One of the hardest elements of this past year has been the lingering feelings of darkness and sadness. It is in these moments that it seems that I'm unable to feel anything at all. I know I should be feeling joy in the Lord. I know my only hope is to treasure Christ and cling to him alone. I know I should be talking to myself instead of listening to myself. I know a lot of things in those moments, but the kicker is that I don't feel a lot of things.
We are feeling creatures. God made us with emotions that are meant to be experienced. If he didn't want us to feel things, he would have made us differently. When dark nights of the soul come (and the will come for nearly every Christian), it is hard to feel deeply and favorably about Christ and his word. In order to combat some of these dark seasons, I've been reading When I Don't Desire God (by John Piper) over the last few weeks and have been helped greatly by the biblical and practical nature of the book. I had only been a Christian for less than a year when I first read this book, so it was only fitting that I read it again when I am now in a very different season of life. All of the book is extremely helpful regardless of your circumstances (happy, sad, or in-between), but the last chapter really gave me some helpful tools to utilize when it really seems that the "darkness will not lift."
Piper says (speaking about Psalm 40):
"Then comes the king's cry: 'I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.' One of the reasons God loved David so much was because he cried so much. 'I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping' (Ps. 6:6). 'You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?' (Ps. 56:8). Indeed they are! 'Blessed are those who mourn' (Matt. 5:4). It is a beautiful thing when a broken man genuinely cries out to God."
"Then after the cry you wait. 'I waited patiently for the LORD.' This is crucial to know: Saints who cry to the Lord for deliverance from pits of darkness must learn to wait patiently for the Lord. There is no statement about how long David waited. I have known saints who walked through eight years of debilitating depression and came out into glorious light. Only God knows how long we must wait. We saw this in Micah's experience in Chapter Six. 'I sit in darkness...until [the Lord] pleads my cause and...will bring me out to the light' (see Micah 7:8-9). We can draw no deadlines for God. He hastens or delays as he sees fit. And his timing is all-loving towards his children. Oh, that we might learn to be patient in the hour of darkness. I don't mean that we make peace with darkness. We fight for joy. But we fight as those who are saved by grace and held by Christ. We say with Paul Gerhardt that our night will soon - in God's timing - turn to day."
Throughout the book, Piper says that just because we feel a certain way, or cannot get out of the pit of darkness, it doesn't mean that we allow it to take over and be a controlling force in our lives. The Christian life is war, in darkness and in light. What I found most helpful in the book is the lack of formulaic answers. We can fight for joy and wait a long time for relief to come. But, as Piper says, it is all part of the process God has given us to make us more like him. When we fight for joy with God's word we will get joy. It might be joy through tears, joy through suffering, or joy in extreme brokenness. But it will be joy, because our hope is in the Lord and not what we can see. Lord, give us all the grace we need to wait for your light to come and pierce our dark night.