Dark Night of the Soul

Most of us are familiar with this term. Many have experienced a true, dark night of the soul.

All of us can relate to times when our journey was at least a “dim night of the soul.”

The phrase originated with St. John of the Cross who contemplated this from prison. He spoke of “how God changes us not just through joy and light, but through confusion, through disappointment, through loss.”

This background first came to my attention through John Ortberg’s book, [amazon_link id=”B00GRZDCAW” target=”_blank” ]Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You[/amazon_link].

Ortberg says, “God’s love is not content to leave us in our weakness, and for that reason, he takes us into a dark night.”

Our greatest enemy during these seasons is a lack of patience to wait for whatever God would give us, in the timing God chooses.

  • We want rescue now!
  • Send me through the express lane of growth!
  • Give me the microwave version rather than the crock pot!

We hope for the supernatural side of God rather than His side which loves a good journey.

Ortberg asks the question, “What do we do in the dark night?” Some of his thoughts might surprise you coming from a pastor:

  • We do nothing
  • We wait
  • We remember that we are not God
  • We hold on
  • We ask for help
  • We do less
  • We resign from things
  • We rest more
  • We stop going to church (said by a pastor!)
  • We ask somebody else to pray because we can’t
  • We let go of our need to hurry through it.

“You can’t run in the dark.”

Dallas Willard told Ortberg during one particular dark night, “This will be a test of your joyful confidence in God.”


Ortberg shares an interesting reflection he had as he walked through one of these inevitable times.

“Human beings have been suffering around the globe for a long time. During these times, I (Orberg) was capable of joy. (even though some were suffering)

Why should I consider my own suffering grounds for a crisis of confidence in God? I don’t react in the same ways when others suffer? God’s character only comes into questions when it is me who is feeling the pain.”

Let me add a few of my own thoughts to this discussion.

We can couple the wisdom from John Ortberg and Dallas Willard with a few foundational truths.

1. God is good. His planet was created good, we corrupted it.

2. The planet is broken. Sometimes, bad things happen simply as a result of sin, death, and brokeness.

3. God promises believers to make good out of broken things. Romans 8:28 promises that good can come from even the worst things.

4. Even the longest dark night is temporary. This world is not our ultimate home.

Dark night or dim night…

  • In each we need patience.
  • We need trust and faith in a good God who is greater than ourselves.
  • We need others to remind us of the bigger picture.

One day all sin, death, disappointment, disease, and despair will be done away with.

Until then, we endure.

For more thoughts on the dark night of soul, here is an article I found on Christianity Today: “3 Truths of a Dark Night of the Soul.

Photo by Shlomit Wolf