Sunday, February 22, 2009
I love the book of Isaiah. The more I walk with God and grow closer to Him, the more I can relate to the poor inhabitants of Israel who could never do anything right. They disobeyed God, they worshipped idols, they were unfaithful, and God repeatedly corrected and scolded them. But right in the middle of all that, God also restores them...over and over again. This book speaks to the deep rebellion that lies in the heart of every human, but also shows the bigness and overwhelming nature of God's love for us. He is long suffering, and His love is patient. It never ends, I am never too needy for Him. Never too broken for Him, and never to zealous over Him. I am always enough in God's eyes, just as I am right now.
As I mentioned previously, I am in need of great deliverance from myself. From my selfishness, from control, from all my own wants and desires...to be fully surrendered what God would have for me. And I honestly don't know what that is right now. The one thing I know that God always wants is my heart, my affections, and He spoke it powerfully through Isaiah today.
I will go before you
and will level the mountains;
I will break down gates of bronze
and cut through bars of iron.
I will give you the treasures of darkness,
riches stored in secret places,
so that you may know that I am the LORD,
the God of Israel, who summons you my name.
Some of the biggest mountains God must level are the ones surrounding my heart. The strongest bars of iron and gates of bronze are the defenses I've built up to protect myself. But more and more, I am learning that God is the one who needs to hold the place of defender. Not my own efforts at protecting myself, but allowing God to defend all of my vulnerabilities. There is so much more that He wants to show me and bless me with that my own defenses keep me from receiving
And you know what God promises me? That He will give me the TREASURE of darkness, that my inability so see anything except how much God desires me is His blessing. That tears, mourning and sadness can be beautiful. Because it is in these times that I will find the riches stored in secret places that I might not have ever seen otherwise. All so that I may know that God knows me by name, knows me intimately and beautifully. So I may know that in Him I live and move and have my being. From him comes strength and honor and beauty.
Have you ever experienced the beauty of darkness?
Writing flows from my heart in times of hurt. And friends, it has been a season of suffering. Richard Foster quotes St. John in his book, Celebration of Discipline when he speaks of the Dark Night of the Soul. I have recently been taking the practice of solitude very seriously, which for those of you who know me is quite the contrary to my nature. But in that solitude, God is moving. It's not a happy time, but it is a time that I can praise the Lord for being the Lover of my Soul like no one else.
Foster says that when we practice solitude, inevitably we will enter this dark night. St. John describes it like this,
"the darkness of the sou puts the sensory and spiritual appetites to sleep...It binds the imagination and impedes it from doing any good discursive work. It makes the memory cease, the intellect become dark and unable to understand anything, and hence it causes the will also to become arid and constrained, an all the faculties empty and useless. And over all this hangs a dense and burdensome cloud which afflicts the soul and keeps it withdrawn from God."
Foster goes on to say that it is necessary for during this time every distraction of the body, mind and spirit must be put into a kind of suspended animation before this deep work of God upon the soul can occur. It is like an operation in which the anesthetic must take effect before the surgery can be performed. During these times, Bible reading, sermons, intellectual debate-all fail to move or excite us. I feel that his words adequately describe my soul at this moment.
I can very much relate to this right now. Of course, the Word of God is still able to speak to me and comfort me and my love and worship of my Savior is no less. But after a season of being used and used by God where His light shone out from me, I now feel unable to be used. My light is quietly burning inside my soul, but it feels like it is shining only for my Lover. No one else can see what He is doing inside of me. I don't understand it. I often experience sadness and dullness, but even in this I find hope and rest in the most unusual way. It is often hard to believe that this season will one day produce a fruitful harvest of goodness in my soul. But because I know my God, I know that He will bring fruit and I'm quite certain that it will not be just for my benefit, but that He will once again allow me to pour out my heart and life to those around me. I've never experienced a season quite like this. I thank my God that He loves me enough to draw me away from every distraction, to whisper His love and sufficiency to my ear. I wish I could say this is a season that I have welcomed, but that wouldn't be true. I've fought it, and I've fought it to the end, to the point that I have been wrestled to the ground so that the Lord may perfect and complete His good work in me.
A couple of more thoughts...St. John sums up the dark night in this way,
"Oh then, spiritual soul, when you see your appetites darkened, your inclinations dry and constrained, your faculties incapacitated for any interior exercise, do not be afflicted; think of this as a grace, since God is freeing you from yourself and taking from you your own activity." I need freeing from myself more than anything else...let it be done as you say, Lord. More on God's perfecting work next post....