We’ve seen how the dark night of the soul is another step in our spiritual walk. We’ve examined how cliches often fall short in dealing with people going through dark times. Lastly, we’ve looked at the “movements” of the process. During this time, there are three things we need to be careful of:

1) Satan can use this time to further throw you for a loop. I’m not a big “Satan” guy. I don’t blame him for a lot. I don’t stub my toe then start shouting “Satan I rebuke you.” This is mostly a reaction to people who blame him for everything. At the same time, though, he’s very real and represents a very real threat. The name “Satan” means “the accuser” and during these times we are very vulnerable to being accused.

Let’s face it, during this time, nothing seems to gratify you anymore. Not work, not relationships, nothing. In an attempt to feel better, to fill that void, you may be tempted to fill it with whatever temporary gratification that may come your way, be it whatever vice or even a good thing, but still the wrong thing.

2) Be careful of blasphemy. Job chides God for acting unjustly, questioning Him. This differs from the approach his wife wanted him to take (curse God and die, from Job 2:9). Again, Renee Alston puts it like this:

“Give me yourself,” he says, “trust me without these protections, trust me with your pure vulnerabilities.” And I laugh. “And what will you do with them?” I wonder, knowing all too well what this means. The rage wells up within me, like fire.

“And what have you done? What have you saved me from? I have spent a lifetime yearning for you, aching, longing, desiring to be whole more than any other thing. I have brought as much as I could to your feet–passed them over, surrendered my will, and all I have received is silence. This much I have given, and would give more, but for a word, an acknowledgment, a sense of comfort. And yet there is still nothing.

“You ask me to be vulnerable, and I have been. You ask me to surrender, and I stand before you already empty-handed. You ask for my trust, and yet you have never earned it. How can I dare to believe you are good if my life has been filled with so much bad done in your name, if you cannot even respond to all that I have already sought to answer that which I have already asked? I cannot trust what is untrustworthy.”

You might get angry with Him – because things it won’t make sense. This is a fine line to walk, after all, what kind of friendship would we have if we weren’t allowed to be real with each other? On the other hand, He’s God. That settles many arguments for me. I can argue with my wife, there are the rare occasions when I think that she’s lost her mind. But even in the most heated conversation, I’m careful because I can’t unsay things.

3) Spiritus Virtiginis (a “dizzy spirit” that errs in everything) – This is just a fancy way of observing that we are susceptible to spinning all over the place trying to find a solution because we are still in service to our idol of answers. We are trapped in the tyranny of having to do something for the sake of doing something. Gerald May, a psychiatrist, puts it this way:

It seems specifically designed for people like me, people who refuse to relinquish the idea that if only I could understand things, I could make them right…… we desperately try to figure out where we have gone astray. ‘‘What’’s happening here? Where have I gone wrong? Maybe my problem is this…… No, maybe it’’s that…… Perhaps I should try this…… Or that…… I simply must be more diligent! Perhaps if I tried……’’ We make countless resolutions to be more discipline in our lives; we read self-help books, go to workshops, anything we can think of.

Look, true faith is not without hardships, nor is it all that pragmatic. So when problems arise, there are no pat answers. There are no steps. It sucks. Endure it. Hold on. These times of crisis will either break us and cause us to abandon God or break us down and draw us nearer to Him. We, as a community of believers, need to be there for each other. Those cliches might be true, but sometimes people are rarely in a place to hear them. Jesus isn’t going to hold you, but Jesus through us can. We need to be Jesus to those going through times of darkness. When they come to us, we need to honor their unbelief, their struggles, their questions, their doubts. Show them mercy, grace, and acceptance. Love them while they are broken.

Those going through those times need to be faithful. This won’t always look pretty.

I know that we hear all these stories about overcoming faith and God blessing the people who have all these great stories, who said and did the right things; but I know for me, getting through my dark times has never looked pretty. Usually, it involved a lot of being curled up in bed screaming. It might just be you crying out to him until things hurt less. I know it sounds like I’ve tried to have it both ways: questions are good, but don’t get lost, or trapped, in your search for answers, especially for answers that ultimately you won’t find. There is a limit to man’s wisdom, since we can’t understand God’s ways, fear Him and love Him. When the times get bleak, all you can do is reach out for your first tether, your life preserver, your walk, your relationship with Christ

A lot of times we place our love and faith in the wrong things (or good things that aren’t the best things). Confusing our spiritual ideas with some distorted ideas of God. Somewhere along the line forgetting what being spiritual truly means. Sometimes it takes a loss of control to remind us, to re-shape us. Hopefully you will figure out what’s really important about your faith and walk, leading to greater faith.

The journey inward is part of the progress. You have to stick to it. Some people compare this time to God actually “giving” you more responsibility by not guiding you by the hand any more. Kind of like a parent with a teenager, how dealing with them is akin to handling a wet bar of soap: you want to keep them in your hand, but the best way to do so is in a loose grip because the harder you hold onto them the more likely they will just squeeze out. Regardless of imperfect analogies, go before God without pretending. Be broken, empty, terrified. Be honest with your pain, rather than put it behind you. Relief comes through honest dialogue. The more doubt expresses itself, the more it is allowed to be exposed, the easier it can be dealt with. Rather than keeping it inside, eating away at you like cancer. Be vulnerable, but still believe in your darkest moments of unbelief.

God is sitting shiv’ah with us during our dark nights of the soul. Grieving with us. Restoring us. In that we need to have, and can find, hope. Or, as one of my board moderators put it “I suppose, one must find the faith to thrash, and that one’s friends must find the faith to let them. To be able to hold onto God, and scream “I DON’T UNDERSTAND THIS!!!!!!”… but to hold on, because in the midst of all whirlwind He’s whispering in your ear, “I know you don’t. But I do.” …that’s the choice that we all have to make in the middle of the darkest nights. Will we hold on. And do we have the eyes to see that it is, in the end, in reality, the only thing that we really have to hold onto… and that it’s everything else that is the illusion.