"Why do you turn away from me? Why do you treat me as your enemy?" -- Job 13:24 (NLT)
I looked down to see something I’d never witnessed before.
My daughter and I were on an overnight backpacking trip. At noon, thunderstorms rolled in. As we hiked through mountain valleys, we saw dark clouds decorating the neighboring mountains. Fortunately, we dodged them, until an entire system of storms rolled through.
After waiting out the storm in a porta-potty, we made our way back to our tent. Rain had turned the trail into a river. As we plodded through the water —her in a new pair of boots but me in a pair I’d had for quite some time — I heard a strange noise coming from my left foot. Looking down, I saw my sole had separated from the boot. Not much farther down the trail, the right boot did the same. For the remainder of our journey, I experienced a dark day of the sole.
A more familiar phrase is “dark night of the soul.” John of the Cross, a sixteenth-century Spanish priest and poet who worked with Teresa of Avila to reform the Carmelite Order, first used the phrase in two of his major writings, The Ascent of Mount Carmel and The Dark Night. But he used it in a different way than it has come to mean today.
Henri Nouwen, a Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer, and theologian gave the phrase a different meaning. He realized the warmth of God’s presence can elude us. In his secret journal, he told of a dark season in his life in which he couldn’t feel God’s love. Although he had helped millions of people around the world experience a more intimate experience with God, he was in a dark night of the soul.
So was Job. He did everything right, but got caught up in a wager between God and Satan. God permitted Satan to torment Job in any way he chose, except for taking his life. His friends told him he had sinned, and his wife told him to curse God and die. Although Job had questions, he maintained his integrity and refused to walk away from God.
Sometimes, we blame God for what are natural consequences to our poor decisions or to the natural effects of sin on our world. When Adam and Eve sinned, not only did they die spiritually and later physically, but the world also experienced a change. Eve experienced pain in childbirth, Adam poured sweat and had to fight thorns as he farmed, and an unseen battle raged between good and evil.
God is sovereign and controls all things—including our dark nights of the soul. Why He permits bad things to happen to good people is a question we can’t always answer, but He never stops loving us or controlling our undesirable circumstances. He promises to bring good from bad things. At least, I still had a shoe—and the sun did come back out and gave us a beautiful remainder of a hike.
Don’t let your dark nights of the soul cloud and destroy your trust in a good God who loves You and wants to give you His best.
Martin Wiles is Managing Editor of Christian Devotions and a proof-editor for Courier Publishing. His work is featured at www.lovelinesfromgod.com.