Points to Ponder: You don't need to be alone in dark times

Points to Ponder
You don't need to be alone in dark times

Have you ever experienced what some have called, "the dark night of the soul"? Discouragement looms heavy over your heart. There is an ache within that no medication could take away. And if you feel like praying at all, it's as if your words are bouncing off the ceiling. During times like these the temptation to isolate oneself rises up. Church attendance slips, or stops altogether. And you begin wondering, where is God?
A woman who had gone missing from her church for many months was spotted on the street by her pastor, Dr. D. T. Niles. He asked her where she had been. She said that she had been deeply discouraged for quite some time. She felt that God was far away from her. So she decided to stop coming to worship. Dr. Niles spoke to her heart with these wise words:
"You are going to have times of discouragement - everybody does. There are going to be times when God does seem far away. The trouble is you have been trying to hold on to God alone."
Scripture concurs with this wisdom:
"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up...Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken" (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 and 12).
And Jesus offers this encouragement to draw strength from fellowship:
"For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20).
In the Book of Acts, the early church did amazing signs and wonders and glorified
God among their neighbors because they were all "in one accord" (Acts 1:4; 2:1; 2:46; 4:24; 5:12).
But even the most faithful can drift.
A telltale sign of problems in a person's life, as I've observed it, is when they stop attending church services. Something's going on within them; they can't or won't specify it. But suddenly there is an aversion toward gathering with their spiritual family. They're not staying away to find peace; but to avoid discomfort. Sometimes that inner turmoil they had begun to experience was actually the Holy Spirit moving within them; confronting, convicting, and pressing their soul to face a hard truth. Sometimes He is urging them to humbly step up to a challenge they've repeatedly avoided.
So they go off on their own, avoiding fellowship, so that they and God can tackle it alone. Not that one can't find God in times of solitude; but if that's the long-term set plan, it's no longer God who's in charge. Under the pretense of being alone with the Lord, some have shut the door behind them; as if to tell Him the conditions He must meet before He'll be allowed to enter.
At other times, the dark night of the soul is God's doing. The long silent interval when prayers are hard to say and feel as if they go unheard, is a stretch of spiritual wilderness that can't be explained. It's deep, it's dark, and it goes on for a seemingly long period of time.
But when we intentionally isolate ourselves, disconnecting from fellowship, avoiding accountability to those who care for our souls, it's not a God-centered move. It's a "me-centered," self-focused path. It can be the self-deceptive level of pride that compels the afflicted one to shut off the variety of avenues by which God may best be able to approach them.
When predators look to attack a flock, they'll first be drawn to the isolated ones. These have drifted or went their own way. These are the most vulnerable. Scripture warns us:
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (I Peter 5:8).
It's helpful to know that in your darkest moments, you are not the first to experience this; and you are not alone in it right now. You can make it.
"Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world" (v. 9).

Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship, 12624 Trinity Church Drive, Clear Spring, MD (1/4 mile east of Clear Spring on Rt. 40). These articles (and sermons) are also found at www.hilltopchristianfellowship.com. Listen to Pastor Dennis on WJEJ-1240 AM, Tues and Thurs, at 10:45am and 7:50pm, both days.