(AP Photo/Hugo Infante, Chilean government)
As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Genesis 15:12
We all witnessed the remarkable, some say miraculous, rescue of 33 Chilean miners who were trapped nearly a half-mile beneath the earth’s surface. These brave men lingered in virtual darkness for 69 days, hoping against all hope that they would see the light of day again.
It took four hours for the dust to settle after the mine collapse that almost sealed their fate. The dust was so thick they couldn't see their own hands in front of their face. For the first 17 days and before rescuers found them alive, the men survived by eating a half a biscuit and a spoonful of tuna every 48 hours.
Happy tears flowed and joyous celebration erupted as each miner emerged from the narrow Phoenix rescue capsule which was designed with input from NASA. A groundswell of national pride echoed through patriotic cheers for each miner. The people shouted, "Chi! Chi! Chi! Le! Le! Le!" as President Sebastian Pinera embraced each miner that emerged from the belly of the earth.
Esteban Rojas, the eighteenth miner brought to safety, actually dropped to his knees and offered a prayer of thanksgiving to God for delivering him from his dark night of the soul.
Another miner said, “I met God. I met the devil. God won!”
The entire scene reminds me of the psalmist’s exuberant words, “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock, and gave me a firm place to stand” (Ps. 40:2).
You don’t have to be trapped in a mine shaft more than 2,000 feet beneath the earth’s surface to experience what some call a “dark night of the soul.” Frankly, it is not uncommon for a person of faith, even a dedicated follower of Jesus, to experience loneliness, doubt and a lingering sense of desperation.
The idea of a “dark night of the soul” comes from the title of a poem written in the sixteenth century by St. John of the Cross. The treatise describes a soul’s journey from birth to his eternal union with God. The journey happens at night as a metaphor of those dark times we all experience. Yes, sometimes even the most dedicated followers of Jesus feel as though they are groping in the dark.
For example, a Puritan named Thomas Goodwin who lived during the seventeenth century wrote, “One who truly fears God, and is obedient to him, may be in a condition of darkness, and have no light; and he may walk many days and years in that condition.”
Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission, also experienced his own dark moments during the Boxer Rebellion. He said to a friend, “I cannot read; I cannot think; I cannot even pray; but I can trust.” It was a dark and difficult time in the famous missionary’s life, but God eventually gave him the light he needed to move forward.
Wherever you are in your walk of faith, be encouraged to know that even some of God’s star pupils, including Abraham, experienced times when they felt as though they were groping in the dark and wondering, “Where is God?”