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Category: Faith, Religion & Spirituality / Topics: Bible Comfort & Consolation Coping Depresson Faith God Loneliness Loss & Grieving Trouble Trust

Dark Night of the Soul

by James N. Watkins

Posted: February 23, 2019

Comfort from the Psalms when you feel abandoned by God…

Editor's Note: This week we presented columnist Michael Gerson's sermon at National Cathedral in which he talks about his personal struggle with depression and the role that faith (and appropriate medical attnetion) have helped (See "Dealing with Depression."). Jim Watkins deals with a related theme, feeling abandoned by God.

Links for Bible passages take you to BibleGateway, where you can check other translations, listen to an audio version of the passage, and check other resources.

One-third of all the psalms in the Bible are what commentators call “laments.” And the lament of all laments is found in Psalm 22:

      My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
      Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
      Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
      Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief (Psalm 22:1-2).

Have you ever felt that way? I suspect we all have! St. John of the Cross calls it “The Dark Night of the Soul.”

But I love the way the psalms of lament always end with hope:

      Yet you are holy,
      enthroned on the praises of Israel.
      Our ancestors trusted in you,
      and you rescued them.
      They cried out to you and were saved.
      They trusted in you and were never disgraced (Psalm 22:3-5).

We need to keep our eyes on the big picture! God does not answer prayer on our time table. (See my post God Is Never Late, But He Sure Is Slow.) I prayed fervently for five years about a broken relationship before God answered. And I’ve been praying for ten years for a very important issue without an answer.

Apparently God doesn’t own a wrist watch. He lives in the eternal “now.” “You must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day” (2 Peter 3:8). Unfortunately, we do live in time, and a day can seem like a thousand years!

The psalmist is encouraged by two things: simply praising God despite the circumstances and remembering the many ways God has answered prayers in the past:

      I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters.
      I will praise you among your assembled people.
      Praise the Lord, all you who fear him!
      Honor him, all you descendants of Jacob!
      Show him reverence, all you descendants of Israel!
      For he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy.
      He has not turned his back on them,
      but has listened to their cries for help.
      I will praise you in the great assembly.
      I will fulfill my vows in the presence of those who worship you (Psalm 22:22-25).

The psalmist will praise God and remain faithful to his lord, even though his heart cries out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” And he hopes for a better future:

      Our children will also serve him.
      Future generations will hear about the wonders of the Lord.
      His righteous acts will be told to those not yet born.
      They will hear about everything he has done (Psalm 22:30-31).

If you’re going through a time of feeling abandoned by God, I’d love to send you a free ebook of The Psalms of Asaph: Struggling with Unanswered Prayer, Unfulfilled Promises, and Unpunished Evil. He wrote twelves psalms of serious questions! Just email me: jim @ jameswatkins.com.

Copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins

Related posts
Are you listening to Goliath or God?
“Don’t be afraid”
Feeling inadequate, ill-equipped, in the dark?
God is such a drama king
Hope in a hand basket
I’m a giant killer! [Print and audio]
I’m giving up fear for Lent
Is it a hangnail or hand grenade?
“It Is Well with My Soul” The rest of the stories
Keeping your dreams alive
Soaring with eagles, walking with emus [Print and audio]

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Jim Watkins is a humorist, author, and speaker who says of himself that he "loves God, his family, writing, speaking and Chinese food—in that order"

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Posted: February 23, 2019

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