Down, but not Out
Father God, speak to me through all of life's circumstances. Give me eyes to see and ears to hear.
Consider: "Our Lord favors us with a famine in the land that it may make us seek after himself the more" (Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 1834-1892).
"Spiritual desertion" (sometimes known as "the dark night of the soul") was a term familiar to the Puritans. It describes a crisis of faith in which believers, who are walking faithfully with God, nevertheless experience circumstances that make them wonder if God has abandoned them. Inexplicably, God seems to have withdrawn from them. It is usually temporary in nature, but can last for a long time.
The writer of Psalm 102 is faced with such a crisis. He talks of personal (8) and national (13,20) catastrophe. No clear details are given, though we do know he is physically ill (3,4), desperately lonely (6,7) and close to death (23,24). He confesses no particular sin, so individual wrongdoing does not seem to be the cause, yet God's apparent indifference makes him feel he is under divine judgment (10). Even so, he finds comfort and hope by reminding himself that God is sovereign (12), compassionate (17), almighty (25), eternal (26) and unchanging (27). He is down, but not out!
Why does God allow these "dark nights of the soul"? No adequate solution is provided by our clichés and platitudes that bring no consolation to the afflicted. And the concept of "the victorious Christian life" is emphasized so much that believers experiencing "spiritual desertion" may avoid admitting it for fear of being regarded as inferior Christians. There is, in fact, no easy answer. One legitimate explanation, however, is this: God sometimes makes us feel his absence so that we hunger and thirst for him, the Giver, more than his gifts. And also so that we can better appreciate the price paid for our redemption by Jesus who, while dying on the cross, exclaimed, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46).
Have you experienced "spiritual desertion"? Fear not! You are in good company: Martin Luther, C.H. Spurgeon and C.S. Lewis did too. And so did biblical characters like Abraham, David and Jeremiah!
Lord, when I am empty, You can fill me. Holy Spirit, excavate a void in me so that I can experience Your fullness.
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