ – a martyr’s death. However, sometimes it is much more difficult to live for Christ.
If you have avoided trial and affliction of this kind to this point in your life, be thankful! But if a life of ease has left you complacent about spiritual growth, then know that that apathy is dangerous. It would be far better to face the storms of affliction then to go forward in life without a clue of what is real. Not that I wish conflict and struggle upon you. Some say they pray for trials. Not me. The trials are not what I desire. I desire refuge in Christ. I desire that Christ satisfy me, and that He is enough for me! I desire that which is an eternal hope. I pray for this.
Some of you are in great external and internal conflict. You relate to Psalm 55. You know well the dark night of the soul. You cannot find rest by flying away from it all. Jesus has an invitation for you:
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
Jesus is a shelter in the time of storm, and a Rock in a weary land. David concludes in Psalm 55.23: “But I will trust in You.” How does he get to this point even though he faced great obstacles? The answer and key is found in Psalm 55.22…
Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved. (Psalm 55:22)
3 thoughts on “Dark Night of the Soul”
God’s Word seem most alive when He allows us to go through the “dark night of the soul”. I think God wants it that way! As I grow in my walk with the Lord, I seem to understand more and more the depth and the width of Christ’s sacrifice for us, for our sins because He loves us. O how He loves us! As His deep sorrow here on earth was only but for a moment, ours will be as well. And as He allows circumstances, internal and external to burden our minds and hearts, He also gives us unspeakable joy as we learn to release those burdens back to Him. God always gives us rest during the journey 🙂 As the Lord said, He will never leave us nor forsake us. He gives us joy whenever He personally reveals His Word to us in a special way; through fellowship with faithful brethren; through serving in His Church; through the provisions He gives us physically; through godly and glorious music; through victories in spiritual battles; and sometimes or often through supernatural events!
With regards to King David’s difficulties, as I understand the Old Testament more, it is my personal opinion that he brought on those difficulties to himself and his family, because of the sinful choices he made. He had a huge problem with women and the circumstances that he faced may have been consequences related and have stemmed from those sins. It amazes me and am very thankful for how our God has continued to love King David unconditionally; God being so very gracious to him. King David loved the Lord so much inspite of all his sins and trials, resulting to his great repentance, which gave him rest during his journey. Even in 1 Chronicles 22:7-8 when King David said that “as for me, it was in my mind – to build the temple . . . in the name of the Lord” BUT God said NO, he kept on loving and serving God anyway. He kept on going! I will always remember that every trial that comes into our lives is in God’s control; He is very much aware of it, and it is always for our good in accordance to His purposes. God is good all the time! Whatever we face here on earth is just but for a moment in comparison to eternity! Thank you for your post. – Lolita
I really liked what you had to say and your strong stand for Our Lord
Thank you for encouraging me.