Pastoring Through the Dark Night of the Soul

I’ve faced some dark nights of the soul, and I’m facing some more as I stand in the gap for my church, but it’s worth it.

If you can think of the worst thing that can happen to one of your members, something even worse may stare at you in the dark of night. The Scriptures call us to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. And if we have any heart at all, we’ll find the empathy and sympathy we have for our members is enough to keep us up at night as we pray through tear-covered faces on behalf of our people.

 

The Dark Night of the Soul was written in the 16th-century by a Spanish mystic as a poem and treatise about the soul’s journey to union with God.

While the poem had less to do about life’s general difficulties, the popular use of the phrase has come to refer to such trials—a seemingly insurmountable amount of toil and trial that tempts us to despair at our circumstances and feel as though we have no hope in this world. It’s the feeling that the future is bleak and that our prayers to God are bouncing off the walls.

My past Dark Nights of the Soul

I recall two times when I faced a dark night of the soul—one nearly 10 years ago and another about three years ago. The first was when, in the course of three days, we lost our first baby to miscarriage, I was given a three-month notice at my job, and the prospect of another position vanished into thin air.

Those are three days I’ll never forget. Our hopes and dreams of a child—gone. Job security—gone. Future plans—gone. In three days.

I had long preached of the goodness, love, and providence of God only to find myself crying and trying to pray to a God that—at the time—seemed bad, hateful, and distant. I went out for a run and for four miles said things to God that probably deserved a lightning strike right there in the middle of the trail.

Something happened at mile four, however, that I’ll never forget. A sense of peace washed over me. Suddenly, memories filled my mind of the various ways God had been good and loving and had acted providentially in my life.

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