The Dark Night of the Soul - There is a reason for your valley

I remember heading into my “Dark Night of the Soul” at the age of 26.  I knew the Lord was telling me that I needed a season of discipline and I could see the valley just ahead.  I remember seeing the depth of darkness and the immaturity of my heart and knowing that I needed a time of cleansing.  I had no idea at that time that it would be a fifteen-year valley.  I specifically remember the Lord using Steven Curtis Chapman’s song “I Will Be Here”  to announce the beginning of my season of discipline.

Tomorrow morning if you wake up,

And the sun does not appear, I will be here

If in the dark we lose sight of love,

Hold my hand, and have no fear, Cause I, I will be here

I will be here when you feel like being quiet

When you need to speak your mind, I will listen and

I will be here when the laughter turns to cryin'

Through the winning, losing and tryin'

We'll be together 'cause I will be here

Tomorrow morning if you wake up,

And the future is unclear

I will be here

It was a few days after this announcement that God began to use a series of incredibly difficult circumstances to weed out the issues of my heart.

My heart obviously had some closets that needed to be cleaned out.  I had some pride in places I didn’t even know existed.  I had some deep seeded rebellion in my heart.  I had some wounds that were so deep – I didn’t know if I would ever find the end of the pain.

I believed a plethora of lies.  Some of them were lies about God.  Others of them were lies about me.  Nevertheless, these lies kept me separated from my Good Father.

Up to that time, I had thought of myself as a non-selfish person, but the valley reveals all kinds of hidden sins.  I was completely selfish and self-centered.  I wanted MY way.  I wanted MY plan.  I wanted MY life to go MY way… the easy way.

It is in the valley that we learn to regard His ways as higher than ours.  We learn how tiny our plans are compared to His.  It is in the valley that we get a tiny glimpse of the suffering that Jesus went through on our behalf.  It is in the valley that we become ONE with Him.  It is the place where we learn no matter what life throws at us that we say “It is well, with my soul.”

Don’t get me wrong – just walking through the valley won’t actually change you.  You have to submit to the valley for it to have an effect on you.   If you pout all the way through the “Dark Night of the Soul” – you won’t learn everything you should learn through it.

But if you accept the valley time as a time of discipline, it can become the most amazing and intimate time of your life with the Lord.  The loneliness becomes aloneness.

The “Dark Night of the Soul” is hard.  It’s painful.  It’s even dehumanizing… but the point is not to actually dehumanize us.  The point of the Dark Night is to strip us of our flesh in order to become His.

There is a pearl in the very difficult “Dark Night of the Soul.”  There is a gaining through the losing. The pearl we gain is Jesus.

If you let the pain of the Dark Night forge you, the prize is that Jesus becomes your life.

If you waste your pain with fear or self-pity, you’ll still have to experience the pain without any prize at the end.

The Dark Night of the Soul is meant to be the place that Jesus actually conquers us… then He makes the most beautiful thing out of our lives.  It’s the place where we learn to completely trust in His ways.  We become willing to pay the same price Jesus did by carrying our cross without complaint.  It’s the place where we learn to wait upon Him, the place where we learn to bleed for Him, the place where we learn to love – no matter what is thrown our way.

The Dark Night is the place where we gain authority to stand in the middle of the storm and command it to be still.  It’s the place where we learn to BELIEVE God! 

We learn what the words the “I AM” really mean.

We learn that the I AM can see us through anything.  We learn that the I AM is sovereign over EVERYTHING.  Nothing escapes Him.  He is the God who sees!  It is in this fire that we learn to keep our eyes on Him no matter what.  We don’t turn to the right or the left no matter what is trying to seduce us off the path.  We may fall but His grace picks us back up dusts us off and encourages us to keep going.  He never leaves us or forsakes us.  He helps us to carry our cross.

Some of you might be going through a really difficult valley and wondering why God has seemingly handed you over to Satan.  Please hear this truth and take it to heart:  Your loving Father has not so much handed you over to evil as much as He is revealing everything in you that is in agreement with the evil one.  When we become dead to our flesh – truly dead – then Satan cannot touch us.  This is the reason for the Valley (or Dark Night) that you are in… to completely rid you of your flesh.

God is using the “Dark Night of the Soul” to remove everything that is not from Him – because He loves you and wants to live in you!

Romans 8:5-8

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

THOSE WHO ARE IN THE REALM OF THE FLESH CANNOT PLEASE GOD!  Let the discipline of the Lord do its work and cleanse you from your flesh.  There is a reason for your valley!

Prophecy: America's Valley of Death

(I published this word earlier in the year - but I felt the unction of the Lord to republish it for such a time as this.)

Prophetically I’ve known it for a couple of years.  America is about to go through a Dark Night of the Soul.  It is that season where continual storms in life cause your true nature to arise.  It’s the point at which all of the dross, the dark things in our hearts, rise up in the midst of the chaos.  

The Dark Night of the Soul (click here) reveals your character

 and invites you to make necessary changes.

Pretty soon, 

America’s Dark Night of the Soul (click here

) is going to reveal where her true peace lies.  Does it rely on government?  Does it rely on money?  Does America’s peace rely on pride or nationalism?  One thing I can tell you for sure is that America’s peace does not rest on the rock of Jesus Christ.  Thus the reason for the coming Valley of Death.

We are no longer living in the “sweet land of liberty.”  We have lost our identity while the enemy has pursued our nation to dehumanize us and twist our thinking away from the reason God created our country in the first place.  We are in need of some severe mercy from the Lord.  The severe storms about to come upon America are meant to point out where our hearts truly lie.

The severity of God’s mercy will be a sweet relief for those who are already have been working to bring heaven to earth.  This Valley of Death will be a help to those who are wanting to see Jesus be the foundation of our nation again.  But the severity of God’s mercy will feel like the world is caving in to those who are not firmly planted in the identity of who God is and who no longer desire “liberty and justice for all.”

I had a vision of a television screen the other night before falling to sleep.  On the screen was a deep orange color that looked like lava.  I asked the Lord, if that was a volcano – did I need to pray against the destruction of a volcano?

The Lord responded to me, “No these are the fires of Mordor, this is how close we are to destroying the “Ring of Power” that rules over your nation.”

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the “Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkein, darkness ruled over the people of the land with One Ring.  The One Ring was created by a Dark Lord Sauron and had power to spread darkness over the whole land and giving Sauron complete domination.  It was the quest of a few volunteers to give up their lives in order to destroy the ring by throwing it into the fires of Mt Doom in the land of Mordor.

Unfortunately, we see a similar story being played out right here in America.  A select few people have the power to “spin” America in any way that they see fit.  They are used to pulling strings and ruling over our economy, politics, media, racism, entertainment and even religion.  They are the puppet masters who pull the strings in order to see their will imposed on our nation.

Whether or not we have realized it – the true Church of God has been crying out for deliverance from these puppet masters. We have been crying out for the foundation of Christ to be reestablished in our nation as it once was.  We are crying out for the “sweet land of liberty”  - 

the land where our fathers died and land of the pilgrims pride

 – we are crying out again for FREEDOM!

The impending Valley of Death is the Lord coming to answer the prayer of His True Church.

This Valley - where everything that can be shaken will be shaken -  is meant to be severe mercy!

These are the things we are about to witness in the Valley of Death:

Government:

No longer will a few people be able to control the elections.  No longer will they be able to blackmail candidates and impose their chosen candidate upon us.  God is using Donald Trump as a wrecking ball to the establishment and to those who have the Ring of Power in politics.  He cannot be controlled even by the political correctness of the Church.  God has no problem offending the religious rules and regulations that the church has in their minds about what a righteous leader should look like. 

God is going to use Donald Trump to break the church free from their self-righteousness.

  God is using him as a wrecking ball and will continue to allow the bull to break up the china shop.  He will remain the instrument of God until the Lord is finished destroying the Political Ring of Power.  (I wish the church would be more grateful for this.)

This election will be the first election in a long time that we truly have FREE and FAIR elections, and it will largely be because Donald Trump will not bow.

Economy:

The economy will begin sinking into the mud.  Those with the Ring of Power are looking to take America out!  It will look as though we are headed for another depression, but that will not be the case. 

Intercessors will rise up and pray for the economy and God will answer those prayers and raise it up out of the sinking mud.  It will be such a drastic turn of events that even the media will have to give a second thought that something supernatural intervened.  

The rescue of the economy will be a humbling to the entrepreneur that their ways and formulas aren’t where their peace comes from, it only comes from the mercy and grace of God that they succeed. 

There will be losses because of the dip of the economy – but they will be small losses compared to what a depression would bring. 

Intercessors will unite in a new way realizing that they have power over the Puppet Masters of this world and a new and stronger faith will inspire many to begin to address the giants in the land.

The Ring of Power over our economy will have met the power of the intercessors – and it will lose.  Those who thought they could manipulate the economy to control America will be frustrated.  Their power will be greatly diminished and their ring destroyed.  

God's people will have renewed faith that God is truly the Provider.

Racism:

The main sin behind Racism is mastery.  When one group of people claims to be the master of another.  We have largely overcome the “mastery” sin from our days of slavery.  There are pockets throughout our nation that still simmer with this sin – but for the most part we are a nation who IS realizing the dream of Martin Luther King Jr.  The problem therein lies with a few who have learned to stoke the fading coals of racism for their own fame, power and financial gain.

There will be a judgment on the Ring of Power that continues to stoke this fire.  Riots and looting followed by curfews and heavy police action will continue and seem never ending.

The voice of Martin Luther King Jr will rise again this time it will be multiplied as God anoints several black and white leaders to increase and displace the Ring of Power.  There will be a balance and acceptance of the races once again in our nation, though a deep price will be paid to see this balance come.

Pride in Nationalism:

America’s standing in the world as a world power will be shaken financially and militarily.  

Those who think the United States should be the rescuer and policeman

 of the world will be shaken to the core in order to set them free from looking to a nation instead of Jesus.  America’s Ring of Power will be destroyed during the coming storms in order to make way for the true King of Kings to be on the throne of the sheep nations.

It will also set America free from always having to be the mediator.  Our attention and focus can be freed up to homeland security and domestic issues that are causing a weakness in the infrastructure of our nation.

The Church:

There are also wolves in the Church who have usurped great power over God’s people.  Religion and Witchcraft permeate the Church.  The Valley of Death will reveal the true from the false.  The eyes of God’s people will be opened to their true condition and recognize the places in their lives where they are not truly built on the Rock.

The strength that God’s people gain through this valley will be significant.  With their eyes open to their true condition along with understanding how to wield the power of God, the Giants of the Land like abortion, religious freedom and gay marriage will be easily overcome. 

The Third Great Awakening that we have been hearing about will begin to find traction.  And there will be no stopping the train of unification that happens as the Church lays down their petty offenses with one another and finds a unity in Christ instead of doctrine.

The Valley of Death will serve as a Damascus Road experience for much of the Church.  A realization of everything that is false will empower the Church with truth.  The power of discernment will increase and 

God’s people will lay down human kindness for the kindness of God(click here).

  A Holy boldness will rise up in the True Church and they will not be afraid of being called bullies in order to bring the Kingdom of God to earth.

The Ring of Power over the Church is essentially the fear of not being liked.  The media, the entertainment world, and the government have learned to use this Ring over God’s people.

It is in the Valley of Death that Believers will put to death their fear of being disliked.

The Ring of Power will be destroyed as the manipulation of being called “mean”will no longer work over God’s people(click here).

The Valley:

I am not looking forward to this Valley of Death – but I also don’t fear it.  This Dark Night of the Soul is exactly what our nation needs.  The discipline it brings is because the Lord loves us not because He is angry at us.  God is actually taking us through the valley to be set free from the power of the One Ring.

It IS a valley.  It is not the abyss.  We will come out of it and God will restore us.  Christ is not returning yet – His Bride is not ready.  The Bride will have the opportunity to be cleansed in the Valley of Death.  When dawn’s early light begins to shine again after the Dark Night of the Soul – America will be on its way to being the shining city on a hill once again.  We will not be the savior of the world but we will shine a light to the One who is the Savior.  This was God’s original intention for America from the beginning… to point to the good news of The Spirit of the Lord in which there is true Liberty.

My one prayer in the midst of all of this suffering is that we will be trained by it. 

The Body of Christ must understand that our FEELINGS don't matter!(click here) 

Let us not walk through such a severe discipline without being changed by it.  Whatever may happen in the Valley of Death – let our faith in flesh be the thing to die as we put Jesus on the throne in every way in our lives! 

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. 

Hebrews 12:11

A Word for Those Who Want to Quit

I know that some of you are carrying your cross and you are very weary.  I know that there is GREAT temptation to lay down your cross and say – “It’s over, I give up!”  But I want to encourage you today that there is a great victory ahead and it is important that you do not quit!

The Via Dolorosa is literally translated “the way of suffering.”  It is the path that Jesus took up through the city to the hill of Golgotha while carrying His cross.

He didn’t complain.  He didn’t whine. He didn’t blame others. He just focused on His assignment.

To die.

The Dark Night of the Soul (Click Here)

kind of feels like this: Maybe we have been beaten up with words by our brothers and sisters, the enemy may be piercing our minds with doubts and lies and accusation.  We feel completely alone, no one is standing with us and we are frustrated that we are STILL required to carry out our burden for the sake of His Kingdom.

Honest moment: In my Dark Night I told the Lord over and over and over and over that “It’s not fair!!!”  I hated it.  I whined.  I complained.  I blamed everyone else.  I had a terrible attitude for several years of my pathway on the Via Dolorosa.  I definitely had some “rebellion” in me that needed to be weeded out.

I remember one Christmas when I complained A LOT – the Lord rebuked me through a Christmas song!  ♫ You’d better watch out!  You’d better not cry!  You’d better not pout!  I’m telling you why… Santa Claus is coming to town. ♫

It reminds me of a verse in Isaiah 1:19-20 “

If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.”

OUCH!

I was obeying the Lord by not quitting and not giving up.  But I had a dreadfully selfish defiance about the cross He had asked me to bear.  Isaiah says that there are two elements to receiving the “prize” or the best from the land:  We must be obedient AND willing!

For a season I was not willing to carry my cross.  Yet, the patience and discipline of God brought me to a place of dying to myself so I could trust Him and say “Not my will but Yours be done.” 

In fact, it was a really good thing that He helped me to overcome my rebellion, for after that I faced even more difficult circumstances that required an even deeper death to self to carry my cross.

This is kind of a difficult truth to absorb – but if we are to carry our crosses daily – it means we must walk the “the way of suffering” every single day.  Even after your season of testing, you will still carry your cross on the Via Dolorosa daily.  One of the purposes of the Dark Night is to acquaint you with this path.  You actually become friends with this path because you realize that the Via Dolorosa actually leads to life.  It becomes less painful because when you are dead to yourself and your emotions, you can embrace suffering because you know God has a plan and your pain has a purpose.

In Mel Gibson’s the

Passion of the Christ

, the scene that impacted my life the most was when Jesus was carrying His cross on the Via Dolorosa and stumbled right in front of His mother.  He looked up at her with blood streaming down His face.  He was unrecognizable.  He was being whipped and people were shouting terrible things against Him.  It was during this most terrible trial of His human life that He looked at His mother and said, “Look mother, I make all things new!”

You see, Jesus knew He was accomplishing His purpose.  He knew the path of suffering He was on would actually bring LIFE to the WHOLE earth!  It is hard for us to believe that a path of such pain and suffering could be God’s will for us.  Everything within us wants to avoid pain.  Every fiber of our being cries out for self-preservation.

This is exactly how the enemy can deceive some into a ditch on the path of life.  He convinces you of this lie:  God is gracious and loving and would never require such suffering of His people. 

And then there’s this half-truth:  Jesus died so I wouldn’t have to. 

I love this piece of wisdom from Bob Sorge.

He says we must remember that there are two elements to the cross.

1) S

ubstitutionary = Christ took your place on the cross.

2) Identificational = Jesus wants you to join Him in His suffering.

When on this very difficult part of the Dark Night you must resist both lies.  The very reason for our “crucifixion” path is because it leads to more life than you can ever imagine. 

Why is the Lord asking you to walk this path?  Is it to set your family free?  Is it to spread the gospel?  Is it to prepare you for ministry?  Is it to bring redemption to His earth?  There IS a reason that you are on the Via Dolorosa and if you are willing AND obedient – you will make all things new within your sphere of influence.

The other ditch on the opposite side of the Via Dolorosa is this lie:  God is requiring too much of me. I cannot handle it.

I admit – it does seem that God gives us more than we can handle.  But His answer is that we’re not doing it alone.  He is carrying the weight of the cross with us.  We must resist the devil’s attempt to make us feel alone.  We must use our faith muscles, which produces perseverance and ultimately leads to maturity.  This is where we apply the verse: 

I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.

  Philippians 4:13

Let me share some practical advice for those of you who are struggling to submit to the “way of suffering.”

As simple as it sounds one of the key ways to overcome this trial of wanting to quit is to “take another step.”

Depending on where you are at on the Via Dolorosa this could mean a variety of different things.  It could be the tiny baby steps.  Like you simply make your mind up to breathe through the pain until noon.  And once you pass that mark you breathe until 5PM.  Then you breathe until bedtime.

There were other times during the Dark Night that I would set my mark out a little further.  For instance, just make it through the weekend, or make it until Christmas, or just make it through the summer.  This really did help me to get through the difficult ‘way of suffering.’

I will never forget the story of Marcus Luttrell, the Navy Seal in

Lone Survivor

.  He tells the story of losing his entire squad in a fire fight in Afghanistan.  He had a broken back, a broken pelvis, broken nose and bit his tongue in half, and he was paralyzed from the waist down.

As He lay dying against a tree looking at the moon, feeling sorry for himself He said, “I kept thinking I was still alive they (his fellow seals) fought and died, but I’m still alive so the mission is still on.  So I reached out and grabbed a rock and I drew a line and I used my elbows and crawled to it.  I decided if I died, I died.  If I made it to the line… I would draw another line. I’d fall down a hill and crawl up another one.  I did that for seven miles…. I am not going to stop. It’s not an option. I’m a Navy Seal.  When you go into training they take away everything that you are or ever were, and then they mold you into what they want you to be.” 

Marcus Luttrell DID make it home.  He was harbored by an Afghan village and then returned home to America.  He was made whole and healed and has inspired the entire country with his bravery.  But he had to lay down his “victimhood” and resolve to keep going despite his circumstances.  I can’t imagine how his body ever healed itself after all of that.  But as David Crowder wrote in his song, ♫ Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal. ♫

This is the perfect example of what the Via Dolorosa is.  It is hard!  It is painful!  You want to quit! But something inside you says it will be worth it.  You are making all things new.  Just keep going.  Don’t quit.  Draw a line in the sand and when you reach it, draw another one to reach for.  Just keep taking another step.

You WILL reach your destination!

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest

if we do not give up.”

  Galatians 6:9 (emphasis mine)

Would You Survive if Your Church Crumbled?

At the age of 28, the church I worked at crumbled.   There were lots of reasons.  There was plenty of blame to go around.  After seeking the Lord, my husband and I made the difficult decision to leave.

My church completely melted down… and so did I.

I lost my job, my income, my church, and my friends.  It was devastating.  It sent me into the deepest Dark Night of the Soul.

But it was in this dark season of being purged of my flesh that I came to understand that my identity had been wrapped up in the church I was serving instead of the God who I claimed to be serving.

My identity was intertwined in a building and a group of people who attended weekly meetings at the same location.

Even though my life was turned upside down and it took me years to walk out of the hole I had fallen into.  The foundation of my life had been set upon the church instead of Christ.  And even though the journey to freedom was long and arduous and the most painful process I had ever experienced - it was completely worth it!

Because in the journey out of the Dark Night of the Soul – I found my true identity.  I found that I didn’t need to belong to a group of people not did I need their approval to have worth… I belonged to Someone who paid a great price for me because I was worth so much.

I learned that I had been part of a group of people who weren’t REALLY following the Lord as much as they were following a desire to be a community country club.  My identity had also been wrapped up in this country club vision.

Somehow I had come to the place of getting my safety and value from the church I belonged to.  Belonging to this church allowed me to feel important – like I was on a pedestal along with the rest of the group of people who met weekly at the same location.

Our God is a jealous God.  He doesn’t like it when we get our identity from created things – rather than from our Creator.   He doesn’t appreciate it when our attention is focused on worldly pursuits rather than Him.  His Church was never meant to be a country club, it was meant to be a soup kitchen, an emergency room, a hospital, and a training facility. 

Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."  Mark 2:17

I am so glad that my church crumbled and that God set me free from getting my identity from a local church.  I am safe, and I have value no matter what church I attend.  I am free now to move where the Lord tells me to move.  I am free from the opinions of men because I am only looking to please One person.

I have learned to truly seek FIRST the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.  I no longer seek the kingdom of men for my safety and value.  I am who God says I am.  I am not who the church says I am.

Do you belong to the Kingdom of God?  Or do you belong to the local church?

It is a question that begs to be answered by all Believers. 

If your church crumbled – would you?

I implore you to begin to ask the Lord where your identity lies.  There is a great peace in belonging to God’s Kingdom.  In these last days…it’s an absolute necessity!

Did Jesus Really Die So We Wouldn’t Have To?

Did Jesus Really Die So We Wouldn’t Have To?

When I came to Christ I was told that Christ died on the cross so I wouldn’t have to.

I believed this half-truth for a long time as a new believer… that is until I hit my “Dark Night of the Soul”

(click HERE to read more)

.

When I hit this fiery season of purging to become more Christlike, I found myself striving with God.  It was a VERY difficult season.  I wanted to quit.  “God this is too hard.  Why does it hurt so much?”  I said to Him, “Didn’t You die so I wouldn’t have to?  If you took my suffering on the cross why am I hurting so much?  Isn’t it Your job to save me?”

God was so gentle yet firm as he brought me a new understanding of the purpose of His cross.

He showed me through His word that He had carried the cross on my behalf.  He showed me the depth of His love by being beaten, spit on, rejected, crucified on the cross and then forgiving those who killed Him.  He fully atoned for the sins of all men.  He FINISHED His part by shedding His blood and rolling back of the curse.

But… He was still in need of His people to carry their own cross and die for others.  In this way, people could see Christ in us and our death to our own flesh would bring others life.  It is the basic principle of His Kingdom. 

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

  John 15:13

He said to me through His Holy Spirit, “I came to earth to show you how to die.”

Paul understood this and wrote extensively about suffering for the sake of the gospel.  Paul laid down his life and endured prison, beatings, shipwreck, rejection, and being stoned.  He suffered much for the sake of the early church.  Paul understood that his suffering was bringing life to God’s people.  His pain was accomplishing something. 

Paul explains this in Colossians 1:24

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of his body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ's afflictions.”

The Kingdom of God is different than any other “kingdom” because it is built on suffering and sacrifice.  This sacrifice is a symbol of love.  When we overlook offense, or forgive those who hurt us, when we give up time and money to care for the less fortunate, when we wait patiently for loved ones to come to Christ, when we sacrifice by fasting and praying for our nation… it is then that we identify with the sufferings of Christ.

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

It is half right to say that Jesus died so that we wouldn’t have to.  He took our sins and nailed them to the cross.  But the other half of the truth of the cross is that Jesus calls us to come and die with Him and give our lives for our fellow man.

There are two elements of the cross.  There is the substitutionary element where Christ paid our debt.  And there is the identificational element where we pick up our cross of suffering and die so that others might truly live.  It is in this way that we identify with the sufferings of Christ.  It is the part that Paul calls sharing the “fellowship of sharing in His sufferings.”

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

  Phil 3:10-11

If we want to truly know Christ, we must know Him in His sufferings and become like Him in His death.

Are you struggling with saying yes to picking up your cross?  Are you struggling with self-pity?  Do you find yourself living a half-truth when it comes to both elements of the cross? 

It can be a difficult mind shift but as followers of Christ, we are called to suffer for the Kingdom of God. 

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.

Matthew 16:24-25

What are you laying your life down for? 

"Suffering saints are living seed."

Charles Spurgeon, 19th century theologian

Be Careful Not to Light Your Own Torch in the Dark



There are times that we come to the end of ourselves when there's no more light for the next step on our path.  Sometimes God leaves us in the dark so that we don't trust in ourselves.  There are many times in my life when I want an answer so desperately from the Lord.  I want to understand the path that I'm on and the reason for it.  There are times when the Lord will tell me what's happening and why.  But..... there are also times that He leaves me in the dark so that I'm walking by faith. For without faith it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6)

"Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of His servant?  Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.  But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze.  This is what you shall receive from my hand:  You will lie down in torment."  Isaiah 50:10-11

Let's paraphrase this verse from Isaiah:

Those of you who trust in the Lord and obey Him, you may be walking in uncertainty and do not have the answers, but you can still trust Him and rely on Him.  But those of you who refuse to trust him, and choose to light your own way in the dark will end up regretting it.

You see we can be walking in complete obedience and still be in the dark.  But we will not be walking in obedience if we light our own way in the dark and there will be consequences for stepping apart from the vine.  Listen to my first lesson in this.

We were ready to purchase a new car because our old car was on its last legs.  Unfortunately, we had in our minds that “Today was the day we were going to buy that new car."  We didn't want to wait any longer.  We ended up settling for a car with more miles and less comfort features because we were unwilling to wait on the Lord.  We lit our own torch because He didn’t seem to be moving fast enough and we HAD to make a decision.  The Lord spoke to my husband a week after we bought our new-to-us car and said, "I had something better for you if you would've waited."  You'd better believe that after 4 years of driving a car without automatic locks we were VERY willing to wait on the Lord.  We were in torment (OK slight torment) for four years because we had lit our own torch.  We didn't care how long that we were going to be in the dark, the next time we had made up our minds not to move until He said so.  And He amazed us with a car that was far beyond what we thought we could afford. 

I know a dear couple that had one child and desperately wanted another.   Over ten years they tried but nothing worked.  They didn't have enough money to try invitro fertilization but they tried everything else to no avail.  As they shared their grief with friends, their well-meaning friends decided that they could make invitro happen for this couple.  They took up a collection and lit a torch for this desperate couple, unaware of the torment it would bring upon them.  They were pregnant after the first try.  In fact, they were pregnant with triplets.  The path was joyful for a period of time, until the pregnancy started to go down hill.  Eventually the triplets were born too early and died shortly after birth.  The grace of the Lord was amazing to this family.  He was so present with them through the entire ordeal.  He was a great source of comfort and eventually even delivered the woman from intense grief.  His grace was even more amazing when within a year they became pregnant naturally and delivered a healthy boy whom they named Matthew, meaning gift from God.

I know that if this couple could do it over again, they would not have lit their own torch.  They would've waited on the Lord and His timing.  Another lesson learned in this story is that it is important for us not to light torches for others.  Their friends just wanted to help but God had His own reason for the couple's darkness.  We need to seek the Lord when "helping" others in a dark time.

I know another family who waited on the Lord so long to buy a house.  They rented for years, but so desperately wanted their own home.  They were trying to wait upon the Lord, but He seemed to be taking so long.  They finally lowered their standard for what they had been looking for just so they could finally own their own home.  But this home was not from the Lord.  In fact, it became an idol to the family and God eventually delivered them from it in an abrupt way........  The Lord had left this family in the dark because He was purging this idol from their hearts.  He wanted them to become content living by faith.  Instead the family lit their own torch and paid a price for it in the end.

Churches can light their own torches too.  Depending on the make up of the internal church structure, there can be many decision makers in a church.  If there is not a clearing house for these decisions, and someone with discernment in the Spirit to OK them, it could be disastrous.  I suspect there are some churches entirely made up of human-lit torches.  God addresses human-lit torches in the book of Hosea.  In Hosea 8 God says,

"Israel cries out to me, 'O our God, we acknowledge you!' But Israel has rejected what is good; an enemy will pursue him.  They set up kings without my consent; they choose princes without my approval.  With their silver and gold they make idols for themselves to their own destruction.  Throw out your calf-idol, O Samaria!  My anger burns against them.  How long will they be incapable of purity?  They are from Israel!  This calf - a craftsman has made it; it is not God. It will be broken in pieces, that calf of Samaria."

I can think of several churches to whom these verses would apply.  They cry out and say, "We believe in You Lord.  We trust in You.  You are our everything."  But they hire pastors without the consent of the Lord.  They put people in leadership who do not have God's approval.  They take the money of the church and choose to spend it on their own projects instead of seeking the Lord.  They say they acknowledge the Lord but then they move about without the input of God therefore, creating idols.  And we all know what God does with idols...he smashes them.  He will not share His glory with another.

God is completely aware of every detail of your life.  He is aware of the uncertainty you feel in different places in your life.  He knows where you have light. And He knows where you have no light.  He desires to be sought after.  He wants us to seek Him when we come to a dark place of uncertainty.  Remember that faith pleases Him.  Standing still pleases Him.  If you ask Him for an answer, He hears you.  He is very willing to answer you in His time.  Are you willing to wait for the answer?  The other option ends up in torment.  Or a smashed idol.


"Wait for the Lord, be strong, take heart, and wait for the Lord." Psalm 27:14

Exalt the Process

My friends and I were discussing the old method for churning butter the other day.  We talked about how long it actually takes to stir up that cream until it is transformed into luscious, velvety, pale yellow goodness we call butter.  Nowadays we just use the electric blender to make butter out of cream, we just flip the switch and let the blender do the work for us.  But there is something special about taking that churn stick called a dasher and using your muscles to make fresh butter.  It’s more authentic than flipping a switch.

It’s a representation of the process that God takes us through to transform us into the likeness of Christ.  God uses the pain of trials and tribulations to churn us into butter.  A little at a time we use our churn stick to process our pain into faith.  It does take time!  When we see how faithful God is through our trials, and when we see how His grace carries
us through tribulation it builds our faith muscles.

We live in a ‘flipping the switch’ world.  We like to have things NOW!  We expect fast food to be faster.  We want the newest smartphone or latest flatscreen NOW!  We want a quicker promotion at work or at church.  We want the pain of the trial or tribulation to be over NOW!  We have lost the discipline of patience.  And we have lost the appreciation of the process. 

Fast food is not better for your body.  The newest smartphone and flatscreen will eventually steal time from your family.  A quicker promotion will cause you to fall because you are not properly prepared.  And skipping the trial or tribulation will make your faith muscles weak.  Flipping the switch is not a Kingdom of God principle.

“Exalt the process!”  I keep hearing this in my heart:  “Exalt the process!”
Our enemy hates it when we submit to the process.  The process of allowing God to churn us into the likeness of Christ is the devil’s ultimate doom!  Our enemy has sidetracked us into thinking we can just skip the process.  That is a lie! 

We, as Christians, can no longer skip the process.  We must embrace the pain of our lives and accept what we need to learn from it.  Pain is good.  It shows you where the problem is.  We must stop running from pain and look at it head-on and ask God why I am feeling pain whenever this situation happens.

For me, I used to have a terrifying fear of rejection.  I was abandoned by my father at age 8.  And until I processed this pain in my life, the fear of rejection had a stronghold in my heart.  I did not find freedom until I embraced this pain and asked God to show me the truth from His perspective.  God set me free by showing me the lies that I believed because of this abandonment.  And now, after the process, I feel no pain whatsoever from the rejection of my earthly father.  Because the truth is I have a much more capable heavenly Father!

Allowing myself to process the pain has also given me the opportunity to help others with their rejection issues.  You see because I faced the pain and allowed the process of the churn stick to turn my trial into butter, I can now use that butter as a balm to help others with their pain.  I can use that butter to soften the hardness of a wounded heart.  I can use that butter to help free precious people from the bitter chains that hold them hostage.  God turned my trial for my good.  He churned my pain into freedom.

Freedom from this pain did not come overnight.  God did not flip a switch.  Rather He processed me day by day.  I can truly say now, that I LOVE the process of God.  It wasn’t always that way.  I wanted out of the pain and I wanted out immediately.  But God is an old fashioned butter churner.  Let us become all that God has called us to be and let Perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything,  James 1:4.


The Dark Night of the Soul

This Article was published in the Courier Times on June 21, 2014

By Tisha Sledd

This past week, my family watched “The Ten Commandments” with Charleton Heston.  It's old school, but I still think some old school culture is relevant for the next generation. We 'forced' our boys to watch it a little at a time.  My youngest exclaims “It's four hours?”

During the part that we watched this

week, Moses lost everything he had in Egypt and was forced into the desert.  Although “The Ten Commandments” does not adhere strictly to scripture, it is truly thought provoking to think about how much Moses lost at age 40 when he left everything behind.  He probably did have a woman that he had imagined his life with but had to let her go.  He left behind his family, his comfort and money and had no direction as to where he was going.  All he had were the clothes on his back and the hand of God on his life.

I was explaining to a friend the other day about the phrase “Dark Night of the Soul.”  It is the season of life where you lose everything except for God.  We don't talk about it much anymore maybe because we focus more on the gentle lamb part of God rather than the lion in today's culture. 

The Dark Night of the Soul is all about the Lion of God.  It's the part of life that He uses to shape us into being His servants.  It's where the flesh is sanded away, we're required to give up everything, and everyone seems to turn against us.  It is in the middle of this night that we truly find what we're made of.  When we come to the conclusion that we are made of nothing and our confidence in ourselves is crucified, it is then that we learn the only place to put our confidence is in God.

There is not a hero in the Word of God that did not have to go through the Dark Night of the Soul.  David spent his Dark Night in caves.  Joseph spent his Dark Night in prison.  Elizabeth spent her Dark Night barren.  Mary, the mother of Jesus, spent her Dark Night in shame and misunderstanding.  In more recent history, you will find that most men and women who do great things for God had a Dark Night of the Soul: George Washington, William Wilberforce, C.S. Lewis, Abraham Lincoln, Corrie Ten Boom.  These are all people who had to pass the test of perseverance through difficulties in order to become the 'heroes' they were called to be.

While reading Daniel in the word one day, I remember thinking that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had gone through a major test at the fiery furnace.  And the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said “No, Tisha, they already had passed the test.  The testing was done in private.  This trial was to glorify Me.” 

You see dead men can't lose anything.  This is precisely why the Dark Night of the Soul is necessary for God's people to go through.  Because it puts to death everything within us.  It puts fear to death. It puts doubt to death. It puts pride to death.  A dead man can't be confused, or offended, or frightened, or lustful, or deceived.  If every fleshly desire is put to death within us we become the devil's worst nightmare.  We become fearless.

Jesus experienced His Dark Night of the Soul during the 40 days in the desert.  The next 3 1/2 years were simply walking out His purpose, even death on a cross. 

I firmly believe that there are heroes that we have never heard of because they did not persevere through the Dark Night.  They quit.  It seemed too hard.  Or possibly they forgot the promise that God gave them before the Dark Night.  Because you must cling to the promise through the difficult night season.

The Dark Night of the Soul is an honor.  It is the call to be Christlike.  As Paul said in Philippians 3:10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.