Dark Nights of the Soul
By Cody T. McCain, Sr.
John 11:39-44 (The Story of Lazarus) and Acts 5:17-21
The number four has a significant meaning in John 11:39-44, describing the death of Lazarus and his miraculous restoration to life by our Christ. Lazarus – meaning “God has helped” – was dead a total of four days before Jesus came to raise him. Genesis 1:14-19 describes day 4 of creation as the day in which God created the sun, moon, and stars, establishing the means for keeping time, distinguishing between seasons, and for direction in travel. Four in Biblical numerology is known as the “number of creation” from which the four cardinal directions (North, South, East, and West), seasons, and time derive their origin. Whether it is day or night, God has provided a means of receiving direction and time by using these “heavenly bodies.”
Lazarus in John 11 became sick, died, and was buried in a dark and isolated tomb, where he remained for four long days. Yet this story has a profound parallel to our lives in that like Lazarus’ name, we have the declaration of God over our lives of Him being our “present help” in the person of His Holy Spirit which He’s sent to dwell on the inside of us. However, despite this fact, God still allows us to enter a season of “night” or a time of darkness (like Lazarus’ grave). Saint John of the Cross – a renowned early church father – referred to this time in a believer’s life as a “dark night of the soul,” a position that feels much like a tomb: dark, isolated, cold, and uninviting; a place we normally and ordinarily would not enter. Yet Jesus allowed Lazarus to enter a “dark night of the soul” by allowing him to die! Upon hearing the news of Lazarus’ sickness in the town of Bethany, Jesus could have very easily made the short journey to heal his beloved friend. Instead, Jesus goes to Judea and waits two more days before going to Bethany. Why would He do such a thing? It was for the glory of God! The miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus back from the dead not only shows the resurrection power of Christ but also symbolizes how as believers we too will encounter “Lazarus seasons” as well; times that seem hopeless and filled with darkness. But just as Jesus allowed Lazarus to lie in the tomb for four days (with four being the number of creation and direction) God allows us to remain in those “night seasons” of our lives to give us direction (since He is the ever shining light) and to do creative work in our hearts and minds (as He is the Creator of all that exists) that would show forth His glory and thrust us into the next dimension of His purpose and plan for our lives! Many times in scripture, some of the greatest miracles and instances of God-inspired instruction came DURING THE NIGHT! An example of a nighttime miracle – that provided direction and created a greater level of faith within hearts and minds – occurred in Acts 5:17-21.
Persecuted and thrown in a lonesome dungeon, Peter and the other apostles experienced a “dark night of the soul.” Yet it was during the night when God manifested a miracle of not only freeing them from prison – because of an angel’s guidance – He also sent a message of direction to the apostles (through the same angel) which said: “Go, stand in the temple and tell the people the whole message about this new life.” When they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and went on with their teaching (Acts 5:19-21). During the night, the apostles received direction and experienced the creation of a greater level of faith, obedience, and zeal for carrying out the assignment for their lives! Just as the disciples entered the temple at daybreak, our “daybreak” out of our night seasons should be a revealing of the work God has done inside of us during the “night”! And like Lazarus, we will be able to bear witness to a greater manifestation of God’s glory and might in our lives when we emerge from our “dark nights of the soul.” When the enemy desires that we think that these types of seasons are going to kill us and separate us from the presence of God, we must be forever mindful that no matter how dark the night, Jesus’ light is perpetually BRIGHT and is faithful to be a “lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path” (Psalm 119:105), even when it seems bleak! In these times, God seeks to reveal Himself even more that we would trust Him and allow Him to work in our hearts and minds in whatever way necessary so that we would move to the next place in Him! So, fret not the night, you have His light ever shining bright, to give you insight and to create within your heart and mind a level of faith, obedience, trust, and fortitude to live a life worthy of the calling that you have received! Be encouraged people of God!
Cody T. McCain Sr. is the owner, funeral director, and embalmer of McCain Funeral Home & Cremations, LLC located in Morganton. He, along with his wife Shaunda, have a passion to serve their community with the love, integrity, and excellence of Christ.
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