In the previous part we touched on the subject of spiritual "dry spells." If you set forth for the spiritual lands that have been described in these first chapters, you must realize that times of dryness await you. It would be wise of us, then, to continue this subject for just a little while longer.
Dear reader, you must realize that God has only one desire. Certainly you can never understand a dry spell unless you understand what His desire is. His desire is to give Himself to the soul that really loves Him and to that soul which earnestly seeks Him. And yet it is true that this God who desires to give Himself to you will often conceal Himself from you - from you, the very one who seeks Him!
Now why would God do that? Dear saint of God, you must learn the ways of your Lord. Yours is a God who often hides Himself. He hides Himself for a purpose. Why? His purpose is to rouse you from spiritual laziness. His purpose in removing Himself from you is to cause you to pursue Him.
The Lord Jesus is looking about everywhere for that Christian who will remain faithful and loving even when He has withdrawn Himself. If the Lord finds such a faithful soul, when He does return, He rewards the faithfulness of His child. He pours out upon that faithful one abundant goodness and tender caresses of love.
Here, then, is something you must understand.
You will have times of spiritual dryness. It is part of the Lord's way.
But the fact you will have spiritual dry spells is not the issue. The important question is what you will do in a time of spiritual dryness? At this point you must learn something about your natural tendencies. It will be the natural thing for you, during a dry season, to try to prove your love to the Lord. During a spiritually dry season you will find that you will try to prove to the Lord your faithfulness toward Him; you will do this by exerting your strength. Unconsciously you will be hoping by such self effort to persuade Him to return more quickly.
No, dear Christian, believe me, this is not the way to respond to your Lord in seasons of dryness.
What then shall you do?
You must await the return of your Beloved with patient love. Join with that love self denial and humiliation! Even though the Lord has hidden Himself, remain constantly before Him. There before Him, pour out your love upon Him passionately and yet, I would add, always peacefully.
Spend time with Him in worship and in respectful silence.
By waiting upon the Lord in this way, you will demonstrate to Him that it is He alone whom you are seeking. You see, you will be demonstrating that it is not the selfish enjoyment which you receive from being in His presence that causes you to love Him. You will be showing that it is not the pleasure which you experience, but your love that motivates you.
There is a quotation from Apocrypha that speaks of such seasons:
Do not be impatient in times of dryness and darkness; allow the removals and delays of the consolations of God; draw near to Him and wait upon Him patiently that your life may be increased and be renewed.
So, dear children of the Lord, be patient in your prayer during those seasons of dryness.
Let me ask you a question. What if the Lord called upon you to spend your whole lifetime waiting for His return to You? How would you conduct yourself if this were the lot the Lord should mete out to you for all the rest of your life? What would you do?
Wait upon Him in a spirit of humility, in a spirit of abandonment, with contentment and resignation. Spend your time in that wonderful kind of prayer which I have mentioned previously. Come before Him quietly and peacefully, recalling your mind to His presence even though His presence may evade you.
As you do these things, accompany them all with pleas of sorrowful, plaintive love and expressions of yearnings for your lover's return.
I wish to assure you that if you will conduct yourself this way, it will please the heart of God greatly. Such an attitude will compel Him to return to you much more quickly than any other.
At the outset of this book we discussed how to know the depths of Jesus Christ. Our beginning was quite simple. We looked first at praying the Scripture and then at the simplicity of just beholding the Lord. After you have pursued this level of experience with the Lord for a considerable length of time, you then should be ready to go on to a deeper level of experience with Him and a deeper level of knowing Him. But in this deeper encounter with the Lord which we looked at previously, you must move outside the realm of prayer alone; or, to state it more clearly, you must move away from just the one or two times a day you set apart for prayer with the Lord.
At this point, there must enter into your heart whole new attitudes toward your entire life. If you are to branch out beyond just a time of prayer each day, other parts of your life - and even your whole viewpoint of life - will have to be altered. This new attitude must come for a very special reason - so that you may go on deeper, still deeper, into another level with your Lord.
To do this, you must have a fresh attitude toward yourself as well as toward the Lord; it is an attitude that must go much deeper than any you have known previously.
To do this, I introduce a new word to you. The word is abandonment.
To penetrate deeper in the experience of Jesus Christ, it is required that you begin to abandon your whole existence, giving it up to God. Let us take the daily occurrences of life as an illustration. You must utterly believe that the circumstances of your life, that is, every minute of your life, as well as the whole course of your life - anything, yes, everything that happens - have all come to you by His will and by His permission. You must utterly believe that everything that has happened to you is from God and is exactly what you need.
Do you remember in an earlier section that you saw how you could first be introduced to such a disposition? You can begin by accepting every time of prayer, whether it be a glorious time with Him or a time when your mind wanders, as being exactly what He desired for you. Then learn to broaden this perspective until it encompasses every second of your life!
Such an outlook towards your circumstances and such a look of faith towards your Lord will make you content with everything. Once you believe this, you will then begin to take everything that comes into your life as being from the hand of God, not from the hand of man.
Do you truly, sincerely desire to give yourself up to God?
Then I must next remind you that once you have made the donation, you cannot take the gift back again. Once the gift has been presented, it no longer belongs to the giver. This little book is written to tell you how to experience the depths of Jesus Christ, but knowing the depths of Jesus Christ is not just a method. It is a life-long attitude. It is a matter of being enveloped by God and possessed by Him.
We have spoken of abandonment. Abandonment is a matter of the greatest importance if you are to make progress in knowing your Lord. Abandonment is, in fact, the key to the inner court - the key to the fathomless depths. Abandonment is the key to the inward spiritual life.
The believer who knows how to abandon himself to the Lord will soon become perfect (not sinless perfection, but a life lived and a will lived in absolute, perfect concert with the will of God - constantly, under all circumstances at all times).
Let us say you reach this state of abandonment. Once you have reached this state, you must continue, steadfast and immovable. Otherwise, to arrive there and remain only briefly is of little value. It is one thing to reach this state; it is another thing to remain there.
Be careful; do not listen to the voice of your natural reasoning. You can expect just such reasoning to well up within you. Nonetheless, you must believe that you can abandon yourself utterly to the Lord for all your lifetime and that He will give you the grace to remain there! You must trust in God, "hoping against hope." (Romans 4:18)
Great faith produces great abandonment.
What is abandonment? If we can understand what it is, perhaps we can better lay hold of it.
Abandonment is casting off all your cares. Abandonment is dropping all your needs. This includes spiritual needs. Let me repeat that, for it is not easily grasped. Abandonment is laying aside, forever, all of your spiritual needs.
All Christians have spiritual needs; but the believer who has abandoned himself to the Lord no longer indulges in the luxury of being aware of spiritual needs. Rather, he gives himself over completely to the disposal of God.
Do you realize that all Christians have been exhorted to abandonment?
The Lord Himself has said, "Take no thought for tomorrow, for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things." (Matthew 6:32, 34) Again the Scripture says, "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:6) "Commit your works unto the Lord, and your thoughts shall be established." (Proverbs 16:3) Again, in the book of Psalms it says, "Commit your ways to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will bring it to pass." (Psalm 37:5)
True abandonment must cover two complete worlds, two complete realms.
There must be an abandonment in your life concerning all outward, practical things. Secondly, there must also be an abandonment of all inward, spiritual things. You must come to the Lord and there engage in giving up all your concerns. All your concerns go into the hand of God. You forget yourself, and from that moment on you think only of Him.
By continuing to do this over a long period of time, your heart will remain unattached; your heart will be free and at peace!
How do you practice abandonment? You practice it daily, hourly, and by the moment. Abandonment is practiced by continually losing your own will in the will of God by plunging your will into the depths of His will, there to be lost forever!
And how do you begin? You must begin by refusing every personal desire that comes to you just as soon as it arises - no matter how good that personal desire is, and no matter how helpful it might appear!
Abandonment must reach a point where you stand in complete indifference to yourself. You can be sure that out of such a disposition a wonderful result will come.
The result of this attitude will, in fact, bring you to the most wonderful point imaginable. It is the point where your will breaks free of you completely and becomes free to be joined to the will of God! You will desire only what He desires, that is, what He has desired for all eternity.
Become abandoned by simply resigning yourself to what the Lord wants, in all things, no matter what they are, where they come from, or how they affect your life.
What is abandonment? It is forgetting your past; it is leaving the future in His hands; it is devoting the present fully and completely to your Lord. Abandonment is being satisfied with the present moment, no matter what that moment contains. You are satisfied because you know that whatever that moment has, it contains - in that instant - God's eternal plan for you.
You will always know that that moment is the absolute and total declaration of His will for your life.
Remember, you must never blame man for anything. No matter what happens, it was neither man nor circumstances that brought it. You must accept everything (except, of course, your own sinfulness) as having come from your Lord.
Surrender not only what the Lord does to you, but surrender your reaction to what He does.
Do you wish to go into the depths of Jesus Christ? If you wish to enter into this deeper state of knowing the Lord, you must seek to know not only a deeper prayer, but also abandonment in all realms of your life. This means branching out until your new relationship includes living 24 hours a day utterly abandoned to Him. Begin to surrender yourself to be led by God and to be dealt with by Him. Do so right now. Surrender yourself to allow Him to do with you exactly as He pleases - both in your inward life of experiencing Him and also in your outward life of accepting all circumstances as from Him.
ABANDONMENT AND SUFFERING
I would like to continue speaking with you about abandonment, but in this section let us see how such a consecration affects you when suffering comes into your life.
You must be patient in all the suffering that God sends you. If your love for the Lord is pure, you will love Him as much on Calvary as on Mt. Tabor. The Lord Jesus loved His Father on Mt. Tabor where He was transfigured, but He loved Him no less on Calvary where He was crucified. Surely, then, you should love the Lord as much on Calvary, for it was there that He made the greatest display of His love.
There is a possibility that you might make a mistake concerning your abandonment to the Lord. You may abandon yourself to the Lord hoping and expecting always to be caressed and loved and spiritually blessed by Him. You who have given yourself to the Lord during some pleasant season, please take note of this: If you gave yourself to Him to be blessed and to be loved, you cannot suddenly turn around and take back your life at another season...when you are being crucified!
Nor will you find any comfort from man when you have been put on the cross. Any comfort that comes to you when you are knowing the cross comes to you from the Lord.
You must learn to love the cross. He who does not love the cross does not love the things of God. (Matthew 16:23). It is impossible for you to truly love the Lord without loving the cross. The believer who loves the cross finds that even the bitterest things that come his way are sweet. The Scripture says, "To the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet." (Proverbs 27:7).
How much do you desire to hunger after God? You will hunger after God, and find Him, in the same proportion that you hunger after the cross.
Here is a true spiritual principle that the Lord will not deny: God gives us the cross, and then the cross gives us God.
As you can see, now we have moved outside the realm of a certain period of time set aside for prayer; we have now moved into a realm that involves the whole experience of the believer. Let it be said here and now: You may be certain there will come to you an inward spiritual advancement when there is also in your life a real progress in knowing the experience of the cross. Abandonment to Christ and the experience of the cross go hand in hand.
Then how will you treat suffering? Or, to put it another way, how do you respond to the Lord's working of the cross in your life?
You respond this way. As soon as anything comes to you in the form of suffering, at that very moment a natural resistance will well up somewhere inside you. When that moment comes, immediately resign yourself to God. accept the matter. In that moment give yourself up to Him as a sacrifice.
By doing this, you will eventually make a wonderful discovery. It is this: When the cross does arrive in your life, it will not be nearly as burdensome as you first feared. Receive it as from God, no matter what it is. The burden is far lighter this way.
Why is the cross so much lighter when accepted in this way? Because you will have desired the cross, and you will have accustomed yourself to receive everything from the hand of the Lord.
Do not misunderstand these words. I have not described to you a way to get out of the cross. Even though you utterly abandon yourself to the Lord and completely resign yourself to suffering, this will not prevent you from feeling the weight of that cross. If you have not felt the cross, then you have not suffered. Feeling the pain of suffering is one of the principal parts of suffering. Pain is an inescapable aspect of the cross. Without it, there has been no cross at all. Suffering is woven into the nature of the cross. Pain is at the center of knowing suffering. Please remember that your Lord chose to endure the most extreme violence the cross could offer.
Sometimes you may bear the cross in weakness; at other times you may bear the cross in strength. But whether you bear it in weakness or in strength, bear it! Both weakness and strength should be the same to us since we bear the cross in the will of God.
Next week: Abandonment and Revelation
Abandonment and a Holy Life