There once was a time when the heaviness of this life bore down upon my soul in ways I couldn’t explain or comprehend. If I close my eyes and concentrate, my mind whisks me back there.
I’ve called it my dark night of the soul. It lasted more than a year, in calendar measure, although it felt much longer on the emotional calendar.
I can’t fully explain or pinpoint what God did to turn night into day—there were many who helped, and God met me in mystery both bitter and sweet.
But something remarkable did happen, for I am no longer in the pit of that dark night. And now, I wish I could explain it better or chart the way out so that anyone else who is in the dark can get out too . . . alas, even if I could provide turn-by-turn directions, the list would be of no use for the paths we trod are never duplicated.
Periodically, I see patterns emerging from that time, triggered by things I see or read. Another one popped out yesterday as I read these verses from Hebrews chapter 12: “Therefore strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed” (vv. 12–13).
Can’t you picture your body suffering like this, with weak hands and feeble knees and lame limbs? It’s a physical picture that parallels the spiritual. This is how I felt in the dark—weakened, sapped, wobbly, broken.
I remember the hands of my soul being weary. It was difficult to keep doing the daily things of life. Our hands represent our work, our calling, our praise to God—and in the dark night, my hands were too tired to do any of that!
I remember the knees of my soul being feeble. It was difficult to trust all that God promised to be for me in Christ Jesus. My wobbly knees made for wobbly faith that doubted the goodness and love of God—and faith was the very thing I needed most in the dark night.
And I remember the lame limbs of my soul getting out of joint, causing me all manner of trouble in walking the path of faith. The places I was stunted spiritually were causing me pain because I had immature patterns of thinking which led to immature patterns of behaving—that’s what you call a spiritual limp.
Despite these ailments, Hebrews calls us to set our heart upon two things: 1) strengthen what is weak and feeble and 2) make straight paths to walk on.
When I was week and feeble, I had no energy, no vitality. So I fed constantly on the Word, and some key passages I turned to again and again. The Bread of Life had to be gathered for each day’s meal, just as the Israelites had to gather the manna each day. I would not have made it through the night without the nourishment of the Word.
In addition to taking in the Word, I also had to tend to my environment. I had choices to make about the path before me. Would I clear out the temptations and self-sufficiencies that would beckon me away from faith? Would I set up hedges of protection to safeguard myself against sin’s escape mechanisms? If I didn’t clear the way for life-giving choices, the immature places in me would lead me away from the path of faith.
When the dark night rolls in, knowing what is normal can help. It is normal to feel weak, weary, wobbly, and feeble. It is normal to feel tempted to sin as all your immature places magnify your spiritual limp. This is normal, but not impossible to counteract. Drawing strength from the Word and making straight paths will help.
If you find the dark night rolling in over your life, maybe this will help you stay steady until it passes.