How to Have Hope in Times of Darkness

I had ran this trail dozens of times, but this time it was almost pitch black. As I leaned on my memory of the curves in the trail, I thought, “This is what it’s like to follow Jesus.”

When you set out on a faith journey, no one tells you how many times you will feel completely lost in the dark. I know this feeling deeply; I also know the God who has been there for me in the midst of it all.

My wife and I sold nearly all of our stuff, including our house, to dedicate ourselves full-time to creating jobs and churches for the impoverished and unreached. When you first set out on a journey like this, the whole thing sounds romantic; we’ve all wanted to start afresh. But the reality is not romantic: the journey is often more difficult than words can describe. This is where faith comes becomes reality—in the midst of the feelings of darkness and the ambiguity.

But what God has done in me through this journey is of immeasurable worth. Here are three faith principles God has taught me through this adventure.

1. Cherish the Ambiguity, Despite the Pain

If we fully understood all that God is doing, we wouldn’t be on a faith journey at all. It requires no faith to trust in what you can see and understand. God, in his infinite wisdom, is doing far more than we can anticipate. We cannot know God’s mind or understand his ways (compare 1 Corinthians 2:6–13). God has not been instructed by us, nor is he in need of our instruction.

“Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD or what man shows him his counsel? Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?” (Isaiah 40:13–14 ESV; compare Romans 11:34).

We must learn to cherish the ambiguity, for it gives us ample reason to come before our God regularly. The truth of the matter is that we should come to him, simply because he is worthy of praise. But in our needs, we find even more reason to come before the throne of God. The ambiguity teaches us trust in his word.

2. Remind Yourself of God’s Words

Faith journeys begin with an understanding of who God is and what he is doing in our lives. When God calls us to a new adventure, it emerges out of his unique plan for our lives—and his collective plan for the betterment of all of creation (compare Romans 8:19–24). In the midst of the journey, though, it is easy to doubt. We doubt ourselves, our partners in ministry, and God’s plans. Sometimes, we even doubt God himself—or at least our understanding of him.

Pain gives us an opportunity: We can either give into the darkness of our world, or we can lean into our God. It’s a familiar phrase, but Psalm 23 describes this well:

“He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:3–4 ESV).

It is for God’s namesake that he leads us—through the valleys, up the hills, and through the darkness into the light.

We must acknowledge that we don’t know where God is leading and trust him anyway. To do so, we must remember what he has originally revealed to us—through prayer, in discernment with other believers, and through the Bible. It’s important to count the promises of God and rehearse them regularly. We will learn to be in awe of him and through this we will learn wisdom (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:2). This will naturally lead us to praise him more (compare Psalm 104:24).

3. In the Darkness, Praise the Light of the World

When we feel broken, there is nothing more sweet to our spirit than to sing a song of praise. God stands with us in the darkness—he is the light (compare Psalm 4:6; 13:3). Let us sing praises like the Psalmist:

“For it is you who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness” (Psalm 18:28 ESV).

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1 ESV).

When we feel as if the path is clouded by the darkness, we must look to God like Israel did in the wilderness. God was a great fire in the darkness, leading Israel; he was physically in front of them as their beacon of hope (see Exodus 13:21).

God has already set a great light for humanity in his Son Jesus. Jesus once said:

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12 ESV).

Jesus has lit our lives up with his light; he has renewed our hearts, restoring us out of the darkness of this world and into relationship with God the Father (compare John 1:4–9; 3:16–17).

Although darkness may feel like it surrounds our path, the reality is that we are not truly in the darkness. Instead, we have the light of Jesus. It just feels as if we walk in the dark.

The journey of faith is often ambiguous, but the God we serve is not. True light is already there for us in Jesus—we simply have to look ahead to him.

We may not know precisely where Jesus is leading us, but we must remember who he is. We must trust him to be the light in the darkness.

John Barry
John Barry


CEO and Founder of Jesus' Economy. John is the General Editor of the highly acclaimed Faithlife Study Bible and Lexham Bible Dictionary. His new book is Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. It is widely endorsed by Christian leaders from around the world.