The sun was down and the thick clouds were starting to roll in from the northwest. The air held a bit of a bite and a promise of snow sooner than later. I wasn’t sure where I was (at least specifically). But I knew I was still north of I-90 and south of Canada…if I walked south, I’d hit the Interstate and find my way back. But back wasn’t what I was looking for…I was looking for my guide. Going back wasn’t the plan, spending time in the long dark night was. I really wanted to spend that time with the comforting knowledge of companionship. You see…I wasn’t lost, I was separated. Sometimes, separation is intended. Separation is when we “sink or swim”.
“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Mark 15:34
Have you ever felt this? Have you ever lied in bed, tears rolling down your face, reaching out for God and finding…nothing? If you haven’t…I feel sorry for you. The verse above was cried out by Jesus while hanging from nails. The same verse was cried out thousands of years earlier by King David in Psalm 22. David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14) and wrote some of the most beautiful Psalms of reaching for God…and finding nothing.
“How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken. But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.” Psalm 13
Our walk to enlightenment will be a long one…and needs tested by separation from time to time. We usually think of separation from God being a sin thing. I have sin in my life and therefore I am separated. Sin certainly can separate us as recorded in Isaiah 59: 1-2, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short, That it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.”
This passage talks about our sins building a barrier between us and God. In fact, the barrier can get so high and so deep…that we can no longer see His face and He cannot hear our cries! In Psalm 13, David asks God how long He will hide His face. It seems that God’s face can be hidden from us by different means….by our own initiative through sin…or by God’s divine plan. The first method is usually recognizable by us and should cause us to fall to our knees immediately in repentance. The second method will undoubtedly cause confusion on our parts because sin can always be found within us. We repent and repent and the separation remains…we start to assume the worst. Has God left me…?
“Who is among you that fears the Lord, That obeys the voice of His servant, That walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.” Isaiah 50:10
I love this verse, “…walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust…”. Even though I reach out and don’t find my God…I know He is there…I know He loves me…I know He has the Kingdoms interests in mind, and therefore my interests in mind. This is a “sink or swim” time in our WALK with Christ. It’s a test. Separation teaches us to TRUST. We do a good job of ‘trust’ when there isn’t another option…health, accidents, etc. When there are many other options, all of them carnally more comfortable….’trust’ becomes harder. It’s as if the Almighty is turning His face from us…taking away the external stimulus…pretending to leave us…and then asks questions of us into our sub-conscious.
- Do you really trust My judgement?
- Will you really follow Me to hell and back?
- Why do I embarrass you?
- Do you really love Me?
- OK…your mind is drifting again, “Do you really love Me?”
Think of the time spent in the ‘long dark night’ as mid-term exams. Life tests us constantly just with the daily grind of things…but the mid-terms are in preparation for ‘what’s next’. That’s exciting…! I want to close this devotional out with a translation of a poem that was written long ago. The poem was authored by St. John of the Cross, and entitled, “The Dark Night of the Soul”
Songs of the soul rejoicing at having achieved the high state of perfection, the Union with God, by way of spiritual negation.
Once in a dark of night,
Inflamed with love and wanting, I arose
(O coming of delight!)
And went, as no one knows,
When all my house lay long in deep repose
All in the dark went right,
Down secret steps, disguised in other clothes,
(O coming of delight!)
In dark when no one knows,
When all my house lay long in deep repose.
And in the luck of night
In secret places where no other spied
I went without my sight
Without a light to guide
Except the heart that lit me from inside.
It guided me and shone
Surer than noonday sunlight over me,
And lead me to the one
Whom only I could see
Deep in a place where only we could be.
O guiding dark of night!
O dark of night more darling than the dawn!
O night that can unite
A lover and loved one,
A lover and loved one moved in unison.
And on my flowering breast
Which I had kept for him and him alone
He slept as I caressed
And loved him for my own,
Breathing an air from redolent cedars blown.
And from the castle wall
The wind came down to winnow through his hair
Bidding his fingers fall,
Searing my throat with air
And all my senses were suspended there.
I stayed there to forget.
There on my lover, face to face, I lay.
All ended, and I let
My cares all fall away
Forgotten in the lilies on that day.