The Dark Night of the Soul

Darkness is part of the human experience. It comes with the cycle of day and night that has been with us since the beginning of creation. But darkness is not the same everywhere. I remember taking a group of teenagers from New Jersey where light pollution affected their view of the stars (and most of them lived outside of the city!) to New Mexico where the only lights at night were in the heavens. They were amazed at the night sky. Several of them commented that there were more stars in New Mexico than in New Jersey! Same sky, same stars – different view. So much in life depends on our view.

Darkness in the Bible is often related to spiritual darkness or to the absence of spiritual light. It was because of spiritual darkness that Jesus came. At the beginning of His earthly ministry He fulfilled the writings of Isaiah who had prophesied the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death, Light has dawned (Isaiah 9:2, Matthew 4:16). Later in His ministry He stood in the Court of the Women as the light from the giant menorahs illuminated the Temple Mount and cried I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life (John 8:12). Jesus came to dispel the darkness of our souls and to give us light.

But darkness still exists – even for the child of God. St. John of the Cross referred to it as the Dark Night of the Soul. It’s a darkness that is permeating and overwhelming. Life seems to have lost its meaning. Faith is hanging by a thread. We are no longer guided by the light – because we can’t see it. The pervading darkness of the night has won out.

None of us want to be there. In our minds it’s wrong; it shouldn’t be this way for the Christian. We should be living in the light. We should be victorious. Faith should win out – not doubt. But it just isn’t that way. Sometimes it’s dark. Sometimes the darkness wins.

When that happens know that you are in good company. Listen to the lament of David, the shepherd king.

Why do you stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide in times of trouble? (Psalm 10:1)

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? (Psalm 13:1)

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are You so far from helping me, and from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not hear. (Psalm 22:1-2) It was The Light Himself who, experiencing the utter darkness of eternal night, quoted these words from the cross.

Talk about darkness!

But there’s something about the night that we often miss, probably because we are so focused on the darkness. It is the darkness that gives meaning to the light. Without darkness, both physical and spiritual, we would not understand the brightness and the glory of the light/Light. In fact it is the darkness that drives us to the Light. It was when David could not see the Light that he stubbornly held onto his faith in God, refusing to give in. It was when it seemed that God had forgotten him that he confessed but I have trusted in Your mercy (Psalm 13:5). Instead of giving up David stumbled toward the Light. And that’s where we often find ourselves in life – stumbling toward the Light.

The Dark Night of the Soul does not mean that the Light has been extinguished. It is still there. Don’t give up. We are all searching, stumbling toward the Light.

Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on help me stand.
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn.
Through the storm, through the night
Lead me on to the Light.
Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve


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