2011-09-28 - My Dark Night
Psalm 69:13 But as for me, my prayer is to You, O LORD, in the acceptable time; O God, in the multitude of Your mercy, Hear me in the truth of Your salvation.
Question to Consider: How can we trust God, when it seems that He isn't listening? How can we respond when we are facing difficult times, and God seems silent?
I sat stiffly in the examination chair in my doctor's office. My parents and I had just been told that, after weeks of attempting less invasive methods, I would have to undergo surgery. All I could think was, "God, it wasn't supposed to be like this."
I'd only been back at college for about three weeks for spring semester of my sophomore year, when all this started. At first, I thought my illness was just a passing bug, but it didn't go away. After several days, I'd called my parents to come get me. I knew I needed to see a doctor, and that something was very wrong. The weeks that followed were a blur of consultations, painful outpatient procedures, and medications. I'd hoped to be able to return to school, but it was quickly determined that a medical withdrawal would be necessary.
So much for getting 15 more credits out of the way, spending time with friends, and "normal" college life. None of this was making sense. I thought studying at a Christian college and moving towards a career in psychology was what God wanted for me. Everything had changed so quickly.
My parents and the doctor had all left the exam room for a few minutes, to make various necessary phone calls. Alone with my thoughts, the anger I'd been feeling surfaced. The past six months had been difficult ones for me. I'd been struggling with physical problems, emotional distress, and relationship concerns. I'd been praying and trying to seek God, but was feeling more and more cut off from Him. I felt abandoned. Where was God in all this? It seemed like he had just forgotten about me. I couldn't feel His presence at all anymore.
Facing surgery was the final straw. "Maybe this has all been a lie," I thought. "Maybe God really doesn't exist. Maybe I've been believing in something that's just made up, like Santa." I gave this idea careful consideration. If God didn't really exist, then no wonder He hadn't been responding to my prayers. I was praying to nothing. That almost seemed better than trying to figure out why God was being so silent.
I knew I faced a decision. I had to either choose to believe God was there because He told me He always would be, or I could choose to deny His existence. I tried to picture going ahead with life without a belief that God cared, had a purpose for me, knew what was going on, or was even there at all. This prospect seemed completely bleak and hopeless.
Then, I thought about all the times God had worked so clearly in my life, when circumstances were too straightforward to be coincidence, when I could sense His presence and knew with certainty that He was guiding me and loved me. Those times weren't made up. The experiences were far too real for me to believe that.
I thought about all the beauties of nature. I knew those weren't a product of random chance. I thought about stories I'd heard from others of how God had worked in their lives and about the stories in the Bible that spoke of who God is and how He had worked throughout human history.
I knew I couldn't deny that God existed. Faced with that certainty, the only option I had was surrender to a plan I couldn't understand. I knew I had to trust that God truly was still at work in my life.
I felt like a little child who'd just thrown a big tantrum and was just too tired to kick and scream anymore. "Fine," I said, "You're God, and You'll do what You want to anyway, so I give up. My life is Yours. Just please help me deal with all this."
It wasn't exactly the most reverent prayer. I was angry, confused, and hurting, but God is big enough to deal with raw honesty. All of my questions weren't suddenly answered, and things didn't make an amazing turnaround for me at that moment, but I have never doubted God's existence since this experience.
I didn't know it at the time, but most Christians go through a "dark night of the soul" at least once during their spiritual life here on Earth. God uses such times to help us grow and strengthen our faith. If you are going through such a time, know that it will not last forever.
When we face times of uncertainty, when it seems that God is silent, and when life doesn't make sense, we can look around us at creation, listen to the testimonies of other believers, and read the Bible - to stay connected with the reality of who God is. We can also continue to pray, trusting that God hears us and cares because the Bible says He does, even when we don't feel it. We can also ask others to pray for us.
Prayer: Dear Lord, Thank You that You always listen and care. Help us to trust You, even when we aren't sure what You're doing - and even when we don't sense Your presence. In Jesus' name, Amen.