Running in the Dark Night of the Soul

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Incisive wisdom sometimes is spawned in the hearts of people who not only know the Scriptures, but also speak its truths in unique ways. Note A Tale of Three Kings, a Study in Brokenness, by Gene Edwards. That book made its mark on me. It’s a study in the lives and pain and elevation and fall of Kings Saul, David and Absolom. I studied that book—at least twice in 2004 and beyond—when I was in what the Puritans called The dark night of the soul (Psalm 88:17-18). A dark night can last a long time. In my case, it was a years-long struggle as a non-vocational elder at Harvest Bible Chapel and then as the developer and director of Harvest Bible Fellowship until I left late in 2009.

Many comforts and pleasures come with complicity to sinful power. Many torments and rejections come from speaking against that sinful power. As one of the leading elders told me after I was embroiled in a contentious meeting of Harvest Bible Fellowship senior pastors: I can’t tell if you’re a great fool or a really brave man. That is the crux of the matter. Each man is a mixture of both in greater or lesser levels. Each man sees his circumstances and then runs his race. Watch the pattern of how he runs under pressure because, as we say, Character is revealed under pressure.

Here’s a string of wisdom pearls from Gene Edwards’ book—written in italics—followed by references to values that are core to the church planting and strengthening ministry of FiveStone Churches:

  • David before he assumed the position of king: David was enrolled not into the lineage of royalty but into the school of brokenness. God did not have—but very much wanted to have—men and women who would live in pain. God wanted a broken vessel. (Character before gifting.)

  • King Saul, who saw David as an enemy: Saul did what all mad kings do. He threw spears at David. He could. He was king. Kings can do things like that. (You’re not wrong just because a leader is mad at you. Keep your composure, hold your ground, be ready to explain your position based on the Scriptures. That’s Ecclesiastes 10:4)

  • Identifying the Lord’s anointed: You cannot tell who is the Lord’s anointed and who is not. No man is wise enough to break the riddle. Ask yourself: ‘Is this man the Lord’s anointed? And if he is, is he after the order of King Saul?’ You may have to ask it of yourself a thousand times. If your king is truly the Lord’s anointed, and if he also throws spears, then there are some things you can know, and know for sure. Your king is quite mad. And he is a king after the order of King Saul. (Integrity proves Authenticity. Authenticity leads to Trust. Trust leads to Leadership. Leaders Serve.)

  • When David left King Saul: David never made the decision. The king’s own decree settled the matter! There’s only one way to leave a kingdom. Alone. Why does God give power to unworthy people? The answer is both simple and shocking. He sometimes gives unworthy vessels a greater portion of power so that others eventually see the true state of internal nakedness within that individual. A person can be living in the grossest of sin, and the outer gift will still be working perfectly. If you are young and have never seen such things, you may be certain that sometime in the next 40 years you will see. Highly gifted and very powerful men and women . . . reputed to be leaders in the kingdom of God, do some very dark and ugly deeds. What does this world need, gifted men and women outwardly empowered? Or individuals who are broken, inwardly transformed? (Character before gifting. The church rises and falls on the quality of biblical leadership.)

  • The order of King Saul reveals: The passing of time (and the behavior of your leader while that time passes) reveals a great deal about your leader. And the passing of time reveals a great deal about you. (Character before gifting. Character is revealed under pressure.)

  • What David taught about leading: David taught me losing, not winning. Giving, not taking. He showed me that the leader, not the follower, is inconvenienced. David shielded us from suffering; he did not mete it out. Men who have authority don’t talk about it all the time. (Leaders serve.)

  • What Absalom did to to keep his people in line: Not all will be willing to go along. Will he (Absalom) still be determined to put all his dreams into being? If so, then Absalom has one recourse: Dictatorship. Either that, or he will see few, if any, of his grand dreams accomplished. He will squelch rebellion and rule with an iron hand . . . and by fear. He will eliminate all opposition. (Leaders serve. We influence by relationship, not mandate. Chararcter is revealed under pressure.)

  • How can you know whether a church is led by flawed men or by those unworthy of submission? Even if there were a list let down from heaven, wicked men would arrange their kingdoms to fit the list. And if such a list existed and a good man filled it to perfection, there would be rebels claiming he had not fulfilled one qualification. (I think author Edwards misses the target here. Counterfeits look and feel real, but somebody needs to exercise bald and bold discernment. Problem is that it’s difficult to see clearly, especially when you’re in the midst of the culture in question and you’re basking in the glow of supposed success. It’s also extraordinarily difficult when the targeted rebel loses his friends because word’s been put out that he’s a wicked sinner.)

  • If it’s so hard to see, is there no hope for those who follow unworthy men? Their grandchildren will see the matter clearly. They will know. As surely as the sun rises, people’s hearts will be tested. The hidden motives within the hearts of all who are involved will be revealed. The motives of the heart will eventually be revealed. God will see to it. (I’d often heard that truth and time go hand in hand, but I had wondered whether there was a biblical basis for the thought. It made sense, but I wasn’t sure it was rooted in the Scriptures. Then I hunted around the Bible and landed on Ecclesiastes 8:10-13. There it is. Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of man is fully set to do evil . . .)

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