The Dark Night of the Soul

by Richard Mansel
lostforest.jpgThe man’s cries ring through the night as his body slumps from the weight of his pain. Tears stain his reddened, puffy cheeks. His world is falling down around him and he is inconsolable. Everything he has worked for has been undone in a matter of hours. His best friend is dead and he has denied him. With the foundation of his existence obliterated, he no longer has a place to stand or to turn.
The man is the Apostle Peter who has denied his allegiance to Christ, his Savior. In his dark night of the soul, we find our own failings and seek never to follow his lead.
The phrase “dark night of the soul” often refers to a moment of excruciating spiritual turmoil. A preacher friend once had a Christian man call him in the middle of the night and say, “I’ve just committed adultery, what do I do?” The man’s dark night was upon him.
Spiritual crisis is central to the Christian walk as we battle Satan (Ephesians 6:10-20). He batters us but we get up and move forward to heaven (Ephesians 1:19). Our resolve never wavers because we know the price of defeat (Matthew 25:46).
Peter was a passionate man who often suffered from hasty speech and actions. However, his heart and faith were solid as he walked daily with Christ, as friend and disciple (John 1:35-42). Yet, in one very long night, this all blurred in the fever of fear and recklessness.
He began his descent with the misunderstanding of Christ’s mission. He refused the Lord’s request to wash his feet (John 1:8,9). Later, Jesus affirmed that he was leaving them and Peter demands to follow him. Jesus tells him that he cannot follow him now. Peter then boldly states that he would die for Jesus. Christ responds, “Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied me three times” (John 14:38, NKJV).
Jesus takes the Apostles to Gethsemane and takes Peter, James, and John with him to a separate spot, closer to where he would be praying. He comes back after praying and they are asleep. He specifically asks Peter why he was asleep. Twice more, they slept, instead of keeping watch (Matthew 26:36-42).
Judas brings the mob to arrest Jesus and Peter slices off Malchus’ ear to protect the Lord (John 18:1-11). Jesus tells Peter that he should permit this, also. Roman soldiers lead Jesus away to his death and Peter joins with the others, fleeing into the woods.
Stealing to the scene of Christ’s crucifixion, those milling around identify Peter as being with Christ. Peter denies it twice. Finally, an hour later, Peter is accused again and loudly denounces their charges (Luke 22:54-60). The rooster crows and one of the most terrifying moments in all of the New Testament commences, “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter” (Luke 22:61). Peter remembers Jesus’ chilling words and he goes out and “weeps bitterly” (Luke 22:62).
Peter’s world was going up in flames. However, in John 21, Jesus appears to Peter and the other disciples and in his excitement, Peter leaps from the boat and swims to the shore to embrace his Lord. Jesus instructs him to be his faithful servant and Peter finds the redemption he sought with tears. He was spiritually whole again and his purpose was returned!
At the end of his life, Peter could write about remaining faithful in the storms of life (1 Peter 4:12,13). Spoken like a true survivor.
Will we learn from his mistakes and confess the Lord daily? (Romans 10:9,10; Matthew 10:33). Or, will we also deny him?

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Richard lives in Florence, Alabama and is married to Deirdre. They have three daughters. He is an avid reader, devoted writer and lover of history and research. He is the author of "The Most Important Question" and is working on more books.

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