“My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning” – Psalm 130:6
I was trying to encourage someone recently who was feeling downcast and slightly depressed over her circumstances. “It’s been so hard for so long” was her general expression of how she was feeling. I went home thinking/praying for her, and was reminded of an audio series I have been listening to off and on again for the last year. It’s called “An Invitation to Solitude and Silence” by Ruth Haley Barton (I strongly recommend this resource to anyone interested in developing the discipline of solitude). Ruth talks about “the waiting room of the soul”. She says when we come before the Lord in solitude that we must wait for Him to come to us. It is His initiative in doing the inner work of the soul. Her insight has helped me significantly in waiting; to keep watch through the long, dark nights.
And there have been many of those.
St. John of the Cross also wrote about this slow, grueling process of inner change, calling it the “dark night of the soul”. His work describes the realities of “growing up in Christ”; the difficulties, the waiting, the discouragement, but also the grace and favor we receive when we experience greater fellowship, communion, and intimacy with the Lord.
Up until a few weeks ago, I didn’t have any firsthand experience of this kind of breakthrough soul progression. I was still lingering in the “dark night”; a life-long, holding pattern in my soul. This wasn’t intentional on my part. It was truly an internal, subconscious, joints and marrow shroud of darkness. It was so intricately wound up in me that only God could sort it out. I literally didn’t know until I knew. But then something truly incredible took place in my soul. Suddenly, everything changed, and I knew it was the Lord. He had come into my darkness and made me light. This was His divine initiative toward me. My only part was to keep watch; a sacred, vigilant look out for the Lover of my soul.
And you know what, He came!
I am so amazed by the profound change in me. I told others who prayed with and for me during this time that I feel like a bride who has been married to the Bridegroom. It’s a whole new level of intimacy with the Lord. This is surely a glimpse of what it means to have truth in my inner being. It is absolutely astounding to me how the Lord can take a lifetime struggle from us in one, single, breath-taking instant. He separates the sinews of the soul and plucks out everything that obstructs a pure, holy union with Him. He wants all of us, every bit.
Today, I hope to encourage anyone who is suffering a dark night of the soul, and we all are in many ways because this is the process of transformation in the Lord. If you are feeling downcast, discouraged, or depressed because “it has been so hard for so long”, don’t give up! Jesus is the Lover of your soul. He is the Bridegroom who is committed to His bride, the church. He “gave himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her by washing with water through the water, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25- 27).
He won’t leave one hidden imperfection in you. You are wholly His and holy in His sight. Like the virgins who waited for the bridegroom to come through the night; some were wise and some were foolish (Matthew 25:1-13). The wise brought oil to keep their lamps burning because they did not know the hour when he would come. When he came, “the virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet” (Matthew 25:10).
Keep watch, the Bridegroom will come to you. Keep the oil of your faith burning, the fragrance of your prayers rising. Rest your hope fully on Him. Jesus said, “Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour” (Matthew 25:13).
We do not know the when but we know whom. Jesus, the Bridegroom, who loves us and calls us each by name. We know “the bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice” (John 3:29). Though we have not seen Him, we love Him and are filled with inexpressible joy!
“You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness to light” (Psalm 18:28).
“Take me away with you…Let the king bring me into His chambers…Dark am I, yet lovely… I delight to sit in His shade, and His fruit is sweet to my taste. He has taken me to the banquet hall, and His banner over me is love” (Song of Solomon 1:4, 5 and 2:3, 4).