Surviving Doubt And Darkness
Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face.
Dark nights of the soul, when you question what you believe to be true, are nothing new to those who walk the pilgrim pathway; however, sometimes when those whom we put on pedestals or look up to acknowledge their doubts and fears, we are shocked, criticize them or rationalize the depths of their anguish.
Charles Spurgeon, the renowned preacher and expositor of the 19th century. wrestled with bouts of depression so severe that at times he could not force himself to get out of bed. While his ministry far overshadowed his depression, it was there, nonetheless. He once commented, “There is more in God to cheer you than in your circumstances to depress you.” He saw beyond the dark nights of his soul to Him who said, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
Mother Teresa, the Albanian woman who is remembered for her work with the dying in the slums of Calcutta, struggled with doubt and estrangement from God through the latter years of her life. In a book entitled, Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta, Mother Teresa’s private letters have been published, causing a lot of people to gasp. Having had some striking conviction early in her work that God wanted her to embark on her spiritual pilgrimage of ministry to the poor, she felt that the heavens closed to her and God went silent. She felt utterly disconnected, unable to feel God’s presence or sustain a relationship with Him.
In an undated letter she wrote, “I have no Faith—I dare not utter the words and thoughts that crowd in my heart and make me suffer untold agony.” In 1959 she wrote, “Such deep longing for God and…repulsed empty, no faith, no love, no zeal…. Heaven means nothing….”
Long before Mother Teresa’s struggle with darkness, a man named Martin Luther, a hugely influential reformer of the Christian faith in the 16th century, also went through dark times of depression.
How did Luther win His battle with depression? Having been trained to think as a scholar, striving to understand everything from a human perspective, he abandoned natural reasons and held tenaciously to the Word of God, seizing it by faith, refusing to doubt his beliefs or believe His doubts.
Apart from absolute confidence that what God says in His Word is true, it is difficult, if not impossible to survive the dark nights of the soul when you wonder if God really is there, and whether or not He cares anything about you. “Be still, and know that I am God,” He says to us in Psalms 46:10.
There are many things that will never be understood this side of heaven, and unless you can lift your eyes above the pain and suffering of this world to the promises of God’s Word, which you can take by faith, you, too, will vacillate and face dark times of doubt. “God will keep his promises, (Deut 7:9)” writes Pastor Bruce Hillman, “but how he keeps them is often quite surprising (Rom 11:33). The Psalmist wants us to be still so that we can listen to God’s promises, so that we can remember that despite our circumstances…despite our rationalizations, deductions, forecasting and negative thoughts, despite the apparent encroaching reality that says, ‘I can’t handle this and God isn’t coming,’ we are invited into the stillness of God so that we can be fed by the Word of truth.”
Those who have gone before us as Christ-followers have discovered the secret of journeying through doubt and darkness into confidence in God’s Word. If you are struggling, feed on the promises you’ve been given in God’s Word. Not a word of His promise has ever failed.