THE DARK NIGHT OF THE
from his book Critical Mass
"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will l hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land". 2 Chronicles 7:14.
A key similarity between revival and nuclear fission is a strange phenomenon that occurs right before the atom splits. The nucleus actually depresses. Scientists observe that the neutron bombardment which seemed to be changing the nucleus, now shows no sign of reaching critical mass. Nothing seems to be happening. That is also what happens right before a manifestation of God's glory. The revival core will be praying and sensing a rising tide of power and expectancy. All of a sudden, you hit a brick wall. The power is gone. God's presence seems to have lifted. Your prayers feel trapped in your mouth. A deep despair settles in. You feel physically drained.
This is the 'dark night of the soul'.
This is where every revival pioneer has been before you and now it's your turn. It will take everything in you to keep moving. The sobering fact is that many who have reached the dark night of the soul have retreated. Eternity will reveal a long, sad history of revival near-misses. Let us state emphatically that 90% of revival is getting to the point where an unshakable resolve is born. Everything you have done before you reach this dark night will seem unimportant. It is what you do now that makes or breaks your heart's desire. At no other time does God express love more than when He allows this time of total emptiness. God risks being misunderstood. He faces the potential of one of His children walking away frustrated and confused, but He believes the good it will produce is well worth the risk.
What do you do when this cloud of darkness settles on you?
Scientists respond to a depressed nucleus by intensifying the neutron beam, and resolve to do so until fission occurs. They commit to keep moving, not relying on any physical signs. That is precisely what we must do to see the end of this night. Why does God allow this dark night? It may very well be that our Father realized that those through whom He works to bring revival receive great praise from the church and awesome attacks from Satan. A person lacking humility won't survive the praise of men. A person without perseverance won't overcome Satan. The revival core must realize this and stand the test.
Just as a scientist turns up the force of the neutron beam even though he sees no result, so true revivalists will turn up their prayer during the dark night of the soul. If the children of God demonstrate that they won't go by what they see or feel, God will know that He has vessels that will not rely on circumstances or feelings to keep them on a straight course. If the prayer of the revival core continues during this dark night, their true motive surfaces. The only thing that will hold us when the nucleus depresses is a pure heart of love for the lost and a true desire to see God glorified. God wisely observes that anyone who survives this night is rightfully suited to invade enemy territory.
Again we see this fifth stage in our key verse, 2 Chronicles 7:14, "...will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways...' It would seem that by this stage, God would know we have abandoned our sin. The issue, however, is something deeper; it deals with our ways. Our repentance has dealt with what we have done; now the purification focuses on WHAT WE ARE. The psalmist distinguished two aspects of God: His acts and His ways. "He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel" (Psalm 103:7). The children of Israel only knew God from miracle to miracle, but Moses knew the deep intentions and the long-range plan of God. Moses understood the essence, heartbeat and direction of God. To turn from our wicked ways doesn't just mean to repent of our sins. Hitherto, we have repented of our acts, now we need deliverance from our ways. Gethsemane was the dark night of the soul for Jesus Christ; it was the test of His ways. You wonder if Jesus had to repent. The answer is no, but He had to be examined in His Father's court of justice.
The dark night of the soul is a very baffling test, for it comes at a least expected time and with special conditions. The inner nature must be surprised, caught off guard, in order to be exposed and conquered. In the many records of revival, there is an almost uniform description of this crucible... on the mountain top one moment, feeling run over by a train the next. Joseph, barely recovered from a glorious dream, is thrown into a pit by his brothers. David, still hearing the chant of the throng saying, 'Saul has slain his thousands and David his ten thousands,' wakes up in a cave being hunted like an animal.
Even Jesus, with the hosannas still ringing in His ears from the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, now prays alone, cold, tormented, sweating blood, and surrounded by sleeping disciples. The battlements of heaven are waiting for that unmistakable ring of genuine obedience where the dragon of human nature has been met and beheaded. "Not my will but thy will be done!" Before the crown comes the bitter cup. It must be swallowed to the bitter dregs. So then, what is the Lord really looking for? A servant who knows that the cup cannot pass. Take heart if you wish that it would pass. Even Jesus asked if it was necessary to drink. But He did not ask to escape because of fear of pain or selfishness. He asked because, for the first time in eternity, He would be separated from His Father. He knew that the plan to save man would have to break His Father's heart. Only Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah could begin to understand the grief.
Herein lies the truth that releases the glory. In repenting of sin, we rid ourselves of evil but in the dark night of the soul, we surrender the things we dearly love, things we can't readily identify as being in conflict with God. Here the issue is not right and wrong, but high and low purposes of living. Spiritual awakening is not simply getting rid of sin, it is giving God what He wants. Again and again we have tried to stress that we must conclude with iron resolve that there is no substitute for revival. It is the higher ground we must reach because the flood is rising. No point of return can exist, no alternative can be considered.
For fire to fall and consume the sacrifice, it must be innocent and without blemish, but, most of all, it must be on the altar to stay.
Under every other circumstance our nature can hide, but in this dark night it screams for its way, and its many tentacles are exposed. The protest was immediate. "Why this waste?" screamed the apostles, led by Judas Iscariot. Their outrage was almost convincing. The ointment was worth a year's salary (maybe $50,000 today). It could have been used to have fed the poor, they argued (actually, Judas wanted to steal it). This is the entire issue with revival. They wanted to do something for God. Mary knew it was time to do something to God. The time has come to pour out our best on God. Jesus said, "The poor you have with you always." Good deeds are always available.
America is spiritually dying because God has sales reps and not channels of His glory. We feverishly do the right things, almost as a bribe to postpone the needed pouring out of ourselves as a living sacrifice.
Again we must no longer see the bad things as barriers to revival, but the seemingly good. We can't dole out precious ointment to the poor in doses that don't cure them or honor God. We must be poured out on God! Spiritual awakening means that the faithful become fiery, the decent become dynamic, and the acceptable become excellent. But, most of all, we become disgusted with our evil, and totally dissatisfied with our good.
We realize that now is the time to pull out all the stops. No program is sacred, no worthy project is worth enough. None of the ointment can be spared. It is revival or death! As was said before, the nucleus of the atom depresses right before fission and in that lies another key parallel to revival... the nucleus explodes from that depressed condition. It does not split when it looks inflated and energetic but rather when it is shrunken and lifeless.
Revival comes out of nowhere by sovereign timing. The prayer core is ready to fall from exhaustion but hangs on by its confidence in the faithfulness of God. Jehovah detects that special quality that can be rewarded with revival. An eviction notice falls with a loud crash on the porch of the local satanic supervisor. Angels receive their invasion orders. The prayer core looks up and sees the glory coming. The roar of God is about to be heard in the land once more....
It is only by waiting before the throne of grace that we become endued with the Holy Fire. He who waits there long and believingly will imbibe that Fire and come forth from his communion with God bearing tokens of where he has been. The only way to gain spiritual power is by secret waiting at the throne of God for the endowment. If you would have your soul kindled with the Fire of God you must draw near to the source of that Fire, to the throne of God and of the Lamb, and shut yourself out from the world - that cold world which so swiftly steals our Fire away.
Enter into your closet and shut the door and there, isolated before the throne, await the Fire. It will fill you and when you come forth, holy power will attend you and you shall labor not in your own strength but "in demonstration of the Spirit and of Power" (1 Cor. 2:4).