Have You Ever Felt Hung Out to Dry?

But who will survive the day when he comes? Or who can stand when he appears? For he’s like a refiner’s fire and a launderer’s soap. He will sit refining and purifying silver, purifying the descendants of Levi, refining them like gold and silver. Then they’ll bring a righteous offering to the Lord. (Mal 3:2-3, ISV)

Yes, who shall survive the day of His coming? How many of you have been going through times of deep trials and even spiritual dryness, when  all of a sudden the night is over and the morning sun arises in your hearts?  It seems that in the ongoing process of God’s purification of our hearts, He takes us through dark nights, but eventually there is a glorious sunrise. We want the sunshine to last with no more periods of darkness and trials, yet another night comes all too soon! Will this process ever end? You start to feel like you are in the hands of a launderer who is scrubbing you up and down on a washboard with lye soap!

I was looking at Psalm 30 and noticed the ups and downs that David spoke of in his own walk.

“Sing unto the LORD, O you saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness [up]. For his anger endures but for a moment [down]; in his favor is life [up]: weeping may endure for a night [down], but joy comes in the morning. And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved. LORD, by your favor you have made my mountain to stand strong [up]: you did hide your face, and I was troubled [down].” (Ps 30:4-7, KJ2000)

Does this look familiar? He blesses us and we rejoice and praise His name and are feeling pretty good about our place in His kingdom. Then we feel His displeasure and we are troubled and sad and another trial begins. We know His favor to be our life. We weep again and are sad for a season as He goes deeper into our souls, but when we see the reason for our suffering, we once again take courage that God’s hand is in it for our good. We eventually start to feel like we have arrived and are prosperous in the Spirit and say, “Finally, I shall never be moved! The Lord has made me to stand like a strong mountain in His presence!” Then He hides his face from our exalted pride and we are once again brought low. Poor David was going through this same process that has become so familiar to many of us as we seek to be made whole IN Christ.

John of the Cross wrote about this very process in his book, The Dark Night of the Soul.

…the soul that desires to consider it will be able to see how on this road… it has to suffer many ups and downs, and how the prosperity which it enjoys is followed immediately by certain storms and trials; so much so, that it appears to have been given that period of calm in order that it might be forewarned and strengthened against the poverty which has followed; just as after misery and torment there come abundance and calm… This is the ordinary course and proceeding of the state of contemplation until the soul arrives at the state of quietness; it never remains in the same state for long together, but is ascending and descending continually.

The reason for this is that, as the state of perfection, which consists in the perfect love of God and contempt for self, cannot exist unless it have these two parts, which are the knowledge of God and of oneself, the soul has of necessity to be practised first in the one and then in the other, now being given to taste of the one—that is, exaltation—and now being made to experience the other—that is, humiliation…*

David finally ends his observation by saying this:

Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me: LORD, be my helper. You have turned for me my mourning into dancing: you have put off my sackcloth, and [you have] girded me with gladness; To the end that my glory may sing praise to you, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto you forever. (Ps 30:10-12, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

In these last two verses David, is no longer strong in himself. He pleads to God for mercy and to be His help. There is no mention of never being moved, of prosperity, or of being strong like a mountain; now he is weak and pleads for God to be his strength. It is God who turns his mourning into dancing. It is God who girds him with gladness that he might sing His praises and give Him thanks forever. There is a subtle difference between verses 4-7 and verses 10-12, but that difference is true brokenness and humility. Jesus said this to Nathanial:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter you shall see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. (John 1:51, KJ2000)

Jesus was referring to Himself as the ladder that Jacob saw in his dream. John of the Cross wrote that this process of exaltation and humiliation continues

…until it has acquired perfect habits; and then this ascending and descending will cease, since the soul will have attained to God and become united with Him, which comes to pass at the summit of this ladder, for the ladder [Christ] rests and leans upon Him… All this, says Divine Scripture, took place by night, when Jacob slept, in order to express how secret is this road and ascent to God [and few be they who find it], and how different from that of man’s knowledge. This is very evident, since ordinarily that which is of the greatest profit in it—namely, to be ever losing oneself and becoming as nothing—is considered the worst thing possible; and that which is of least worth, which is for a soul to find consolation and sweetness (wherein it ordinarily loses rather than gains), is considered best. *

I am reminded of Ezekiel chapter 37 when God sets the prophet in the middle of a valley littered with dry human bones and asked the prophet if the bones could live again.

And he said unto me, “Son of man, can these bones live”? And I answered, “O Lord GOD, [only] you know.” (Ezek 37:3, KJ2000)

When He has made our bones not just dry to outward appearances, but very dry so that even the marrow inside the bones of our souls is dried up. Then there is progress (remember, “the life is in the blood” and the blood is made in the marrow. Our natural soulish life is what He is drying up in us). Finally after many trials, we are done trying to out-guess Him and find a way out of our miseries. We even quit hoping that things will change under His mighty hand.  We resign ourselves to the will of God alone with no reservations saying, “Oh Lord God, only YOU know. Your will be done with me according to YOUR good pleasure.” This is when we enter into the glory of the Father and the Son, immersed in their love. That glory sings praises to them forevermore.  Finally, John of the Cross describes God’s goal in putting us through this process.

…we shall observe that the principal characteristic of [this] contemplation, on account of which it is here called a ladder, is that it is the science of love. This, as we have said, is an infused and loving knowledge of God, which enlightens the soul and at the same time enkindles it with love, until it is raised up step by step, even unto God its Creator. For it is love alone that unites and joins the soul with God. *

The Apostle John wrote:

And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him. In this is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has to do with punishment. He that fears is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. (1John 4:16-19, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

*http://www.ccel.org/ccel/john_cross/dark_night.viii.xviii.html?highlight=secret%20wisdom#highlight

(A special thanks to Susanne Schuberth for finding this writing in “The Dark Night of the Soul” for me. She and I have been going through this process for years, and are starting to see our Father’s purpose it all. Though the heart pains during the downward cycle can really be painful, the glorious joy afterwards is heavenly.)

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23 comments on “Have You Ever Felt Hung Out to Dry?

  1. I have been wondering about you and Susanne. The silence. I was crying reading this. Will this ever end? I too have been silent as I am too going through yet another trial. I feel sad, angry, and yet the morning shall come again. My heart feels vulnerable. Unsure. And yet I still must carry on until the fullness of our joys. As I am writing this I am in tears, eyes blurry from the tears. The pain, the trials, for standing up for what is right. As somewhere in Revelations, How long Lord, how long?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Don’t leave me to hang out [to] dry!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Michael says:

        Stacey, If God leaves us for a time, “hanging out to dry,” it is that we might enjoy His Sonshine in our hearts. To the flesh this seems fatal, but to the spirit in us it seems vital and rejuvenating. In Hebrews we read,

        “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Heb 12:11, ESV2011)

        There is a point in our maturing in Christ where we finally lay down our wills at His feet and yield to the will of God, knowing that it is His love for us that is working ALL things, painful or not, for our good.

        I will be praying for you, dear sister.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Ok now I understand. Thank you.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. @ Stacey
    I will keep praying for you that God gives you His strength and that He comforts your troubled heart. ❤

    @ Michael
    Thank you for this special thanks. This is a very good article, indeed! You wrote,

    “Finally after many trials, we are done trying to out-guess Him and find a way out of our miseries. We even quit hoping that things will change under His mighty hand. We resign ourselves to the will of God alone with no reservations saying, “Oh Lord God, only YOU know. Your will be done with me according to YOUR good pleasure.”

    Amen to that. That is where I find myself at the moment. Unable to change anything, neither my circumstances nor my self which I truly began to hate lately, all this doubting God and fearing the future, esp. the death of loved ones, and the fear of losing “control” whatsoever. After six days of rebellion where I tried to force my will regarding the future on God through my prayers, I eventually quit doing so yesterday. But even quitting our old self happens through God’s power and grace alone. Eventually, when we are allowed to die to our old self nature because we have realized how utterly depraved it is (Romans 7), we cry out with Jesus,

    “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Lk 22:42) ESV

    Waiting on our personal resurrection, that is, to be found IN Christ as Romans 8 describes it is something we need to await with a patience only God can give. We MUST be born from above! Today I believe that this divine birth happens when we have arrived at the end of the ladder, not before. Our old nature is worth nothing and will never please God in any way.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Michael says:

      Susanne, I reply to your comment with great hesitation. I do not want to presume on what God is doing in your heart. I get this feeling that He wants me to take a “hands off” approach for some reason. But, I DO rejoice that you have come to the end of your six day struggle and entered into His seventh day rest. You are in good hands with our Father. I can feel it in my heart.

      Father, I pray with Susanne, “Nevertheless, not our wills but yours be done in our lives and the lives of those we love. Amen.”

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Martha says:

    Gracias Michael por compartir este escrito de su corazón. Leerlo con traductor y la ayuda del E.S fue como un espejo de mi realidad también… Cada vez que mi alma se angustia y pasa por valle se sombra de muerte, se esfuerza en contemplar la luz de un nuevo amanecer. Mientras leía mi alma recibía el consuelo sabio de tu corazón mientras seco mis lágrimas y comprendo que este es el camino a la muerte del “yo” y que tiene que darse en nuestro Peniel, para que no seamos más Jacob sino Israel.

    >Translation<
    Thanks Michael for sharing this writing from your heart. I read it with the help of translator and E.S was like a mirror of my reality too … Every time my soul anguish and passes valley of the shadow of death, it strives to contemplate the light of a new dawn. While reading my soul received the wise consolation of your heart while I dry my tears and understand that this is the way to death of "I" and that has to be our Peniel, so that we are no more Jacob, but Israel.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Michael says:

      Dear Martha, thank you for you gracious comment. I am glad that this article spoke to your heart and your situation. Yes, this seems to be the way that God has chosen to bring us beyond our old natures. Your example of Jacob at Peniel is a very good one. As we wrestle with our Lord He finally has to touch us in our strongest place and make our strength our weakness so that we can be truly strong IN Him alone.
      Bless you, my sister.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. KENNETH DAWSON says:

    Yes birth is quick but growth is a lot longer

    Liked by 3 people

    • Michael says:

      So true, Ken. I remember as I was growing up I would complain to my mom about pains I felt in my joints. No sympathy there! She would always say, “Those are just growing pains.” Well, I guess I am still growing because I still have lots of pains in my joints. 😛 Yes, growing INTO the fullness of Christ is no walk in the park.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. David Murry says:

    (Forgive me if this is a double post)

    I really really was comforted and blessed by this Michael. Thank you. Your gentle but quickening words sharpened some fuzzy areas for me.

    To see His hand upon me to bring me closer into union with Him and being encouraged by your words here is wonderful.

    Amazing to see all the various ways His intense love is expressed… especially thru trials that bring us into walking deeper into His mind, heart and ways.

    This really comforted and exhorted me.. thank you again.

    David

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michael says:

      David, thank you for your kind comments. It is good to hear from you again. I am so glad that God used what I shared in your life to bring you clarity, comfort and exhortation. It was written from my many often painful experiences in pursuit of Christ. But I think he uses these to open us up so He can go even deeper, He in us and we in Him. Thank God He also gives us and increased awareness of His peace, rest, love and joy in between our “open heart surgeries.”

      Liked by 3 people

      • David Murry says:

        You too.. unexpected family issues have taken up a lot of time lately… but He is faithful.

        And yes!… I find more and more the truth that with the greatest love comes the greatest pain. Learning to embrace both at the same time has ironically continued to bring me the greatest peace and joy I have known so far.

        I am so blessed by you forerunners.

        Hope to talk soon 🙂

        Thank you

        Liked by 3 people

      • Michael says:

        David, you bring up a very good point… pain and love at the same time. Someone said, “Real love runs toward pain.” Imagine the pain AND love that held Jesus to the way of the cross.

        Yes, it would be good to talk with you again. Forerunner? I am more like a fore-walker these days. 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

  6. David Murry says:

    Perhaps… but good enough for this guy here. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I find that much of my testing involves the trials of loved ones. This is not because I am especially selfless. It is, I suspect, because I have control issues. Like Susanne, I attempt to sway God by prayer — and, in my case, argument — in the direction I would have Him go. This overlooks the fact that my loved ones are in His hands, in the very same way I am. His will is, of course, perfect where mine (ahem) is not.

    Whether with regard to our own trials or those of loved ones, we are often tempted to cry out to God “Why?” My mother, for instance, was a lifelong Christian — a gentle and generous soul. Yet she suffered grievously from heart disease during the last 2 years of her life.

    The knowledge that sanctification is an ongoing process is a great comfort. It puts our suffering (and theirs) in context.

    By the way, I love the text from Ezekiel you reference, Michael. The story has over the years had special meaning to me, as an abuse survivor. You will remember that the Lord returned flesh to the dry bones and restored them to life.

    Blessings,

    Anna ❤

    Liked by 4 people

    • David Murry says:

      I can relate to this.

      One of the reasons the Lord showed me why this occurs is this is where our greatest fears often lie… things outside our control esp with those we love.

      More and more what I have called “love” I am realizing for myself at least.. is such a dark, carnal love.. more akin to fear, than Dad’s love.

      And so He seeks to set me free from this thru such trials. Tons…… of fun. 😉

      In the end though, right?

      Thanks for sharing Anna.

      David

      Liked by 3 people

    • Michael says:

      Thank you, Anna, for sharing more of your life and insight with us. It is always good to hear from you. Yes, learning to pray, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done,” and really mean it out of confidence in the ways of God, THAT is the challenge. Faith is the evidence of things not yet seen. Oh, Father, give us real faith and trust in you.

      I have looked long and hard at that Ezekiel 37 over the years. I took a special interest in it when I felt that God had killed and dismembered my soul in the wilderness for 14 years. I am seeing that He DOES not leave us in that state, though. He has been putting me together with His saints as HE wills, “bone to his bone.” I could never have guessed who those people might have been. It is a slow process, though, as the refining continues. But there is hope…

      “And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.” (Ezek 37:6, KJ2000)

      “You shall LIVE and KNOW that I am the Lord.” Oh, yes Father, make it so. Amen.

      Liked by 4 people

  8. Fred Thoren says:

    Thank you for this. I think for me this is good timing.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. All good comments. We truly share the same Spirit, and struggles.

    Liked by 1 person

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