6 Ways I Deal with “Dark Nights of the Soul”

I admit it. I deal at times with “dark nights of the soul.” In fact, I’ve written two posts in the past about this concern:

Why Christian Leaders Struggle with “Dark Nights of the Soul”

Why Young Christian Leaders are Already Experiencing “Dark Nights of the Soul”

I’m still learning how to deal with these battles, but here are some steps that have helped me grow through them:

  1. I intentionally reflect on God’s care in the past. That’s what the psalmist did in Psalms 42-43: he remembered the past good times of worship even when he struggled with present-tense despair. I have to make myself do this in tough times, but it always pays off as I turn my attention off self and back to God’s faithfulness. 
  2. I remember I’m not the first church leader to wrestle this way. In fact, much more significant, faithful men like Martin Luther and Charles Spurgeon struggled with these tough times. If these men battled, I’m surely not surprised I do, too. Indeed, I count Spurgeon’s words helpful: “Fits of depression come over the most of us. Usually cheerful as we may be, we must at intervals be cast down. The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy.”[1]
  3. I seek prayer support of others. I don’t always take this step as quickly as I should, but I usually get there. In many cases, I don’t even tell my prayer partners what the issue is – first, because I’m private in general, and second, because I can’t always put into words what I’m experiencing – but these folks usually don’t even ask. They just pray—and I have glimmers of hope because of it. 
  4. I try my best to remind myself that “this, too, shall pass.” A good friend in the second church I pastored often reminded me of this truth. Today’s despair may be deep, but tomorrow’s joy is worth the battle. God graciously walks us through the valley . . . moment by moment . . . step by step . . . hour by hour . . . day by day. 
  5. I do not neglect my devotions. Sometimes I have to work hard to stay faithful here, but I know I will not find renewal by neglecting my time with God. Even “checking the box” can be powerful when it’s the Word of God you’re reading; even the cries of “God, where are You?” are worth praying when it’s a loving God to whom we speak. 
  6. I fast until the Lord gives me victory—or renews my trust that victory will come. I’ve found this additional step to be most helpful in the past year. Fasting is an expression of longing for God more than longing for food, and that’s where I find myself in the dark nights. I set no time limit on the fasting; I just decide every next morning to keep seeking God until He steps in. That daily focus really does turn my weak heart in the right direction. 

I pray this post is helpful to you today, especially as you prepare for worship this weekend. 

[1] Charles H. Spurgeon, Lectures To My Students (p. 154). Fig. Kindle Edition.

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