By JOHN PAVLOVITZ
I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. Psalm 6:6
People speak about a dark night of the soul.
It’s a place where both light and hope flee together; where a black heaviness settles upon your chest and makes your breathing short and labored.
In those loneliest of hours your demons (both real and imagined) get the upper hand and faith is elusive.
I know this place well.
I have spent far too many nights in that blackness acting as the prosecuting attorney against myself; listing off the countless failures and flaws that have brought me to this desperate moment.
When you’re there in the shadow places, the case against you and against the future seems iron clad. You feel anxious and overwhelmed and totally justified in being both. You conspire with the demons to make yourself believe that you deserve the desolation—that this is your lot.
The darkness has a way of amplifying all of the things you fear. The quiet of those hours, rather than comforting seems cold and threatening and final.
There, exhausted but unable to sleep you wait wearily for the rescue of the dawn and sometimes it is excruciating waiting.
The only thing more frightening and more draining than this dark night of the soul, is when it stays through the morning, when you wake up and it’s all still there upon you; the dread, the sadness, the worry. It’s as if night decided to move in for good.
Depression does this. It gives the nightmares a wide berth into the daylight and it tricks us into believing that they are staying forever.
As a Christian pastor, I’m supposed to simply exhort you to pray and tell you that “joy comes in the morning”, only sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it takes years of mornings and thousands of sleepless hours of anxious waiting. Often the weeping lasts a whole lot longer than a night before it passes.
And even then, you never completely shake it.
When you least expect it, when you are without care and oblivious to worry, sadness suddenly intrudes and sets up shop in your mind and you find the light dimming again.
The challenge when this darkness comes regardless of when it comes, is to learn to endure it; to not respond impulsively to only what you can see at the time—because you can’t see it all.
The greatest lie depression tells us, is that the way things are is the way that they will always be.
It doesn’t want us to know that time does bring new things that we can never anticipate or imagine. Hope and healing and possibility do return eventually, and they do so in the most surprising and triumphant of ways.
In fact, just as the darkness sneaks up on us without warning, so too does the light.
For some us, all the prayer and counseling and Bible reading and exercise and medication won’t be enough. There will still be in us, those long shadows and those demons in waiting.
For us, the way that we defeat depression is to keep living; to keep moving despite the pain and regardless of how difficult it is. I know this to be true. Some days despite any rational reasons, I lose hope but during those times and in those seasons, I’ve learned to breathe and simply tell myself to “Keep going”. It’s not magic and it’s not a cure and it doesn’t erase the sadness, but it allows me to persevere until the night eventually passes and the lightness returns.
I know that some of you reading this may not at all understand what I’ve shared, and for you I celebrate.
But for those who get it; for those who understand how the dark night of the soul can come and linger, I want to encourage you not to give up.
Even if you’re there in the blackness right now, trust that you will not always be there.
Don’t be fooled by what appears to be hopelessness. That is a mirage.
Don’t let the darkness lie to you. It cannot stay forever.
Yes, joy does indeed come; perhaps not in the morning or not for a while, but it comes just the same.
Until then, breathe and keep going.