Been re-reading the writings of Nancy Missler today, on The Dark Night of the Spirit. Below are a few excerpts from a 4-5 part message. I highly recommend the entire teaching.
The dark night of the soul is where God focuses on our “outward man” and what we do, whereas, the dark night of the spirit is where God focuses on our “inward man” and who we are.
[Now, it’s important to understand that God cannot be “boxed in” and that He will act upon each of us in His own way. In other words, He will perform His own individual will in each of our lives as He sees fit. First Corinthians 12:11 tells us that God gives gifts “severally as He will” and I believe, it’s the same with His plans for our lives. He accomplishes them as He alone knows best.]
The difference between the two nights can be seen in the analogy of the fire and the log.
In the first night (soul), the fire simply blackens the log, whereas, in the second night (spirit) the fire actually consumes the log. In the dark night of the spirit, God goes after our human nature itself. He exposes our “root systems”—all of our preconceived belief systems, our secret habits, our hidden motives and all of our self-centered ways. God wants these things exposed and eliminated also.
Very often we are hindered from a life of freedom in the Spirit, because of what we think and perceive down deep. Much of what we “do” is based upon what we “believe.” Our belief system not only under girds and supports every thought and feeling that we have, it also influences every action we take. Thus, if we want to change our behavior, we must discover what untruths we are believing. Once we can expose, acknowledge and replace these, then our behavior will change automatically. For example, if we believe that God manifests His Love towards us by allowing only “good and wonderful” things to happen in our lives, then when something “bad” occurs, our belief system will tell us that God does not love us anymore. Therefore, it’s imperative that we exchange the lies of our natural, soulish ways for God’s absolute truth.
So, it’s not necessarily sin that God is focusing on in this second dark night (most people at this stage already love God and already are walking in fear of Him), but on our human nature itself—our natural self-orientation, self-reliance and self-love and all our “natural habits” that do not reflect Him. These are the kinds of things that God wants to expose and eliminate, because these are the attitudes that so often lead us to sin (and become the “roots” of our sin). So, the dark night of the spirit is where God fractures our inner being and strips us of our inward and sometimes hidden soulish ways.
Job is a perfect example of this. He was already daily confessing his sin when God allowed horrendous things to happen in his life. God even comments in the beginning of the book that Job was a “righteous man.” He was “perfect” and “upright” and “one who feared God.” (Job 1:8) But, in the suffering and dark night that God allowed into his life Job died to his religious ways, his domestic affections, his rigid theology and his misconstrued views of God, all of which hindered his spiritual union with God.
The dark night of the spirit is the actual working out of Hebrew 4:12. It’s God’s way of dividing our soul from our spirit.
It’s the gradual penetration of God’s spirit through the levels of our soul down to its innermost hidden depths. In this night, God forces us to look at things that we really don’t see as in conflict with God: our reason, our hopes, our affections, our views, our zeal, our narrow culture, our creeds, our senses, our religious experiences and our spiritual comforts. These are some of the belief systems that often feed our pride and our ego and our self-life.
These habits and self-centered ways of ours will never change, unless God exposes them and uproots them. Again, these attitudes are not necessarily sin, but simply the result of being who we are—human. These “natural ways” come from our upbringing, from the influence of others in our life, from our preconceived value systems, from our habits and from our self-oriented thought processes. This “humanness” will never go away; it will always be there. It’s called the flesh. Nevertheless, God wants to expose it to us, so that we will recognize it and choose to crucify it at the cross. In order to enter the Holy Place of our hearts where God dwells not only must sin be dealt with, but also self must be crucified. Then, and only then, can we be filled with the “fulness of God” and begin to bear much fruit for the kingdom.
A dangerous area during this critical period of time is demonic depression or the feeling of quitting, and giving up. This period of time when the Lord begins to take away all our internal supports can be one of the most dangerous times in a Christian’s life. Many believers become overwhelmed with discouragement and give up the journey here, which is exactly what the enemy wants. He wants us to be so downcast and so depressed that we’ll throw in the towel and totally give up. We have talked extensively about discouragement and doubt. Remember, if we give the enemy a foothold in our soul by entertaining these attitudes, then we’ve had it. We are “dead in the water” before we have even begun.
All the enemy needs is one small opening.
Now, the sad part is that many people give up just before they break through the darkness into the light, just before the victory. People often say that the hardest part of faith is the last half hour, just before the dawn. And it’s certainly true here.
Charles Spurgeon once said, “The wilderness is a way to Canaan. Defeat prepares us for victory. The darkest hour of the night precedes the dawn.” Therefore, unless we look at this period of time through God’s eyes (through His Spirit), and try to understand what His overall plan is, we can slide into the darkness and never come out. If we keep our eyes upon Him, like that eagle, He promises that He will eventually turn the darkness into light. “Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness…” (Psalm 112:4)
The book of Job represents a last day’s believer to whom a series of events happened that seem totally opposed to the loving designs of God. Many of us are in similar circumstances.
We have been stripped of everything: our children, our homes, our finances, our dreams, our hopes, our ambitions, our views, our feelings, our memories, our self-interest, etc. Although Satan desires to pour out upon us a spirit of fear and despondency at this time, just as he did Job, God wants to use this time not only to conform us more and more into His image, but also to separate the fleshly things in our lives from the spiritual and to bring us into experiential oneness. Then we will be able to “meet with Him” and enjoy His presence and He can give us the Love and the intimacy that we have been searching for all our lives.