The concept of the dark night of the soul comes from the poem written by John of the Cross. The poem is titled “Dark Night of the Soul.” Through painful and difficult times, we have each gone through dark nights of the soul. If you are presently going through a difficult time, you could be going through a dark night of the soul.
The Dark Night of the Soul
The dark night of the soul is when you are going through a dark season of life. Whether you are struggling with your faith, recently lost a loved one, or are going through a family issue, these can all be things that lead to a dark night of the soul.
Even the most faithful and strongest Christians in their faith have gone through dark nights of the souls. Throughout the Psalms, we see David struggling with dark nights that cause him to lose sleep, not eat, and grow weak.
When we look at David, we often only think about how he was a spiritual giant and walked with the Lord. We often fail to see him as the struggling writer of the majority of Psalms. He poured his heart out to God and petitioned for God to help him.
Without a doubt, David went through multiple dark times of the soul throughout his life. Most of us can relate to the Psalms and the cry for help that David experiences. Going through dark nights of the soul is never pleasant, but rather painful.
Going through a dark night of the soul can extend from a day to years. It can last for however long your period of pain lasts. Some can be in these dark nights for the majority of their lives.
While depression is a separate mood disorder not connected to the dark night of the soul, many individuals have likened the dark night of the soul as being a "spiritual depression."
If you are going through a dark season in your spiritual walk, know that you are not alone. It might feel as though you're alone, but you're never truly alone.
It is easy to think that going through dark nights of the soul has no purpose, yet this isn't true. Some of the most important lessons we can learn are from difficult times. Through trials, pain, and agony, we can grow in our relationship with God.
Think about the last time you were going through a happy time in your life. Do you remember producing any spiritual fruit? Were you growing closer to God? Did you remember to spend time in prayer with God and reading His Word?
Most of us would probably answer no to all of these questions. Even though everyone enjoys happy times, we don't have much growth through these times. Instead, through the dark nights and the difficulties are when we experience the most growth in our Christian walk and character.
Now think about the time when you were going through a dark night of the soul. How much growth came from that difficult time? Could you see how you started leaning more on God and learning about Him in the process?
More likely than not, you had your greatest growth during the dark nights of the soul. God disciplines us as His children because He loves us. He also can use bad things for our good.
We might think nothing good will come out of our dark nights of the soul, but that isn't true. There can be much growth through the dark nights of the soul.
The pain we experience during the dark nights of the soul is not permanent. They will not last for eternity. While some of the time this "spiritual depression" can last a lifetime, it will not continue throughout all eternity.
There will be relief one day for all of us from these dark nights and these troubles. Everyone is bound to have more dark nights of the soul throughout their lives, but what matters is what we do with them.
Are we going to allow them to set us back in our Christian walk, or are we going to see them as an opportunity for growth? Dark times are always hard, but we don't need to allow them to make us grow bitter or hateful.
How Does This Apply to Us Today?
If you are suffering from a dark night of the soul at the present, know that your pain is completely valid. Also, know that there is nothing to be ashamed of. As mentioned, all Christians have gone through this challenge at least once in their life.
The struggle of the dark night of the soul is difficult, yet God is always by our side. He promises to always be with us, and He will never leave (Hebrews 13:5-6).
Jesus knows every single pain we experience, and He can empathize with our pain. Even if nobody around us understands our pain, we know Jesus understands it.
In our own personal dark nights of the soul, we have to do our best to see them as opportunities to grow to become more like Christ. Throughout our lives, we are constantly being molded to reflect the image of Christ to the world.
While we will never be just like Christ, our goal needs to be to live in obedience to Him and follow Him faithfully. Even through the dark nights of the soul, we can still love Jesus and hold fast to Him.
You may have had people hurt you or have been mean to you when you were going through the dark night of the soul. Since many people incorrectly see the actual mood disorder of depression as a sin, many people also see this "spiritual depression" as a sin.
It is not a sin to undergo dark nights of the soul. We will all undergo them at one time even if we don't recognize it at the time. Maybe you are going through one now, or maybe you have recently been through one. In any case, you can grow through this pain.
Similar to how a gardener prunes and cuts back leaves and hedges, God also prunes us in order for us to bear much spiritual fruit. God doesn't cause the dark nights, but He can use them and turn them into good things to help us grow more into His image.
If this is the first dark night of the soul you are experiencing, know that it will not last forever and there is a purpose to your pain. Every tear we shed has a purpose.
What Does This Mean?
As you are enduring the dark nights of the soul, turn to Christ and reflect on Him. Ask Him to strengthen you as you walk through this difficult time. You will not be alone because God will be walking right by your side through it all.
Thus, the dark night of the soul refers to a period of spiritual depression, struggles, and pain. It can happen to any believer, and it can happen multiple times throughout their lives.
We don't need to be afraid of these times because we can learn much through these dark nights. God will be walking with us through every dark night, and He promises to never leave us.
For further reading:
Why Did David Ask, ‘How Long O Lord?'
How Are the Body, Soul, and Spirit Connected?
What Is the Difference Between a Soul and a Spirit?
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Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master's degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.