With these words I’ll again offer a peek into my soul. Not because confession is good for the soul, or transparency gives some sense of authenticity, but because in doing so maybe someone else who often walks in darkness will know they are not alone in their journey.
Quite often I find myself believing the Gospel only on the weekends. That is because I believe in Ecclesiastes and Lamentations on Mondays. I spend a great deal of time, privately of course, walking in spiritual darkness. I have oftentimes found myself adrift in a sea of discouragement and depression, where the shore seems completely out of reach. It’s been my experience that the greatest joys of my life have almost always been accompanied by the deepest sorrows. Finding a new friend seems to coincide with the loss of a dear friend. The joy of a new beginning is attached to the grief that something I loved has ended. The praise and love of one group is countered by the criticism and shunning of another. In these times of despair I feel around for a light switch, to extinguish the darkness. Many times I cannot find it. I then look for a flashlight that will at least partially illuminate the dark places, but still there are times when I cannot even find a simple flashlight. In these moments I search for a single match, for if I could find a single match to strike I could at least rest in knowing that light does indeed exist.
So what does one do when they are adrift in a sea of depression, discouragement or loneliness with no sign of the shore in sight? What do you do when you find that the darkness will not lift? Let me offer these thoughts and a resource that may serve as a single match you can light to know that there is hope.
1) I begin with despair. Yes despair. I despair of finding the answer in myself. I give up on looking inside of me for my rescue and I look to the outside. When I look inward all I will ever find is condemnation, unrighteousness, guilt, shame, more darkness and misery. My only hope is outside of me, namely Jesus Christ. I do not have a rescue boat to sail out of the darkness. Christ must come to my rescue. I trust that He is holding onto me because too many times I do not have the strength to hold onto Him. All my righteousness, worthiness and hope are outside of me and in Jesus.
2) I do not must not put my faith in my faith. There are times when my faith is smaller than a mustard seed. To call it faith is even a stretch. My faith rises and falls. If my hope and security are in my faith, then my hope and security will rise and fall. I rest in the steadfastness of God’s unwavering faithfulness. In moments of darkness I must not look to my faith, I must look to Christ.
3) I fight. I press through the darkness. I must choose to act, not on my feelings, but on the promises of God and His Word. So I rejoice, even when I am joyless. I give thanks when I am not thankful. As Charles Spurgeon said, “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”
4) Repent and Rest. Sin destroys my joy and turns out the light. Let’s be honest – much of the despair and depression we walk with is a result of our sinfulness. Sometimes the knowledge of this is overwhelming. Our hearts are so hard it would take a miracle to shed a tear. In these times we must make war against sin. We must hate sin, not ourselves. We must renounce and repent of the sin. However, that is not enough. We must rest in Christ as the Savior who makes us new and replaces the darkness with light.
“The most incredible hope of confessing and renouncing sin is that the Lord does not then rub it our face but cancels it.” – John Piper
I did not find it surprising to discover the writer of my favorite Hymn battled darkness and depression his whole life. William Cowper, a man ravaged my inner turmoil wrote these profound words in his song, “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood”
The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
and there may I, though vile as he,
wash all my sins away.
Wash all my sins away, wash all my sins away;
and there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away.
There have been many resources and people who have helped me find the light. One resource that may be of help to you is the short book, “When the Darkness will not lift” by John Piper. It is available as a free PDF booklet from Desiring God ministries. You can download it by clicking here.
I hope this post and this book will be a blessing and encouragement for those who often walk in the darkness.