Coming Through the Dark Night of the Soul

In pop culture, it’s cool to explore your spirituality, escape religion and search for God—it’s not cool to find Him. It’s definitely not cool to tell people once you do.

In a spiritual age that celebrates authenticity over assurance, it seems that questions are the new answers. Rather than embracing doubt as a vehicle to truth, the two have become nearly indistinguishable. Blessed assurance isn’t so blessed anymore.

Evening

For many, the temporary “dark night” of the soul is now a permanent reality. Rather than searching for truth, today’s postmodern climate finds truth in the very act of searching. There is an upside to this—questions are necessary to facilitate exploration. However, when the entire Christian faith is consumed by the deconstructive machine of postmodern culture, what’s left? For many of us, the answer is “not much.”

My soul’s “dark night” nearly destroyed my personal faith. I dove into philosophy, apologetics, emergent theory, anything I could get my hands on that would provide answers to the questions I was asking. Nothing seemed to work. Rather than definitive answers, I ended up with more questions. Why did God order the slaughter of innocent women and children in the Old Testament? How does a perfect God allow imperfection to plague His creation? Does God really condemn people to a fiery hell of eternal conscious torment? According to the intellectuals I was reading, I was supposed to live with these doubts ... even embrace them! I don’t know about you, but getting buddy-buddy with a God who kills babies during Hs spare time is not my idea of vibrant faith.

One can only bend so much before they break. Eventually, I did.

Midnight

It was in this time of brokenness I realized how far I had fallen. I had set off on a spiritual road trip with no destination, and was crushed when I didn’t get there. It was not a lack of trust that pulled me down, it was trust in the wrong things. Instead of reliance on God, I had faith in my faith. Pursuing authenticity was a goal in and of itself. Intellectual curiosity was what I aimed for, and I hit the target.

Like any decent sunset, my candle slowly burnt out until there was nothing left. I never saw it coming.

Eventually, things started to turn around. I stopped grimacing at the phrase “going to church.” I removed Joel Osteen from my tentative list of the worst people of all time. I abandoned my plans to duct tape a list of 95 grievances to my church door. The morning sun was beginning to shimmer in the eastern sky.

Morning

I now consider myself a post-postevangelical. I’ve been dissatisfied. I’ve searched for answers. I’ve explored alternatives. And now, like a boomerang, I’ve returned to my launching pad. While I don’t believe the same things I did before, I believe, period. That’s certainly progress.

I’m finding that “evangelical” need not be a swear word, that megachurches aren’t akin to Nazi Germany, and that the valley of the shadow of death is little more than an overrated tourist trap.

After searching the Scriptures, I was surprised to find that U2 isn’t necessary for praise and worship, that coffee shop churches don’t have a monopoly on orthodox ecclesiology and that Donald Miller is not listed in Hebrews chapter 11.

Furthermore, I’ve discovered searching for a light switch is the best usage of a flashlight. Living in constant darkness just isn’t sustainable. Eventually, you simply run out of batteries. The means have to point to an end lest they become it. My struggle with doubt nearly killed me, but looking back, it only made me stronger.

Tim Chermak is a writer especially interested in asking the hard questions of faith and ecclesiology. He is currently working on a degree in Social Philosophy at Calvin College.

42 Comments

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Tim Chermak commented…

I think the root of the problem is for those of us who grew up in an attractional church model, we've never been exposed to doubts, doctrinal controversies, etc.

Prior to heading off to college, the extent of my theological knowledge consisted in apologetics I learned in church......I understood how to defend against atheistic objections, but I knew nothing about my own faith.

84,949

Corrine Clouse commented…

God is not as interested in what is going down around you, as He is interested in how you react to what is going down around you. If you refuse to understand and make connections with people who are searching in the wrong places for answers, the right answer will never be given to them. Not through you anyhow. Where exactly was Jesus to be found? In all the wrong places, according to the Pharisees. Go where God sends you. Your war is not against flesh and blood, it is against demonic principalities. You can be nothing less than a conquerer, if you remember who you belong to.

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Guest commented…

I agree. Growing up in the church and a Christian school I was taught how to refute atheism and told to reject evolution. However, when faced with doubts and questions I had never experienced before it caused me to think about my faith in a new way and question my beliefs in a way I never had before. Due to my background I felt that I should have clear, clean-cut answers to every problem and to have doubts was problematic to my faith. I feel the environment I grew up in caused me to believe that being sheltered and apart from the world would be the best solution, but I've found avoiding the world and the doubts and questions that come with it are detrimental rather than positive to my faith. My avoidance of questions and seclusion from the world of doubts was not even faith, but rather blinded hopeful thinking. As I've searched for answers and faced difficult questions I believe that I've developed real faith which I had never experienced before, and allowed me to grow in ways I never would have without exposing myself to the world and the real issues that exist.

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Tim Chermak commented…

Your story is basically identical to mine! Good to know Christianity is a team sport.....

daveme7

29

daveme7 commented…

I do not nthink it is to hard to understand what one finds in the bible-how can God kill? Because he can. As he is not only the originator of life but also the the source of death. God gives life and takes it as his pleasure as in the bible in Hebrews-God determined a time and a day for when one looses life. This all seems against our thinking as the bible in Isaiah 55 teaches his thoughts are higher then our thoughts. For all the stuff about doubting-it becomes clear-God wants us to forsake our thoughts and our ways as they are not God's ways.

As Christ allowed wicked hands to crucify him as he gave his life up judged as a sinner-are we greater than God? In Matt 16 when Christ taught to give up your life so you might find life by denying yourself, picking up your cross(an instrument of death to kill rebels) and follow Christ-pretty muh this sums up the experiance God laid down for us when Christ served us in his death-being held responsible for our sins.

About imperfections-why did God allow this to happen? Thisd is what humanity wanted as we stepped away from God in Adam to be self reliant in self righteousness as self redemption. God never intended for man to know evil or good as you cannot have one without the other as in the knowledge of good and evil-God intended us to only know Christ-and not good or evil. For these reasons God departed and judged this planet as sinful as man.

Why did God do this? Because he can. The whole point of the scriptures is there is a God and we are not. Our only hope is in God and if everything was done and taken care of in perfection when man(Adam and Eve) detested the perfect God, I tend to think no one would ever come to God as even in Psalms 14 and 53-we see oin imperfection-everysingle one of us has renounced the deity known as Christ and hate God-only his perfect redemptive work in election and mercy restores this relationship of creator and created.

Ultimately, whatever God does is righteous and holy as these never contradict his love.

When reading this, this reminds me of another seeming perplex question-why does God allow evil? His mercy and love is what I point to as basically as the consistant God-if he was to stop one unrighteous act-he would have to stop all and we all would be in hell right now if this is the case.

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