Surviving the Dark Night of the Soul


Often times we find ourselves at a distance from where we want to be and where God has us at the moment. Nobody wants to be in a hospital ICU waiting room waiting for visiting hours so that they can see their loved maybe for the last time. Nobody wants to find out their spouse is leaving them. No one wants to watch their child go through difficult health issues.
Those who love God just want to be near to Him where they can feel His daily presence and the fruit of His grace in their lives, but sometimes God can seem so far away. This distance between where we want to be, and where we find ourselves at any given moment is what David was contending with in Psalms 42 and 43. He wrote, “As the deer pants for flowing streams of water, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:1-2)
He paints a picture of a deer who has found himself in the desert panting for a cool flowing stream of water. David is the deer. The presence of God is the flowing stream for which he thirsts. For whatever reason, there is a feeling of separation, and he longs for the nearness that he felt in the temple of God when he would “go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping the festival” (Psalm 42:4). David pours out his soul to God (v4), but still, he hungered and thirsted. Day and night his only food was the tears that poured from his eyes in despair. What made it worse? His enemies were relentless, constantly taunting him asking “where is your God?” (v3)
Can you identify with David? Are there times when you long for the presence of God? Are there moments when you wish there was an altar where you could have a refreshing encounter with God? Have you ever felt the distance between where you are and where God seems to be, far away? Are you in this situation now? Do you know someone who is?
Psalm 42:5 is a sweet encouragement to us. Here we see that as David pours out his soul, God comes to meet him where he is. In the dark night of his soul, God shows up, and the Holy Spirt takes over David’s inner conversation: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you at turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God…” These are not David’s words. What is happening here is that the Lord is encouraging David with the very thing that has caused his despair, namely, David’s own inner voice.
Learn from David’s song. God is never very far away, no matter how distant He seems. When your soul is cast down, remember the Lord. He will come and meet you where you are. Since He has made your heart His holy dwelling, an altar is ever available. From His inner dwelling, He is able to take over your soul’s conversation, halt your despairing thoughts, and cause you to feel His presence from the inside.
Often the dark night of the soul is like a winter day in Alaska. It takes an unusually long time for it to pass. David would experience two more refrains of despair punctuated by God’s encouragement in Psalm 42 and 43. Each time, David’s soul was directed to hope in God and encouraged that there would come a time when he would once again praise Him (42:11, 43:5).
Be encouraged friends. Difficult times come. They pass. But in good times and in bad, God is always with you. If you have believed, then you have been given the right to be called His child. He is a good father who never leaves His children in despair. Wherever you find yourself, know He is there. He loves you. Pour out your soul to Him, and you will find that He is not far away. These dark nights make the warmth of the morning that much sweeter.