The King's Gardeners Ministries

Reverend S. L. Gardner

Spokane Valley, Washington US

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- The Dark Night of the Soul -

God Growing Us Through Tribulation

Rev. Dr. S.L. Gardner

Having personally experienced the Dark Night of the Soul I can say of all the maladies that can hit us this has got to be right up there with the worst. At least being burned at the stake doesn't take so long! Now doesn't that sound encouraging? God's maturation process isn't always sweetness and light. My purpose here is to give you examples of what this phenomenon is all about. It is not a pleasant thing but in the end the fruit of this process is positively life changing.

I hope that as you read this and identify with what is said here you can take courage. There is an end to this road. The Word challenges us to pick up our cross daily. That isn't an easy task but the rewards are great. If you are going through a time of "Job's testing" take heart, you will come through a positively changed person if you don't run from all that God is challenging in you.

Because of common teachings when Christians go through tribulations or the valley of the shadow of death we simply aren't prepared to deal with it. Hopefully you may identify with some of what is described here and at least know that you're not on a dead end slide to destruction.

How do I describe the dark night of the soul? I guess to put it concisely I could identify with Jesus saying My God, My God why have you forsaken me! No kidding it's that bad and anyone who has gone through it knows it. Job went through the dark night of the soul and survived. I thank God for that example. It shows us how far some of us will be tested and what God does for those who stand through that testing. It also shows us that we will be blessed abundantly in the very areas where we are tested. Hallelujah!

I know I'm going to conflict with major theology now but that's nothing new for me. Where theology conflicts with the Word of God, (accurately translated), as manifested through personal experience the theology is what needs to change. The idea of personal suffering for most Christians is akin to speaking that satan is our friend. We are taught that God is Love and that means no pain, no "chastisement" and in a nutshell nothing bad ever happening to us that we can't blame on ole archenemy Satan NOT!!! Frankly I think Satan gets all together too much credit. Our flesh is what the Word says must be destroyed. Satan is resisted and flees.

The Dark night is a good thing although it doesn't seem so at the time. It is a time of testing where our faith is challenged in every area. It is a time when our choice to follow God is brought to it's simplist terms. If NOTHING in our lives ever goes well again (which is one of the common thoughts) we will believe in God and Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. If NOTHING ever turn out we will remain faithful to our eternal God. In the dark night everything else gets stripped away.

We are taught to avoid suffering no matter what the cost. Suffering frightens us and is blamed on us in a negative way. Like Job we are accused of suffering with cause and condemned for it happening because we are in some imperceptible sin, or because we haven't prayed hard enough, worked hard enough, been good enough, given enough money, time, goods or a myriad of other things.

The Dark Night of the Soul brings us to true repentance not just greasy grace. It turns our lives around permanently, changes us positively and leaves us better than before with no "ghosts" in the closet to come back on us. It exposes all forms of unbelief, personal insecurity and need for self-validation. It exposes any need for control, domination or abuse. It exposes our fears and seeks to destroy anything supporting these negative things in our lives. The process consumes us as the Lord breaks and rebuilds us. It kills the fleshly ambition in us and every sinful habit until nothing is left and we stand before the Creator of the Universe. At that point we are so aware of our own nakedness and inability as an absolute reality. Do we become perfect when it's over? No. But we do become more Christ like and easier for our Creator to use for His kingdom. We become stronger in pure belief in God without so much legalism and dogma. We become people of stronger integrity and conviction tempered with true compassion and balanced Love.

We can identify with David as he struggled with his own humanity. David who was a man after God's own heart. David was also one of the biggest sinners recorded in the Bible. It is also recorded that he only made his "mistakes" once. He was a man of repentance that allowed God to reach deep into his soul and do the work of redemption. As we progress through the Dark Night we can take heart knowing that no matter how deeply or grievously we've sinned God will forgive and restore.

Revelation 3:19 says, "Those whom I deal and tenderly love, I tell their faults and convict and convince and reprove and chasten. I discipline and instruct them…." (amp)

Proverbs 3:11 tells us, "My son, do not despise or shrink from the chastening of the Lord. His correction by punishment or by subjection to suffering or trial; neither be weary or impatient about or loathe or abhor His reproof." (amp)

Jeremiah 32:42, "For thus says the Lord: As I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them." This is only one of many scriptures where God sends evil as a form of correction. God is the same yesterday today and forever. His way of dealing with humanity is consistent. With Christ as our sacrificial Lamb we are secure in knowing we are children of God with all the name "children" implies. As our loving Father he is "training us up in the way we should go".

(Pro 22:6) Hebrews 12:4-9 tells us, "You have not yet struggled and fought agonizingly against sin, nor have you yet resisted and withstood to the point of pouring out your own blood. And have you completely forgotten the divine word of appeal and encouragement in which you are reasoned with and addressed as sons? My son, do not think lightly or scorn to submit to the correction and discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage and give up and faint when you are reproved or corrected by Him; For the Lord corrects and disciplines everyone whom He loves, and he punishes, even scourges, every son whom He accepts and welcomes to His heart and cherishes. You must submit to and endure correction for discipline; God is dealing with you as with sons. For what son is there whom his father does not thus train and correct and discipline? Now if you are exempt from correction and left without discipline in which all of God's children share, then you are illegitimate offspring and not true sons at all. Moreover, we have had earthly fathers disciplined us for only a short period of time and chastised us as seemed proper and good to them; but He disciplines us for our certain good, that we may become sharers in His own Holiness. For the time being no discipline brings joy, but seems grievous and painful; but afterwards it yields a peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it a harvest of fruit which consists in righteousness - in conformity to God's will in purpose, thought, and action, resulting in right living and right standing with God." (Amp)

As you can see from the last scriptures in verse 11 it specifically says that no discipline brings joy while it's happening. The absence of joy does NOT necessarily indicate that you are demon oppressed or backslidden. The dark night is a growing and cleansing process. Remember as I describe this dark night that the promised land is on the OTHER side of the wilderness.

In the dark night of the soul one of the things I find common experience is profound misunderstanding. It seems that no one understands what you're doing or saying correctly. No one seems to hear what you have to say. This situation is enough to drive a sane person crazy and a crazy person sane! The fruit of this part of the trial brings about a peace and new perspective where it comes to having to make everyone understand. Sometimes it just isn't going to happen. I also learned that some people just don't want to understand and God was trying to teach me not to beat my head against every brick wall that comes into my life. Another "fruit" is being able to say what you mean. I know that may sound strange but so many of us have been taught to say things indirectly because maybe we would offend someone with what we say. No, I'm not talking about BEING offensive I'm talking about not speaking clearly and concisely because of fear of rejection or causing upset. Our Lord spoke directly and let the chips fall where they might. He was always loving but that didn't mean wishy washy either.

During this time you can be surrounded by Job's comforters, quick fixers, on one side those who would condemn and on the other greasy grace. Greasy grace is the perversion of real grace that tells us it's OK to run away from God's will. The rational is that we just "move on" and it's OK because God is love. Greasy grace says you can begin again without any kind of repentance. WRONG! This belief is pervasive in the Christian community worldwide. That heresy perverts God's laws and makes wrong right or worse it makes it of no consequence. This doctrine of demons defiles many.

I've heard that if we aren't willing to fall on THE Rock of God that the Rock will fall on us. In the life of each believer comes a time when that breaking is very very real. If we run from it God just has to create another situation to break us. Remember the old saying. If we fix the fix that God has fixed to fix us He will just have to fix a fix to fix us again? (Try saying that ten times fast.)

I found myself with everything around me falling apart or dead. When I say everything I mean it. Even the mechanical things I owned were old and for the most part broken. Just remember as with Job the restoration after the fact is marvelous. The house I lived in was in shambles and there was nothing I could do to fix it. I was completely at the mercy of anyone who would help me. God even took the help away for a very long time to teach me faith and His provision. I learned lack to appreciate blessings in all things in a new way. During that time of lack I survived and nothing more. I tried to trade to have things done because money was scarce and got taken to the cleaners more than once. This was definitely not God's blessing or so I thought at the time.

During an intense part of the Dark Night I sat in deterioration and destruction in every part of my life including relationships. I was falsely accused of horrendous things and never given a chance to defend my innocence. Death was a constant companion thought. When something good would happen I'd be waiting "for the other shoe to drop". I could really identify with the writer of Psalms 88:3-5. God had custom made a circumstance to bring me closer to Him in ways I'd never experienced. No, I don't believe God created all my bad circumstances. He used what had been done to me in the flesh of man and the enemy jumped on for evil and turned it for my good.

During this time I prayed and prayed and even questioned God's existence. At another phase I couldn't even pray. I had been repeatedly wounded so deeply and completely I was totally shattered. I was condemned without benefit of defense on more than one occasion. Through this the Lord started rebuilding me and I hope that rebuilding never stops!

Those in the Dark Night go through humiliation and I was reduced to a state where all that matters is the presence and Love of Jesus in my life. I faced my sins and failings and knew there is no hope but God and His provision through Jesus Christ. I believe this humbling is more severe for those believers in countries where "self" esteem is so highly prized and "goal orientation" is prominent. I really believe it's going to be harder on people anywhere that our own talents, knowledge, skill, beauty, personality... in otherwords where self gratification through self promotion is prevalent. Key word self - as in self-gratification, self-centered, self-aggrandizement etc.

At a certain point the "wilderness" is also a place of rest. Hallelujah! That place is lonely sometimes but I learned my limitations and found it's OK to be limited because where we end God begins. I learned to want to "end" my own self quicker! The loneliness became a time of refreshing and transformation that I treasure now. During this time you learn a new perspective on just about everything. You also learn that having to have people around to make your life complete isn't the most desirable thing. Corporateness becomes a valued commodity in which you participate - not an unhealthy self need.

I was continually put into the fire. As is normal with most of us going through the dark night I was subjected to soul killing pain, and judged for sins I committed and many I didn't even think of committing! I found myself looking waaaay up to see the bottom of the barrel over the hole I felt I was in. I learned to be angry and sin not. I learned we have no faith no matter how great our faith is. I became grateful for the gift of faith. I learned to look to the Lord even for my faith! After all He is the author and finisher of it isn't He?

The Dark Night of the soul is preparation but preparation for what!! We aren't even told that! At times there are no goals to reach except to survive one day at a time. Through that I found that My God is a God of Now. I have a poster on my wall that says, "I was regretting the past and fearing the future. Suddenly my Lord was speaking: 'My Name is I AM' He paused, I waited, He continued, 'When you live in the past with its mistakes and regrets it is hard. I am not there. My Name is not I WAS. When you live in the future with its problems and fears, it is hard. I am not there. My Name is not I WILL BE. When you live in this moment it is not hard. I am here. My Name is I AM." (Helen Mallicoat) That was a hard lesson to learn as long term problem after long-term problem was constantly in my face. However the positive fruit from this is learning a new kind of responsibility that has a balance to it which brings Shalom. Shalom is an exceptional peace that goes beyond understanding. It comes from the realization that there is completeness with God. It is a wholeness when everything in your life is fractionalized.

God let everything in my life unravel so that I knew only HE could put it back together again. Can we find a shortcut!!!??? Can you bail out? Yep. It's called Apostasy at it's worst and at the very least it's rebellion. Disobedience looks good and Christian witchcraft can be oooh so appealing. We seek relief in counselors and conferences and books and ministries. Thank the good Lord that through each of these efforts we can find some nugget of truth that aids us on our way.

We may look for the way out of the wilderness. We may make plans, bargains with God and waste a lot of energy for nothing. We can't shorten the time and get to the other side but we can make that journey longer. How? Redemption is a painful process and if you dive into the pain, do the work needed to deal with your own sins, failings and faults the time moves right along. If you fight what God is trying to do and get bitter and complaining and run from true repentance you extend the process. We all do this to a certain extent but the quicker a person learns to embrace the pain the quicker the root causes of the problems are exposed and healed. Our future is changed for the better.

Religious spirits make a formula out of our intimate relationship with God. One symptom of that is serving by wrote, we do what is expected and that's that. We may serve under duress and not even realize it. Our heart can be numb or far from what we are doing. We can forget that we cannot understand God and that we are NOT little gods running around as captains of our own ships. Well that may not be true. We may captain our little ship but we are afloat on the great sea our God made, controls, and breathes life into. We have learned to do this and that to "get" God to do what we want. That kind of manipulation brings us to disappointment. Continuation in that mindset causes us to fall into pride and pride causes us to fall hard and most times quite publicly. That pride creates abusers and division.

When we suffer we can blame God but in that we revel in our own self-pity. The Dark Night of the Soul teaches us to be content in whatever circumstance we are in as long as it isn't in sin. The dark night teaches us to repent and that we can't hide anything from God under Biblical armor.

A person in the dark night of the soul isn't fun to be around so most Christians spend a cursory amount of time with us and then we start hearing phrases like, "get over it" and all the phrases Job heard only modernized. Because of this isolation is preferred. God uses that isolation too. In every aspect of the Dark night good sweet fruit is produced. While in the process we don't always see or feel the fact that the crushing is producing a sweet sweet fragrance before our Lord.

One of the things I found was very interesting. As hard as I tried God would not let me completely back out of ministry. Those that are called are not "uncalled". At one point I was ordered by an authority figure to leave all churches, hole up and seek the Lord. I was forbidden to speak to any member of any church. I was shunned because of a false accusation without any opportunity to defend myself. Because I had a perverted belief of what submission to authority was I took the shunning to heart.

However, within a week of the order to shun me, the Lord maneuvered me into a position where I was taken out of the country. Yes I mean that - God maneuvered me, He knew exactly what I needed and caused circumstances to coincide to put me where He wanted me. I thought I was just going along for the ride. Not so. The Lord ministered to me and through me in such a mighty way for two weeks that a tremendous amount of healing and personal restoration was accomplished. No, it wasn't me making something happen, it was the Lord showing me that He hadn't blessed the judgments laid against me and was over riding the command of man. During this time I learned that there was such a thing as this "Dark Night of the Soul". The interesting part of that was I'd come nearly through it before I found out it existed. It was another year before I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and months after that before I saw some blessings overtake me other than sheer survival.

During the time of the dark night of the soul the "blessing" we receive is sometimes not being blessed beyond our basic existence! Now that sounds contrary, but it seems to be a consistent part in most Dark Night experience. We literally have to decide why we believe in God and choose to obey and hold true to what you believe "just because". God is testing our integrity, character and our belief in Him. Nothing remains untouched. I was faced with my own powerlessness and shown that God is even greater than the mistakes I made. I was forced into positions that definitely were not my will and God showed me that His will was greater than mine.

We are constantly told that our lives will parallel Christ's life. Well Christ suffered! The disciples suffered and so did all the converts. The belief that suffering is not a part of our lives because Jesus paid the price so we don't have to suffer is foolish. Why are we to be "overcomers" if there is never anything to overcome?! We have a condensed version of the dark night as we watch Peter deny Jesus and then become one of the greatest disciples as "the light dawned". God will test, try and refine us.

Pastor Loren Sandford is another believer who has gone through the Dark Night of the Soul. He has listed 9 purposes for it. I agree with his conclusions so to save myself some work I'll give him credit for the following nine items by quoting him.

1. To bring about abandonment of any hope of personal reward for loving or serving God. (Luke 17:7-10 speaks of the slave who gets no praise for merely doing what he was ordered to do. It must be enough for us simply to know that we've done as our Lord has asked, no matter the outcome, or apparent lack of it. As long as some hope of personal reward survives to motivate our service, it colors what we do, how we do it and what kind of energy we put into the doing of it.

2. To expose and purify defects by breaking them. In fact, the purpose of the dark night is to expose everything about you as defective. You will appear stripped of every virtue. Romans 7:18… We're not basically good people who somehow got broken and are going to be fixed by Jesus. We're thoroughly sinful people who must be crucified WITH Him."

Pastor Sandford goes on to say, "There were times during that dark night when I found myself in situation after situation in which I had to make a choice, but no matter what choice I made, I would appear to have broken my word. No matter what I did, I could not act with apparent integrity. I felt stripped of virtue with no way out. Why did God put me in such a position? Because it was crucial for me to realize that I didn't have it in my flesh even to walk with basic integrity without His help. It was important for me, like the apostle Paul, to come to despise every sense of self-goodness I had ever borne. I knew that everything I had ever done or produced, no matter how good had been tainted with sin…."

To that I say amen. I could say the identical words as my own personal experience. In the most important relationship I had on this earth nothing and I mean NOTHING was taken the way intended. My motivations and actions were twisted to reflect the most horrible motives and actions imaginable. History was rewritten in cruel and negative ways and the present was misunderstood. I was appalled but never was given the ability to defend myself. Fruit - I had to learn that 1. God had to take care of justifying me and 2. people were going to think what they wanted to think. If they want me to look bad then they will make the rationales to support what they want. From that I learned not to base my "performance" or behavior on what I thought would cause people to think this or that of me. I learned to choose to act as I believed God would have me act and let the consequences happen as they would. More fruit - I also learned to find wisdom in the battles I chose to fight. (God does lead us into defenses.) However the defenses I found, involved greater principles of God than just my ego or personal justification. I learned to trust that as with Job I would be justified in every area. It was a long time before I saw that start happening.

3. "To bring about abandonment and despair of self, a compete and accurate assessment of our own total depravity and the depth and magnitude of God's grace to cover it. When I have accepted and confessed the true depth of my sin, no accusation leveled at me can have any real force. I become unassailably secure, at rest in the totality of the forgiveness and grace I have been given. Romans 8:1, There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. When I know and accept my condition, and understand God's grace in relation to it, there is nothing left to threaten. I can rest in Him only when I've despaired of me.

4. To bring about a faith that is without agenda or demand of God by means of breaking every dream and every hope. (Philippians 4:11)….. Will I follow Him if my problems DON'T evaporate? Am I His even if my dreams ALL fail? Will I serve and obey Him even if no prophetic word spoken over my life EVER comes to pass? Or is it all somehow conditional? Is God blessing me only when things go well, or is His blessing equally present when the world is crashing down around my ears? Can I have the faith to see and understand that mystery?"

All these questions will be asked by and of one going through the dark night of the soul. I believe our responses to those questions determine our success or failure as a child of God.

5. "To bring to rest the higher functions of the spirit. Ease of movement in the Spirit. Hearing God. Perceiving Him. Jesus shining in and through us. While we are unbroken, these functions are always colored by personal agendas and desires, the ways we try to manipulate God to get what we think we need. Manipulation is based on unbelief that God will really honor His promise to give us what we need. Pure hearing comes only in and through the presence of faith in the absence of personal agenda or demand.

6. To bring about a love for God, which passes beyond loving Him for what, He has done, or will do for us. We need a love for God, which passes beyond the reward we get from feeling it. Do I love God because it "feels" good to do so, or do I love Him for His own sake? The dark night brings us to the end of, "I love you, God because…" it teaches us a love for God that loves Him when there is no strength left to love and when there is no perception of His touch. The psalmist in Psalm 88 reached out to God morning by morning in love, even in the midst of despair.

7. To bring about a purity of fellowship with Him. Philippians 3:10, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.

8. Humility resulting in defenselessness, based on security in Jesus, leading to vulnerability and transparency."

One of the things I notice that Pastor Sandford also mentioned was that being vulnerable no longer became something used against him. I found that to be true in my experience. People sensed that I was with them and not an adversary. I had never intended to be adversarial but circumstances in my life had created a defense mechanism that caused what I did to be misconstrued as anything but what I meant it to be. This brought freedom for me and for the people I serve. I am no longer a slave to the image others had forced upon me or the image I wanted for myself. I was content to be what God wanted me to be and even excited about finding out all that meant.

Pastor Sandford continues -

9. Radical compassion because I can truly, at last, identify with sinners, having been made to face and accept my own failure. The dark night bring about cross-centered, compelling compassion. The dark night destroys judgmentalism in every form and in every root."

I agree, I think radical compassion is one of the great benefits of this experience is balance. Radical compassion is balanced with radical understanding of accountability.

Thank You Pastor Loren for your valuable insight.

The dark night of the soul is destroying the flesh. It is learning to embrace the cleansing of the Lord. It's learning to live a life of true repentance not just "starting again" - doing the same things over and over creating a wider circle of sin.

From what I've learned the Dark Night comes once if embraced but takes individualized time to accomplish. The effects make an impact on your life forever. The first lessons are the hardest and most painful. What I've learned is that when we embrace the chastisement and correction correctly, repentance brings healing and deliverance naturally. Without the repentance there is no forgiveness so there is no healing and deliverance. Oh yes we can seek deliverance ministries for temporary fixes but if the roots of the behavior aren't addressed the deliverance will not hold.

Not one man or woman in the Bible avoided coming face to face with the dark night of the soul. No one escapes the correction of God or the problems that come with life. Christians are not called to consume life but to live it abundantly.

The dark night of the soul exposes everything fleshly. Yes EVERYTHING whether we like it or not. If we run it will only happen again. Why? Because God loves us and is preparing us to be the light to the world not a shame to His Son.

Some would seek to stop the process. They decide the price of suffering is simply too high. The price being asked that hits at the very soul of our selfishness and self-centeredness is just too much to ask so it must not be God. After all God doesn't want me to suffer. Well that's true BUT God does want a mature person.

When the word talks about burning off the dross in Isaiah 1:25 do you think he didn't warn us about pain? Pain He was going to send as a byproduct of maturing us? Scripture says we are going to be refined with fullers soap. That soap is made with lye! Lye burns!!! It burns deep depending on the amount needed to cleanse!

As we follow Jesus do we stop short of following Him to the destruction of the flesh? No, I don't think His death was that destruction. I think that His decision to say "never the less" was the final destruction of what we call "flesh". Our Yeshua walked out of the greatest dark night of the soul known into God's Glorious Light..

Do you think God just may have a plan for your life and it isn't happening? Has your life been a series of disasters for months or years? Do you just about succeed and then have the rug pulled out from under you? Do you feel like the Mule with the carrot dangling in front of your nose, always working but never reaping the reward? Does life's disappointments crush your spirit and kill hope in your life? Are you burdened to the point of breaking? Are you desperately hurt? Are you agonizingly lonely far beyond what should be experienced in your life? Do you wonder where God is? Do you think your prayers go nowhere. Maybe even that those prayers are foolish cause there really isn't anyone there to listen? If you've had prophesies over your life have only the bad ones come to pass the majority of the time? Do you or have you felt absolute desolation? Well take heart. If you've felt these things God is working a deep deep work in your life. Why? In preparation for such good that if you hadn't been refined the blessings would destroy you! Don't run from it! Open your arms wide and lift up your head to heaven saying I'm here Lord do with me as You will!

Follow Christ as we are commanded to do. We can't pick and choose what footsteps to follow and call ourselves followers. Embracing the pain and overcoming is our goal. When we have run the race then and only then will we receive the prize. (Hebrews 12:2 and 1 Corinthians 9:24) This does not mean performing for God out of fear or obligation. That's legalism. Quite the contrary, it means being open to allowing God to do the deep work needed to refine us into the men and women God wants us to be.

John 3:20-21 tells us, "For every wrongdoer hates loathes, detests the Light, and will not come out into the Light but shrinks from it, lest his works his deeds, his activities, his conduct be exposed and reproved. But he who practices truth who does what is right comes out into the Light; so that his works may be plainly shown to be what they are - wrought with God divinely prompted, done with God's help, in dependence upon Him."

We are called to Stand wherever God takes us, in obedience, reverence, compassion and holiness. Maybe we will have to continually experience the thorn in the flesh as the Apostle Paul did. (2 Cor 12:7-10) Because of the original Greek being written in the "divine passive" this thorn was clearly given to Paul by God. Does that mean God wants us to suffer? I don't think so.

As Christians we have been through decades of being conditioned to ask what God is going to do for me. Actually many were taught to DEMAND of God in some denominations. We expected good good good with no price to pay. We were like spoiled children expecting the promises of God to be given freely with no thought of price or responsibility. The "me" generation born in the church has been reaping what it's sown for a while now. Selfish expectations, unmet have caused division and all sorts of problems in the lives of believers. We weren't taught to ask what was expected of me but only to ask and ask and ask. Give me - give me - give me, I want, I want, I want. The parts about every promise having an IF involved was greatly overlooked. The "cost" of being a Christian wasn't always counted. Service expected and demanded a huge good reward no matter how poor the service or ungodly the motive.

Our God is fashioning character and personalities after the character and personality of Christ. Ephesians 4:13-15, "… That it might develop until we all attain oneness in the faith and in the comprehension of the full and accurate knowledge of the Son of God, that we might arrive at really mature manhood, the completeness of personality which is nothing less than the standard height of Christ's own perfection, the measure of the stature of the fullness of the Christ and the completeness found in Him. So then, we may no longer be children, tossed like ships to and fro between chance gusts of teaching and wavering with every doctrine, the prey of the cunning and cleverness of unscrupulous men, engaged in every shifting form of trickery in inventing errors to mislead. Rather, let our lives lovingly express truth in all things speaking truly, dealing truly, and living truly. Enfolded in love, let us grow up in every way and in all things into Him Who is the Head, even Christ the Messiah, the Anointed one."

Ephesians 4:22, "Strip yourself of our former nature put off and discard your old unrenewed self which characterized your previous manner of life and becomes corrupt through lusts and desires that spring from delusion."

Through the dark night of the soul we are stripped bare and stand before God naked with no claim to anything save Christ our Savior. You find that's enough. More than that you find that is exactly the way you are acceptable. It is through the sacrifice of Jesus that we enter into God's presence and not through anything we do for ourselves.

When the dark night lessens and we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel a strange thing happens. We want more! No - we haven't become part of masochism but we do want God to continually strip away anything displeasing to Him. We have learned that it is important to let that renewing happen on a daily basis. We embrace the actions that bring us to a place of Shalom. That peace that comes from completeness, peace that comes from not being afraid of who we are in Christ and not having to be someone or something we aren't.

God is bringing us to Shabbat rest, the rest we so often ignore. We are brought to the end of ourselves. Through a broken heart and humbled spirit The Lord will do mighty things when we are fully restored and rested. We who realized we deserve no mercy are ones who can give mercy in balance with the call to repentance.

May God's richest blessing be yours as you embrace your cross and allow the Holy Spirit to do the deep work of redemption in your life. 1 Peter 3:15

It's In the Valley I Grow

Sometimes life seems hard to bear, Full of sorrow, trouble, and woe It's then I have to remember That it's in the valleys I grow.

If I always stayed on the mountain top And never experienced pain, I would never appreciate God's love And would be living in vain.

I have so much to learn And my growth is very slow, Sometimes I need the mountain tops, But it's in the valleys I grow.

I do not always understand Why things happen as they do, But I am very sure of one thing. My Lord will see me through.

My little valleys are nothing When I picture Christ on the cross He went through the valley of death; His victory was Satan's loss.

Forgive me Lord, for complaining When I'm feeling so very low. Just give me a gentle reminder That it's in the valleys I grow.

Continue to strengthen me, Lord And use my life each day To share your love with others And help them find their way.

Thank you for valleys, Lord For this one thing I know The mountain tops are glorious But it's in the valleys I grow!

May God Bless You And Keep You Safe

Rev. Dr. S.L. Gardner

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