February 4, 2009

the dark night

Quotes from Seeking the Face of God by Gary Thomas

Chapter 10 ~ Spiritual Gluttony: Spiritual Feelings

The previous chapter explored many difficulties in the Christian life, but this chapter will focus on the internal spiritual challenge known as "the dark night of the soul," or a desert experience.

Thomas a Kempis: "It is very expedient for thy welfare, that thou be left sometimes without taste of spiritual sweetness, and in a dry condition, lest perhaps thou shouldest be vain about thy prosperous estate, and shouldest be willing to please thyself in that which thou art not."

The wise spiritual adviser will eventually need to tell the new believer, ever so gently, that maturity will one day demand that the euphoric feelings on which he or she is becoming dependent must come to an end. Feelings, even spiritual feelings, can become a roadblock to further spiritual growth; sooner or later, God in His mercy will begin the weaning process to mature the believer's faith.

"Spiritual caressing," if left unabated, would eventually cause us to lose focus. Thus we could begin to enjoy the fruits of worshiping God (our feelings) more than we enjoyed the God we worship.

Gluttony for spiritual feelings opens a wide door to the other appetites, including greed, overeating, sexual lusts, the hunger for power, and other sins. When feelings become the focus of our faith, religion becomes not a friend but an enemy, concealing the true state of our heart. We wonder why we fall into sin so soon after a seemingly powerful encounter with God. What we fail to realize is that our hearts were stolen by spiritual gluttony, not real reverence.

We must avoid the trap of equating "good worship" with "good feeling." The two are unrelated.

When we love Christ only for what He brings us, including spiritual feelings, we are loving ourselves, not loving Him, regardless of the sacrifice we think we are offering. The dark night of the soul purifies our motivation and keeps us from becoming like the crowds in the New Testament who followed Jesus, not for His teaching, but for the miraculously supplied bread.

When we live by faith and not feelings, when we persevere no matter how dry we feel, Teresa of Avila said, we show we are among those souls who "would want the Lord to see that they do not serve Him for pay." That is, we want the Lord to see that we will serve Him regardless of whether it gives us pleasure or pain. We will serve Him because He is God and Lord and because He has captured our hearts and our wills.

Chapters 11 & 12 are compelling and useful chapters which focus on personal application --bringing the spiritual disciplines into a practical realm. I will not be journalling quotes from those chapters, so this will be my final post of quotes from this book.

I am glad so many of you have paused to contemplate the quotes I've shared from this rich, provocative book. Thank you for your comments. And thank you to Dr. George Grant for recommending it.

To see all of my posts of quotes from chapters of this book, either click the tag "reading journal" below this post, or simply type "Thomas Seeking" in the blog search box in the header.

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