About eight months ago, I started a new job—two new jobs, actually. I’m a pastor and a teacher at a school. I love doing both, and my quality of life has risen dramatically since taking these positions. But before that, I went through what you might call “the dark night of the soul.” Actually it was about two thousand dark nights.
I never struggled with anxiety or depression. I had never had a panic attack. Nothing of the sort had ever happened to me. But then I started working at the bank, a job I was ill-fitted for and labored in for six years. The panic attacks were awful. And even though I have not had one in over eight months, the soul has a memory all its own. The dread that ran through me then is remembered all too well as I write about it now.
The worst part was waking up in the middle of the night when abject fear would take over. I would lie awake for hours, rehearsing failure and the fear of failure. Failure at my job. Failure at providing for my family. Failure as a father. Failure as a spouse. Failure as a Christian.
I felt lost. I needed guidance. Prayers would often seem to barely escape my lips as I would silently mouth them with my wife sleeping peacefully next to me. And when I could choke them out, they seemed to disappear into the dark of the room before they could even bounce off the ceiling. “Lord, lead me. Show me what to do. How long?” I can remember just begging for the morning to come, and yet dreading it at the same time.
When this happened I would recite psalms, even sing them. I wish I had known to include this from Psalm 143: “Let the morning bring word of your unfailing love” (v.8). This psalm teaches us to pray for guidance, and to trust in the Lord’s leading.
You are one of three types of people: you have been through something similar, are currently going through your own dark night of the soul, or you will one day. We all get a little lost sometimes. We all need the Lord’s guidance. The more I share my story with others, the more I see that I was not alone in this experience. I have rarely talked with an adult who has not experienced it to the full.
Looking back I can get a little perspective. I was preaching to myself a message of law in which I was defeated at every point. What I needed was word of God’s unfailing love. I needed Him to guide me. I needed to remember the good news of what Christ had done on the cross to purchase such unfailing love. Very often the morning light itself was a reminder of that love.
Written by Matthew B. Redmond