Introduction - Boy, are we all different! The world is colored by a vast array of personalities, opinions, and interests. Aren't we glad we are not all the same--dull...
Dark Night of the Soul
It's been called many things: dark night of the soul, crisis of faith, time of doubt. If you've followed Jesus for any length of time, you will face it sooner or later.
Many who find themselves in such a crisis, panic. "This can't be right! Something's wrong with me! Surely a real Christian wouldn't feel this way."
If you've already faced yours or if it is still to come, let me give you some encouragement. You're in very good company.
Consider a guy named John, from a middle eastern country. Sold out for Jesus. Preaching, teaching, leading others to Christ. He shrugs off the insults, the loneliness, and the fact that few really understand his passion. He gets by on little, and is not afraid to take on the big shots when it is right to do so. He doesn't cower from confrontation because he knows his Lord is proud of him. He is living out his life's mission and he is fulfilled.
Then crisis hits. He is arrested, thrown into prison on trumped up charges, and denied due process. They are talking execution and he feels forgotten by everyone, including God. His entire life has been dedicated to the glory of God, but now, in his dark night of the soul, he begins to question.
Was it all worth it? Was Jesus really who he said he was? Had he been a fool?
Jesus had once said of John the Baptist that there was "no one greater." (Matt. 11:11) But there he sat in prison. Alone. Afraid. And the doubts crowded in.
John sent messengers to Jesus just to check. "Are you the Messiah we've been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?" (Matt. 11:3)
Where had such a question come from? John had baptized Jesus himself. He had seen the Spirit of God descend upon him like a dove. He had heard of the miracles and proclaimed from his own mouth that Jesus was "the lamb of God, sent to take away the sins of the world." (John 1:29)
Yet, when his own world caved in, the doubts came. They were as real to him as they are to us. When God doesn't seem to make sense, when life does not go as we were certain it would, when we cry out to God and all we hear is silence...the questions come.
Was it all worth it? Is this real or have I been a fool?
Jesus' answer to John the Baptist is a model for us. He could have rushed to the prison, assured John he was really God, pumped him up. Or he could have blinded the guards and walked him out of there.
He did nothing like that. He simply sent a message that only a man like John would fully comprehend. It was a message that would warm him at night, would dispel any lingering doubts, and would stay with him long after the memory of any visit grew cold.
He said, "You tell John what you have seen and heard." Then he began to paraphrase a messianic prophecy from Isaiah 61. Every good Jew knew that this passage was the litmus test for anyone claiming to be the Messiah--and there had been many. Jesus was the only one who has ever fulfilled it.
When we cry out for hope in the middle of our dark night, we don't need quick answers. We don't need another book by Dr. Feel-Good about how God wants to prosper us. We don't need a sermon on faith or the well-intended urging of friends who don't understand. What we need is to take a step back and consider the whole picture.
If I turn my back on God now, what will that mean for the rest of my life? Who else offers hope like he does? If I decide Jesus is not worth it, then who is? The facts won't just go away because they doesn't fit my current circumstances. Jesus is. He lived. He is real and I have to decide once and for all who he is to me. Is he my Lord, or am I going to wait for someone else?
When Jesus pointed out to John that he was fulfilling everything predicted about the Messiah, John's heart could rest. He knew now. Regardless of what was going on in his life, he knew. And that knowledge warmed him like nothing else could. He had been right. He was still right. And it would all be okay. Jesus was here.
When you enter your dark night of the soul, it can be hard to hang on to faith, to the goodness of God, to everything you thought you believed. Maybe what you believed needs to be altered to fit the reality of God. Those dark nights are not wasted. Dark nights deepen faith. They shred shallow belief-ism, carnal head knowledge, and fictional ideas of who God is. They create space for the Holy Spirit by ridding our hearts of all its other gods.
If you're going through your crisis of faith, listen to Jesus' answer to his cousin John. "...the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor."
When we cry out from our pit of pain, "Jesus, are you there? Are you real? Are you enough?"
His answer to John is his answer to us: "I AM."