How to navigate through dark days

By Kent Bateman

The dark days we experience as pastors bring many difficulties. But maybe one of the most significant is how it makes truth–about ourselves, about God, or whatever else–feel unattainable. We’re pastors; we’ve spent years or even decades studying and analyzing the beautiful realities of the God we serve. And yet, in a dark night of the soul, truth almost feels like it lives on a different planet.

One of the most beautiful things about the Psalms to me is how the psalmist mounts a bilateral attack in dark moments. On the one hand, he brings the realities of his present situation before God unfiltered (“I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart”). And at the same time–often with equal force–he brings the truths about God and himself into play. He presents them before the God of the universe with persistence, with a stubborn insistence that those things are true, regardless of how untrue they feel (“For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.”)

I figure most of us are aware enough of our situation to bring it before God. But what we might could benefit from is some truths to remember in the midst of our dark days. What follows is my attempt at putting ammunition in your belt when ammunition is hard to come by. My prayer is that it benefits you when you need it most:

  1. God is with you. Cliche or not, the simple reality that God indwells us is an appalling reality. Given the chance to explain it away or give a cold intellectual answer to our suffering, God chose instead to enter into it. He gives us his Holy Spirit to hurt when we hurt.
  2. God is at work. Your dark days are not in vain. God can and will use the worst of scenarios for good. Take comfort in knowing that no difficult season is beyond redemption.
  3. God is a good Father. Remember in the dark that God can be trusted. Not only is he with you and at work in your pain, he also cares for you more than the best of dads on offer. And as a good Father, he is teaching you certain things that you might only learn through dark days.
  4. The Spirit prays for us. One of the most comforting things about dark seasons to me is that even when we don’t know what to pray for, the Spirit intercedes for us. I don’t know about you, but sometimes in dark seasons, all I can manage to pray at times is “help, Jesus.” It’s a great comfort to me that in those moments, that’s enough.

Now, none of these truths are simply empty platitudes to placate our hurt. They aren’t meant to numb our raw emotion in the midst of pain–not at all. Quite the opposite, actually. Remembering and reflecting on the truth about God serves as a launching pad to bring our prayers and petitions to him. They serve as the backbone to our lament, a skeleton on which to build our request for God to move and bring us out of our season of despair.

So in your dark moments, use these truths to fuel a perseverance ignited by the Spirit. My prayer for all of us is that our dark days would only serve to magnify and put on display the power of God.

Published December 1, 2016

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Kent Bateman

Kent served as a communications director and pastor at Midtown Fellowship in Columbia, SC for four years before being sent out to plant City Church in Knoxville, TN. Kent has been married to his wife Ana for four years and they have one son, Whitaker.