Joel Osteen — Night Seasons
I wanna talk to you today about "Night seasons". We all go through times that we don't understand. We're praying and believing but our health isn't improving, our finances haven't turned around, we still haven't met the right person. We can feel alone, forgotten, like it's never going to change, it's a night season. And in these night seasons, you can't see what God is doing. Doesn't look like anything is happening but God is working behind the scenes. He does his greatest work in the dark. We don't see anything changing, we're still dealing with the same problem, but God hasn't forgotten about you.
In the dark times when life feels unfair you have to remind yourself that God is still in control. And just because you don't see anything, doesn't mean that God is not working. He doesn't always show you what he's up to. And it's easy to trust him when you're getting good breaks, things are going great. But you have to learn to trust him in the night seasons when things aren't going your way, you don't see anything happening.
The heroes of faith all went through these night seasons. David, as a young man, defeated Goliath. It was a great victory but after that he spent years running from king Saul, having to hide in caves, sleep in the desert. I'm sure he prayed, "God, deliver me from Saul. This is not right". But it was like the heavens were silent. God didn't change it. Saul was wrong. It was unfair to David but the night seasons are a time of testing, a time of proving. Are we going to get negative, live discouraged, or are we gonna say, "God, I don't understand it. It's not fair but I trust you. I know you're not just the God of the daytime but you're the God of the night seasons".
In the scripture, Ruth lost her husband at an early age. He was killed in a battle and she was devastated and heartbroken. She could have given up on life, lived in self-pity, but she understood this principle: the night seasons are not the end. The bad breaks, the disappointments, the loss, the sickness, that's simply another step on the way to your destiny. The Psalmist said, "Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning". Your story doesn't end in the night. The night is temporary. The sickness is temporary. The loneliness, a temporary. That addiction, it's only temporary. Ruth went on to meet another man. They fell in love, got married, had a baby. Her story didn't end in the dark.
When things aren't working out, you feel like you're going the wrong direction, God's not changing it, don't get discouraged. It's just a night season. It's not permanent, it's not how your story ends. You may not see anything happening but God is at work. Dare to trust him. Keep moving forward in faith. Keep believing. It's just a matter of time before the morning breaks forth.
Job went through a night season. Everything was going great. He was happy, healthy, successful. And life took a sudden turn. Out of nowhere, he came down with an illness, had boils all over his body. It's very painful. He lost his business, lost his family. His whole world was turned upside down. And what's interesting is Job was a good man. He loved God, he was a person of excellence and integrity. This would make more sense if he was a compromiser, making wrong choices, not honoring God. But the scripture says: "Rain falls on the just and the unjust".
Just because you're a good person doesn't mean you're not going to have some night seasons. And you may be in a difficult time now. It doesn't necessarily mean you've done something wrong, God's not pleased with you, you don't have his favor. It's just life. You're getting some rain. Without the rain, we couldn't grow. And God wouldn't have allowed it if it was going to keep you from your destiny. He has you in the palm of his hand. He's closely watching you. And you may feel like you're in the fire but God controls the thermostat. He won't let it be more than you can handle.
Now quit telling yourself, "I'll never make it through this, Joel. I'll never get well, never accomplish my dream". No, it's just a night season. It's not a surprise to God. He already has the solution. The breakthrough is headed your way. But Job did what many of us do in the difficult times. He focused on the problem and magnified what was wrong and let it overwhelm him. He said in chapter 7, "I will never again experience pleasure. I have been assigned to long weary nights of misery". He was saying, "This is permanent. This is how my story ends. I've been assigned to nights of misery".
We do an event called "A night of hope". If Job would have been touring, he would have called it "A night of misery". I'm not making light of what he faced because it was serious but the mistake he made was thinking it was permanent. And what you're going through may be difficult but the good news is you are going through it. It's not your final destination. It's a night season not a night lifetime. In Job's darkest hour, when he was the most discouraged, God said to him, "I will fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy". God was saying, "Job, it looks bad. You don't understand it but don't worry. It's not permanent, it's just a season. I'm about to fill your mouth with laughter".
God is saying to you what he said to Job. Life may not have been fair but you're not going to live discouraged, overwhelmed by problems, burdened down by illnesses. Joy is coming. Health is coming. Breakthroughs are coming. Promotion is coming. God is about to fill your mouth with laughter. That means God's gonna do something so unusual, so extraordinary, you'll be so amazed all you can do is laugh. Your mourning is going to be turned to dancing. Your sorrow turned to joy.
This is what happened with Job. He didn't just make it through the night season but God restored back to him double what he lost. He came out with twice the cattle, twice the sheep, twice the--he felt twice as healthy. God always makes the enemy pay for bringing the trouble. If you'll stay in faith you won't just come out, you will come out better than you were before.
The scripture says: "After this, Job lived 140 years and saw 4 generations. Then he died an old man, having lived a long, good life". When we think of Job, we usually think of all the pain, all the suffering. The truth is that was just one season. You may be in a dark time but, like Job, you're going to come through it and still live a long blessed life. It says after this, Job lived 140 years. After what? After the night season. That means after the loss, after the disappointment, after the divorce, after the sickness. There are still many great days up ahead.
My father went through a night season. He was married at a very young age and, unfortunately, the marriage didn't work out and he was devastated. He resigned from his church and got out of the ministry. Denominational leaders told him that he would never pastor again. People said he was finished. The good news is people don't determine your destiny, God does. Two years later, he got back in the ministry. And he ended up marrying my mother and they had 5 children, were married for almost 50 years. And then they started Lakewood. He pastored here 40 years, touching the world.
This all happened after the divorce, after the disappointment. He thought that would sour the rest of his life but it was just a season. He went on to live a long, blessed, faith-filled life. Don't let the night seasons convince you that you've seen your best days. You wouldn't be alive unless God had something amazing up in front of you. But in the dark times, it's easy to talk about the difficulties, talk about how bad life is treating us. Like Job, exaggerate our problems. All that's going to do is make you more discouraged, more defeated, take your joy. Instead of complaining, one of the best things you can say is, "All is well".
When you say, "All is well," what you're really saying is, "God is still on the throne. I'm not gonna live upset, bitter, guilty. I may be in a night season but I know this too shall pass. All is well". Somebody says, "Well, I thought the medical report wasn't good"? Yes, that's true but all is well. God is restoring health back into me. "Your child is still off-course"? Yes, but I'm not worried. All is well. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. "Joel, how can you say, 'all is well,' when you went through a breakup, you lost a loved one, you still haven't met the right person"? The way you can say it is because you know the night season is only temporary. You know joy is coming. You know what was meant for harm God is turning to your advantage. You know after this is a long, blessed, faith-filled life.
Now, don't talk yourself into being miserable. We all have night seasons, things we don't understand. Keep a report of victory coming out of your mouth. If you're going to magnify something, don't magnify your problems. Magnify your God. Talk about his greatness. Talk about his favor. And yes, you may have big challenges but can I tell you we serve a big God. The sickness may seem impossible. God can do the impossible. That obstacle may look permanent. One touch of God's favor will thrust you to a next level. Quit worrying. God is saying, "All is well". In your finances, all is well. In your health, all is well. In your family, all is well.
It may be night right now but morning is coming. You're going to see what God was doing behind the scenes. And every day you stay in faith, every day you keep a good attitude, despite the darkness, you are passing the test. That night season will come to an end. The Psalmist said, "When darkness overtakes the righteous, light will come bursting in". It's going to happy suddenly, unexpectedly. You didn't see it coming. You woke up and it was still dark. Nothing had changed. Then suddenly, you get the break you need. Suddenly, your health turns around. Suddenly, you meet the right person. The light will come bursting in.
Moses went through a night season. As a young man, he made a mistake and killed someone that was mistreating a Hebrew slave. He knew he was called to deliver the Israelites but he got out of God's timing and tried to do it on his own. He had to flee for his life. He spent 40 years on the back side of the desert in hiding. He felt alone, forgotten. It was his fault. Every voice said, "Too bad. You blew it, you're a failure". But God doesn't waste anything that we go through. He uses it to get us prepared for our destiny. And those years out in the desert, Moses couldn't see what God was doing behind the scenes. But God was making him and molding him. He thought he was finished but God was using that time to develop his character. He was getting him prepared for his comeback.
Like Moses, you may have made mistakes that have put you in a night season. Something was delayed, you had to take a detour, you're not where you thought you would be. Now you think you have to settle there and never accomplish what God put in your heart. You may not realize it, but right now God is getting you prepared for your comeback. What he started, he's going to finish. He's already taken into account every wrong turn, every mistake, every bad break. It may look like the end to you. The truth is it's just a temporary delay. It's a time of testing, a time of proving, where your character is being developed. God is working in you, polishing off the rough edges. He's getting you prepared for where he's taking you.
Forty years later, God came back and said, "All right, Moses. Now I'm ready for you to deliver my people". The scripture says: "Moses was the most humble man in all the land". In that night season, Moses changed. He learned to wait on God, to listen to his voice, to walk in humility. He came up higher in his character. In the difficult times, stay pliable, stay open. Say, "God, make me and mold me. Show me where I need to change". You grow in the tough times. Even physically, you grow at night when you're asleep.
In the same way, when you're in a night season, you may not like it but it's working for you. You're getting stronger. You have to be prepared for where God is taking you. Moses couldn't handle it the first time. He made a mistake, had to run. God didn't write him off. He didn't cancel his destiny. He used the night season to refine him. When Saul was chasing David through the desert, there were several opportunities for David to kill Saul. He could have taken his life, gotten rid of his problem. David wouldn't do it. He knew Saul had been anointed by God. He told his men, "I'm not going to harm what God has anointed". After he passed these tests, after David showed God what he was made of, a man of character and integrity, God took care of Saul and David was made the king.
In the night seasons if you will pass these tests, change where you need to change, deal with the areas God's bringing to light, prove to him that you'll do the right thing when it's hard, you'll forgive even thought they hurt you, then, like David, because your character has been developed, God will bring you out of that night season and get you to where you're supposed to be. But some things we can only develop in the dark. Without the night seasons, we wouldn't become all God created us to be.
A caterpillar can be going along just fine. Everything is great. But down deep, something says, "You're not supposed to crawl your whole life. You have more in you". He gets excited, thinking, "Yes, that's right". Then he looks in the mirror and says, "What was I thinking? I'll never fly. I'm just a glorified worm. That's impossible". But one day, the caterpillar spins a cocoon around itself. He hangs upside down from a branch. It's dark. He can't move, he can't eat.
If you were to ask him when he was in the cocoon, he would say, "Let me go back to where I was. Let me go back to being a caterpillar. I don't like where I am. I'm uncomfortable. It's dark, it's lonely". What he doesn't realize is in the dark a transformation is taking place. Before long, he starts feeling some wings. He gets the strength to push out of that cocoon. Now, instead of crawling on the ground, he's a beautiful butterfly floating through the air.
Like the caterpillar, none of us like the night seasons. We don't like being uncomfortable. We don't see anything happening. But there are times that God incubates us. He takes us through the dark places, not to make us miserable but in the dark a transformation is taking place. You're growing, you're being refined. You may not like it but you have to keep reminding yourself your wings are developing, you're about to step up to a new level. No more crawling, living in mediocrity. You were made for higher things. And you may be in a night season but by faith I can see your cocoon starting to open up. I can see a wing coming out. This is no time to be discouraged. You're on the verge of taking off. You're about to become a beautiful butterfly. You're going to go places that you've never dreamed. Now, don't complain about the cocoon. "It's dark, it's uncomfortable, I'm lonely". Keep a good attitude. It's all a part of the process. God is changing you from glory to glory.
In the scripture, Jacob had not lived the right kind of life. He was dishonest, he cheated people, tricked his brother out of his birthright. You would think that God wouldn't have anything to do with him. But God doesn't write us off. He keeps working with us, showing us his mercy. And Jacob was traveling on a long journey through the desert. He was hot and tired and hungry. Nothing was going his way. He came to a place to spend the night. All he could find for a pillow was a rock. He was in a hard place, a lonely time, a night season. I'm sure he thought that God had forgotten about him. He went to sleep that night, down on himself, discouraged, full of regrets.
While he was sleeping, he had a dream. He saw the heavens open up and there was a huge staircase with angels going up and down and, at the top, the Lord was standing there. He said, "Jacob, the ground you are lying on belongs to you and your descendants. I will protect you wherever you go. I will be with you continually until I give you everything that I have promised". When Jacob woke up, he couldn't believe what he had seen. He said, "Surely, the Lord was in this place".
What's interesting is he wasn't in the church, wasn't in a temple, wasn't in the synagogue. He was in the desert. God was showing us that he's the God of hard places, the God of lonely times, the God of night seasons. And you may be in a difficulty now, fighting a battle in your health, dealing with depression, raising a special needs child. You feel alone, forgotten, discouraged. God is right there with you. Like with Jacob, I believe the heavens are about to open up. God is going to make things happen that you couldn't make happen.
You may be in a hard place but you're not staying there. Your health is going to improve. You're going to break that addiction. The right people are going to show up. You're going to say, like him, "The Lord was in this place. The Lord healed me from cancer. The Lord freed me from depression. The Lord blessed my business". He's not going to stop until he's given you everything that he's promised. You've heard the phrase, "The night shift". That means, of course, people that work during the night. But think of it another way. In the night, things are going to shift. The scripture says: "God never sleeps". He doesn't just work the night shift, but he shifts things in the night.
And you may be in a night season, you don't see how it could work out. Don't worry, a night shift is coming. The God who works the night shift is going to shift things in your favor. There's going to be a shift in your health, a shift in your finances, a shift with that addiction. You think you're gonna have it for years. It looks permanent. No, get ready for a night shift.
This is what happened with Paul and Silas. They were in prison for spreading the good news. Down in the deepest dungeons, their feet were in chains. But at midnight, as they were singing praises to God, suddenly there was a great earthquake. The prison doors flung open, the chains came off their feet. They walked out as free men. What happened? God shifted the earth, shifted the prison doors. When did it happen? At midnight. It was a night shift from the God who works the night shift.
Things that look permanent in your life, the addiction, the sickness, the panic attacks, the lack and struggle, thoughts will tell you you'll always have to deal with that. Don't believe those lies. You're in a night season. That means you're in perfect position for a night shift. God specializes in shifting things in the dark. Instead of worrying all through the day: "Lord, thank you for a night shift. Thank you that things are changing in my favor. It's dark now but, God, I believe what you said. Light is about to come bursting in".
Genesis chapter 2, Adam was in the garden of eden by himself. Life was good. He was naming the animals that God created and enjoying the crystal clear river, beautiful trees, delicious fruit. There were no problems, no sickness, no opposition. He didn't think it could get any better. But God didn't want him to live alone. Verse 21 says God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep. God put him in a night season. He took a rib from his side and used it to create a woman. And when Adam woke up from this deep sleep and saw Eve, the first thing he said was, "Wow, God, you have outdone yourself". But I'm sure, at the time, he didn't understand why God was putting him to sleep. He was happy, life was good. But some things we can only develop in the dark. If God didn't put us to sleep, so to speak, have us go through a night season, we would never see the fullness of what he has in store.
You may feel like God has put you to sleep, things have slowed down, you're in a challenge. It's a night season. Be encouraged. When you wake up and see what God has been up to, first thing you're going to say is, "Wow, God. I never dreamed you'd take me here". I never dreamed we'd have the Compaq Center. I never dreamed I'd be this healthy again. God has some wows in your future. Don't complain about the dark places. They are leading you to the amazing things God has in store. And you may not understand it but God wouldn't have allowed it if he wasn't going to use it to your advantage.
Right now, God is working behind the scenes. He sees what you're dealing with. He knows how you feel. He's saying, "The night seasons are not permanent". You may be in that cocoon, it's dark, uncomfortable, but he's making you and molding you. Your wings are developing. You're about to take off to a new level. And I believe and declare you're about to see a night shift from sickness to health, from lack to abundance, from addictions to freedom. The light is going to come bursting in. Get ready for some wows in Jesus' name.