When the Darkness Will Not Lift

I’m staying with the same theme from yesterday: darkness. I think that many times people falsely think that Christians won’t or shouldn’t ever experience the darkness of depression. However, I think otherwise, as John Piper writes in When the Darkness Will Not Lift, “Even the most faithful, focused Christians can encounter periods of depression and spiritual darkness when joy seems to stay just out of reach. It can happen because of sin, satanic assault, distressing circumstances, or hereditary and other physical causes.”

As Piper also points out in the aforementioned book, there can be physical elements that contribute to a spiritual darkness. The physical element may need to be dealt with by use of medication, but as Ed Welch writes in Blame It on the Brain, “If the person is not taking medication but is considering it, I typically suggest that he or she postpone that decision for a period of time. During that time, I consider possible causes, and together we ask God to teach us about both ourselves and him so that we can grow in faith in the midst of hardship. If the depression persists, I might let the person know that medication is an option to deal with some of the physical symptoms.” Piper goes on to say that the relationship between the physical and spiritual condition are deeply connected. He says that “The point is that the relationship between the soul and the brain is beyond human comprehension and should be handled with the greatest care ad with profound attention to the moral and spiritual realities of human person-hood that may exert as much influence on the brain as vice versa.

Darkness is a dreadful and terrible thing. In it you feel absolutely alone. It’s scary and oppressive. It’s black. It’s not always clear why we are there either, or how we are to come out of it. I have walked through intense periods of loneliness and darkness — there was almost a physical weight that I felt while in the midst of it. What I didn’t know at first was that I was actually really sick, but the spiritual darkness, though in part connected to the physical illness, had a life of it’s own and was also cured before and apart from the physical sickness. God was faithful in reminding me every day, every hour that He is sovereign over our sufferings and that I only see a part, and that He sees the whole and that he has promised to work everything for the good of those who love him. One day I was reading The Valley of Vision and came across this prayer, “Peril,” it put many things that I was feeling into words and was encouraging as I realized that my struggles were not unique to me — many saints before me had walked faithfully in the darkness.

I am sadly harassed by doubts, fears, unbelief,
In a felt spiritual darkness.
My heart is full of evil surmisings and disquietude,
And I cannot act faith at all.
My heavenly Pilot has disappeared,
And I have lost my hold on the Rock of Ages;
I sink in deep mire beneath storms and waves,
In horror and distress unutterable.
Help me, O Lord,
To throw myself absolutely and wholly on thee,
For better, for worse, without comfort,
And all but hopeless.
Give me peace of soul, confidence, enlargement of mind,
Morning joy that comes after night heaviness;
Water my soul richly with divine blessings;
Grant that I may welcome thy humbling in private
So that I might enjoy thee in public;
Give me a mountain top as high as the valley is low.
Thy grace can melt the worst sinner, and I am as vile as he;
Yet though hast made me a monument of mercy,
A trophy of redeeming power;
In my distress let me not forget this.
All-wise God,
Thy never-failing providence orders every event,
Sweetens every fear,
Reveals evil’s presence lurking in seeming good,
Brings real good out of seeming evil,
Makes unsatisfactory what I set my heart upon,
To show me what a short-sighted creature I am,
And to teach me to live by faith upon
Thy blessed self.
Out of sorrow and night
Give me the name Naphtali—
‘satisfied with favour’—
help me to love thee as thy child,
and to walk worthy of my heavenly pedigree.

“But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy one of Israel, your Savior.'” Isaiah 43:1-5

to be continued…

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