Dark Night of the Soul...then Dawn

"Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was."—Exodus 20:21 Moses, the friend of God, encountered the Lord in a burning bush, and in a cloud. He was bidden to approach the unapproachable, to meet God in the darkness.

All the light we see is darkness, compared to God.

The light in which God dwells might as well be dark, so blinding and unapproachable is it to us. For us to “see” God, to experience His presence, we enter the dark, dying to this world, and to ourselves. Only then can we be born again and awaken to the spiritual world.

But even then, as believers, we can still experience what St. John of the Cross called “the dark night of the soul.” He divides this “night” into three stages:1

First, DUSK, when things begin to fade, and we are slipping away from the light, away from the Lord, away from reality. Truth becomes obscured, while long shadows of compromise, doubt, or pain dim our vision and life begins to take on a dull, empty feeling. The more one tries to find satisfaction through senses, the duller the senses become. Life becomes a twilight existence.

The second stage is faith, MIDNIGHT, or total darkness.

Likening midnight to faith might seem odd until you read the Bible's definition of faith: “The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen” (Hebrews 11:1). What we often can't see is God working, unknown to us. Answering prayers in ways we don't understand.

Darkness might be appealing for a while; it conceals things. But it also makes us aware of the smallest sliver of light. In our darkest hour, when life seems overwhelming, and the tears flow, we learn to trust the only source of light that is real: Jesus, the light of the world.

Finally, thank the Lord for DAWN. Dawn is God. Dawn breaks as we emerge from the darkness of a deep trial or depression, knowing that through it all, God was there. Once again we can experience gratitude, love, and peace as His spirit washes over our souls like the break of a new day.

If you are experiencing the “dark night of the soul,” please be encouraged. God is there, waiting in the dark, and His love and constant presence will carry you back into the light.

I know. I’ve been there.


  1. Peers, E, Allison, ed., “Dark Night of the Soul,” by St. John of the Cross (New York, NY: Image Books, 1959).