By Bill Gaultiere © 2010, 2012
From time to time we all go through trials in which God’s face is hidden from us. Our prayers seem to go unanswered. God’s comfort is absent. Discouragement, worry, or exhaustion press in on us. We may lose heart completely.
This is called the Dark Night of the Soul.
The Dark Night of the Soul
Vincent Van Gogh’s painting, “Starry Night,” poignantly illustrates a Dark Night of the Soul. Take a moment to look into Starry Night. For you is this a mirror? Does this painting depict how you are feeling?
The world around Van Gogh has gone dark. There are only dim lights that are far away in the sky. Notice especially that all is dark in the church at the center of town. It’s no wonder Van Gogh was depressed. In fact, he slipped into psychosis. It’s imperative that we know the light of Christ is near.
In the 16th Century Saint John of the Cross wrote about his experience with the Dark Night of the Soul while in prison, being persecuted for his faith in Christ. He writes what Van Gogh painted. They’re both portraying the same thing that the Psalmist prays about in Psalm 13 and other Psalms: “Why, O Lord, is your face hidden from me?”
Will I ever get to The Other Side of Deep Darkness?
Watch and Pray
If you’re not presently experiencing a Dark Night of the Soul I urge not to set this issue aside. Why? Because at some point you probably will experience this. If you prepare yourself now, off the spot, it’ll help you to trust God’s goodness and worship him then, on the spot, when you’re tested with a season of darkness and dryness in which you’re not feeling God’s presence or blessings.
“Watch and pray,” Jesus pleaded with his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane before the dark hour that was coming upon him and them (Matthew 26:41).
Jesus is saying, Don’t fall asleep on me! Be vigilant! “Train yourself to be godly” (1 Timothy 4:7). Get a hold of your self and pray to become the kind of person who when God seems distant, unkind, unfair, or just unhelpful you will still demonstrate your love and adoration for him simply because he is good.
Will you worship God when no blessings are coming your way? Will you trust that the Lord is with you and delight in him even when you are in the valley of the shadow of death and you do not feel his presence or help?
A Prayer for the Dark Night of the Soul
In Psalm 77 the Psalmist shows us the way to pray in a Dark Night of the Soul. My prayer inspired by this Psalm will help you navigate the darkness in your soul and by faith see the unseen light of Christ:
In the Night I Remember You
Help me! O God. Hear my prayer.
At night I keep stretching out my hands to you –
But my soul finds no comfort.
I remember you and I groan with longing for you… Selah.
I have lost heart.
I cannot sleep.
I am too upset to speak.
I remember my night songs and I sing to you… Selah.
Will you never show me your favor again?
Has your promise failed me forever?
Have you forgotten to be merciful?
I remember your deeds of love and I meditate on you… Selah.
Your ways, O God, are holy.
You are great and glorious.
With your mighty arm you have saved us.
I remember your miracles and I give thanks to you… Selah.
You path, O Lord, leads through the sea;
We follow your unseen footprints;
We walk by faith, not by sight.
I remember you, Lord Jesus Christ… Selah.
I remember your cross of love… Selah.
I remember your resurrection… Selah.
I remember you sent your Holy Spirit… Selah.
Personal Help for your Dark Night of the Soul
Today it can be especially lonely and depressing to go through a Dark Night of the Soul because not many people understand this. In Spiritual Direction ministry Kristi and I talk with pastors and other ministry leaders who are going through a Dark Night of the Soul. We listen. And we help them to remember God and experience his love.
“Soul Shepherding is for you and your ministry”
Bill Gaultiere, PhD & Kristi Gaultiere, PsyD ~ Soul Shepherding ~ Irvine, CA