Are You in a Dark Night of the Soul?

aged stone statue of woman holding cross in church yard

During dark seasons, I’ve wondered if God was actually there. Even if He was there, I couldn’t sense His presence clearly in my life. When it felt like my prayers hit the ceiling and bounced back down to me unanswered, how could I know for sure God was really working on my behalf? Where was He and what was He doing?

All of us experience depression and difficult times that test our beliefs about God. Disappointment can cause us to doubt Him. Seemingly unanswered prayers can discourage our faith. How can we get through tough seasons when we feel we’re in the dark?

While my husband and I served as church planters in the Middle East, it often seemed like we met discouragement at every turn. Because of the absence of the hope of Christ, the environment was spiritually dark. When we shared the gospel, spiritual fruit always came slow. We began a church-planting ministry but had to wait four long years to see the fruit of our labor. God renewed our joy day by day, but disappointment knocked at our door often. 

We learned to hold on to the hope of Christ during difficult times but encountered a new faith crisis when another Christian pastor in our city, Andrew Brunson, was unjustly arrested and jailed. We prayed fervently for our friend’s release, only to learn that he had been put in solitary confinement. 

Months dragged on. Deeply discouraged, the entire church in our city kept praying, but instead of getting better, our colleague’s situation worsened. (You can read Andrew Brunson’s story in the book God’s Hostage.) He was obviously in jail for his faith, yet the government accused our pastor friend of being a terrorist, based on trumped-up charges in a hidden file. Unbelievably, he faced the possibility of life in prison. 

My husband and I hit a low point in our faith. We knew God was good, but where was He and why was He allowing this? It seemed like our prayers accomplished nothing.

Photo Credit: © Mike Ellis

  • <strong>Have You Experienced Deep Discouragement and Doubt?</strong>

    Have You Experienced Deep Discouragement and Doubt?


    Your circumstances are different, but most likely you have also encountered trials that challenged your faith. If you find yourself feeling hopeless, or you just can’t sense God’s presence, or life has lost its joy, maybe you are in a dark night of the soul.

    If so, you’re not alone. It is part of being human. Many believers through the ages have lived through times of despair. In the Bible, we read about Job, David, Elijah, and Jeremiah. Christians like Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, Mother Teresa, Joyce Meyer, Randy Alcorn, and Sheila Walsh have suffered depression and also experienced renewed hope.

    In the Psalms, we can read David’s desperate prayers. He faced situations that would have caused anyone to despair: murderous threats by King Saul, the death of a child, and a military rebellion started by his own son. Note the sadness in these words: How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?” (Psalm 13:1,2)

    I find comfort in knowing other believers have also lived through their own “dark night of the soul” experiences. (The phrase “dark night of the soul” comes from a 16th-century poem written by St. John of the Cross.) We all go through seasons in our Christian life when hope dims and we wonder if we have the strength to persevere. With our minds, we may know God will bring us through, but our hearts might not believe it.

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  • <strong>While We Endure Hard Times, We Can Do the Following:</strong>

    While We Endure Hard Times, We Can Do the Following:


    Go Back to What We Know about God

    “Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.” (Isaiah 50:10)

    Even when circumstances beat us down and cause us to doubt, we can go back to what we know about God’s goodness, steadfast love, and enduring faithfulness. We may be walking in darkness, but as we seek to rely on God, He will carry us through.

    Isaiah encourages us to trust in the “name of the Lord,” and for the Hebrews, God’s “name” referred to His character. Even when we cannot see or sense God, we can go back to the Scriptures and read about His character. Sooner or later, our faith will return.

    Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Tinnakorn Jorruang

  • <strong>Pray for a Spirit of Hope</strong>

    Pray for a Spirit of Hope


    “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:11)

    The Psalmist commanded his own downhearted soul to hope in God. Hope has the power to overturn despair, yet sometimes we cannot conjure it up in our own strength. However, we can pray that God will pour His Holy Spirit over us, which will ultimately renew our hearts and cause us to abound in hope.

    We have an eternal hope based on the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. We have a hope-filled future because God has promised us His presence, sufficient grace for the day, provision for our needs, and eternal life after death.

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  • <strong>Pray That God Will Help Us Believe</strong>

    Pray That God Will Help Us Believe


    “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:13,14)

    Even when we’re in a season of waiting on God to renew our joy and show Himself to us again, we can still declare this along with the psalmist. We can choose to believe and declare that God has good things in store. We may not be able to see it now, but He will ultimately show His goodness to us.

    And even when deep inside we struggle to trust Him, we can ask God to renew our faith and help us to believe. Even in times of doubt, we can declare belief. Sooner or later, faith and hope will grow in our hearts again.

  • back view of man climbing over mountain range at sunrise

    Persevere and Look Forward to Better Days


    “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5b, NKJV)

    I love this Biblical reassurance that joy is always around the corner. Times of despair always give way to renewed optimism. We may be weeping now, but sooner or later, God will restore our joy. We cannot know for certain how long our dark night of the soul will last, but morning always comes, and with it comes joy.

    Our task is to persevere and keep reminding ourselves that better days of renewed energy, hope, and faith await us.

    I still remember how my husband and I cried tears of joy the day our pastor friend was released from prison and allowed to return to the United States. God showed His faithfulness and answered our prayers after all.

    You may still be waiting for God to break through your doubts and discouragement, but He will. Renewed faith and joy are around the corner.


    Betsy de Cruz helps overwhelmed women take small steps to invite more of God’s presence and power into their lives. Connect with Betsy to get your free Quiet Time Renewal Guide and other resources at FaithSpillingOver.com. Her book More of God is a distracted woman’s guide to more meaningful quiet times. After living in the Middle East for 16 years with her husband and two children, Betsy landed in Texas, where she still enjoys drinking chai with friends.

    Photo Credit: © Getty Images/TFILM

    Betsy de Cruz writes and speaks to help overwhelmed women take small steps to invite more of God’s presence and power into their lives. Connect with Betsy and get a free Quiet Time Renewal Guide at FaithSpillingOver.com. Her book More of God is a distracted woman’s guide to more meaningful quiet times. Betsy and her husband José live in Arlington, Texas and love hanging with their two young adult children.