3 [John asked Him,] “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me”
Matthew 11:3-6 (ESV).
Dark Night of the Soul
Times of crisis cause pain and force us to examine what we sincerely believe about God. Ancient writers knew this as “dark night (of the soul),” a term commonly used in Christianity for a spiritual crisis in one’s journey toward God.
My “dark night” came when my first wife was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer and was given only a few months to live. As a minister, husband and father; I couldn’t understand why God was allowing this to happen to my family and me.
Like many who have also been in this situation, I sought out the best physicians, medical facilities and experts in the field. I read everything I could get my hands on looking for answers. I begged and pleaded with God for healing. And at times, I wondered if He really cared about what my family and we were experiencing.
Do You Trust Me?
While cutting grass on an old John Deere lawn tractor, my soul finally became quiet enough to hear God speak to me. His question was simply this: “Do you trust Me?”
I pressed the brake, placed the tractor in idle and said, “Do I trust you?”
Even though I’d asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior at age 10, I once again faced the question: Do I trust Him? I realized the eternal impact of my answer. If I couldn’t trust God to take care of my wife, my children and me through this crisis, then how could I trust Him to take care of my soul for eternity?
With tears streaming down my face, I confessed, “I trust You. I trust You with my wife, my children, my life and my future. I trust You – no matter the outcome!”
Responding to God in Times of Crisis
So how should we respond to God in times of crisis? Begin by regularly incorporating the following spiritual practices into your life.
1. Silence and Solitude – Mark 1:35-39
2. Prayer – Matthew 6:5-15
3. Bible Reading – 2 Timothy 3:10-17
4. Service to Others – Mark 10:35-45
5. Worship – Psalm 95
Resources: Spiritual Disciplines and Spiritual Formation
Following is a brief list of my favorite resources related to spiritual practices, the classic spiritual disciplines and/or spiritual formation in the Christian life.
Andrews, Alan, ed. The Kingdom Life: A Practical Theology of Discipleship and Spiritual Formation. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2010.
Boa, Kenneth. Conformed to His Image: Biblical and Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001.
Foster, Richard J. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. New York: HarperOne, 1998.
Ortberg, John. The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002.
Whitney, Donald S. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1991.
Willard, Dallas. The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988.
State Missionary Steve Layton is an associate in the Office of Sunday School & Discipleship. He may be contacted at 1-800-264-1225, ext. 2221, or (334) 613-2221, email@example.com.