When Darkness Seems to Hide His Face

November 14, 2016  - By Gretchen Saffles

Well-Watered Women Blog | When Darkness Seems to Hide His Face

An Unexpected Attack

If you were to flip through my journal and glance at the past few months, you would see entry after entry of heartache, desperation, and longing. The past 100 days have been filled with trial, suffering, and trudging through a dark valley.

Over the course of this past year I’ve noticed a decrease in my health that led to the removal of my gallbladder in September. Hoping for immediate relief, I instead spiraled into a pit containing more sickness, unanswered questions, and extreme anxiety.

The attack on my body was an open entry for the enemy to come with his flaming arrows and pierce my already vulnerable heart with convincing lies and paralyzing doubts. Never have I felt such darkness in my life. Within a short period of time, the light of hope and peace in my heart began to flicker as the cold winds of worry blew over my soul.

The Expectation of Hope

Before you keep reading I want to clarify something: this is not a post about everything I have been through these past few months, and this post does not end in the same darkness with which it begins. It is impossible for darkness to have the last say in the life of a child of God. I’ve learned through this season of suffering that God never leaves His children in the dark forever. He can’t, because He is the God of light, and in Him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).

But He uses the darkness to show us how truly glorious it is to dwell in His light (1 Timothy 6:16, John 12:46). The valley that I have just walked through, and continue to tread upon, is now a part of my testimony, and testimonies aren’t meant to be hidden. Though we fight to hide our weaknesses and cover up our trials, we can know that God is glorified when we boast in our stories, for when we are weak, then we experience His mighty strength and grace upon grace (2 Corinthians 12:9-11, John 1:16). I want to share of my deliverance so that, if by His grace, you might also be delivered of your own anxieties and fears as well.

One other thing this post is not, is a “quick fix” to ridding anxiety or an escape route out of the valleys of life. There is no shortcut when we walk through suffering, but there is a Savior named Jesus who has already walked before us and walks with us. Suffering is not an absence of God’s presence or favor, it is a recipe for deep intimacy and understanding of the gospel. There is no “quick fix” to the trials we face and the anxieties that so often threaten to steal our joy and purpose, but we have the eternal Word of God, and that is more than enough to meet our needs in every season of life.

Well-Watered Women Blog-There is no Shortcut to Suffering

If I am being completely honest with you, suffering is not a subject I prefer to talk or write about. My tendency is to focus on the joyful things of life. I’m a dreamer at heart, and suffering doesn’t quite fit into my plans.

But the Lord knows full well that we will experience suffering as we walk through this life. Suffering is to be expected, and dark seasons will certainly come upon us surely as the sun rises and sets each day. 

As hymn writer Edward Mote penned over 100 years ago, “When darkness seems to hide His face, I rest on His unchanging grace. In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the gale.” When the storm clouds come upon us, we must hold tight to the immovable Anchor (Hebrews 4:16).

Treasures of Darkness

On September 23, I scribbled this question in my Give Me Jesus journal with tears in my eyes and pain gripping my heart:

Could it be that this anxiety and illness is a suffering I am sharing with Jesus that I might know Him more? Let it be, Jesus.

This question was where it all started. After having surgery on September 15th, anxiety began to make its home in my heart, bringing with it dark doubts and uncertainties that clouded my vision. My body didn’t respond well to the anesthesia, and the fears I had stored up in my mind began to materialize in real life.

For weeks after my surgery (that has now turned into months), I have dealt with physical pain and suffering. This physical sickness led to a stronghold of anxiety in my soul. The heaviness that descended on my heart immediately after surgery felt as if it were a weight that would crush me. It was unlike any burden I had ever felt on my soul. If you’ve ever walked through a period of darkness, depression, or anxiety, you know exactly the crushing feeling I’m talking about. It seems unbearable, and no amount of encouragement from another can bring the light back to where it once was. The only place I had to turn for hope and shelter from the storm was Jesus. 

The Fear of Isolation

During the darkest days after surgery, I feared being alone. My body was still recovering and I didn’t have the strength to take care of myself or my son. One day my husband had to run an errand and I knew I was going to be alone for about an hour. Normally I coveted alone time and would spend all of the 60 minutes I was allotted marking things off my to-do list. But that day, I was barely able to get up off the couch.

The moment he walked out the door, anxiety and panic hit me again as if it had been waiting to pounce at just the right time. I opened my Bible and began to read aloud. I’d read the Psalms growing up but always felt that David and the other writers were a bit dramatic at times.

It was until I was on the brink of despair that I understood why David wrote many of the Psalms - he was struggling with anxiety and depression himself! The feelings that had encompassed my soul weren’t unknown to others. Throughout Scripture, there are accounts of believers struggling with fears, anxieties, doubts, wayward feelings, and worries.

And throughout Scripture, in every account of the children of God struggling to make it through days and seasons, God was faithful. Why would He not be faithful to me?

I cried as I read different Psalms out loud that day. Some of them I even shouted with the little strength I had. Some of them I whispered as my petition. As each word poured from the page to my heart to my mouth, the presence of the Lord surrounded me like a faithful shield. This was the very beginning of fresh love and desperate need for the Word of God. In searching for the answers to my suffering and a release from my anxiety, I found Jesus. 

Accepting the Darkness

I soon realized from reading the Psalms that I wasn’t questioning God’s ability to save or to heal me, I was refusing to accept my suffering as a gift, or as Isaiah 45:3 puts it, a treasure of darkness. I would rather know Jesus by walking in a field of flowers, not by trudging through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:6).

And yet, that is where He so often meets us. He met King David in that valley. And He meets us in our own valleys as well. He walks with us through the valley of suffering and helps us find treasures hidden within the darkness. These treasures could never be found in the light. A life lived in His grace is a life that truly embraces and searches for these treasures when the darkness seems to hide His face. 

Jesus led the way before us when He bore the cross on His back. It is through the fellowship of His suffering that we have joyful communion with Him (Philippians 3:10). This is where I began to see a small glimmer of light and unearth a treasure in the midst of the darkness that had wrapped itself around my soul. Knowing there was treasure to be found in the darkness gave me hope to keep walking and looking to Jesus.

Forever Hope Vs. Quick Fixes

In her book, “Praying God’s Word”, Beth Moore wrote this sentence that was the first treasure I found in the darkness—“Our willingness to fellowship with God in the midst of our difficulty will usher forth the rays of His wonderful light.” Everything within me didn’t want to fellowship in my suffering because to be totally honest, I didn’t want to suffer!

I didn’t want to share with others that my body was broken and my soul was fragile. I have spent the better part of my Christian life trying to hold the world together, knowing in the recesses of my heart that was not my role. And yet, in my humanity, I still tried. It has taken this season of darkness to show me that I cannot, and will never be able to, hold my world or anyone else’s world together. I am not perfect and I am not immune to suffering or anxiety.

It is a fact of life that we will suffer, but it is our choice of whether or not we will be willing to embrace our suffering and fellowship with our Savior in the midst of it.

Will We Rejoice?

I’ve been to countless doctor's appointments these past few months searching for answers and have still come up short with the total physical healing I long for. When hope seems just around the corner, the enemy shoots another flaming arrow at my body in the form of other sicknesses or anxieties. However, in it all, I am learning to rejoice.

Though it doesn’t look like the kind of rejoicing that I would do if life were easy, it is a deeper kind of rejoicing. I have learned to cling to the Word, not as my self-help book, but as my source of life, breath, and being. His Word has held me together when my life was falling apart. This is the greatest treasure I have found in the darkness.

Well-Watered Women Blog-Your Word Holds Me Together When My Life is Falling Apart

In the moments I have felt completely desperate and void of hope, I’ve wanted to go to the Word for a quick fix, but God isn’t meant to be our genie in a bottle. He is meant to be our Anchor in the storm. In order for Him to be the Anchor, I have to settle my roots deep in the Word.

I have started studying through the book of Hebrews, and in this study, I’ve realized once more that the answer to my sorrow, suffering, anxiety is not a quick fix or a glance at the concordance for every verse I can find on “hope” or “worry”; the answer is a forever Savior, and His name is Jesus.

Studying through a book of the Bible in this season has kept my soul looking to Jesus and not my sorrows, and it has given me the guidance I need when I don’t “feel” like studying. We are not meant to live by how we feel; we are meant to live by what we know, and we must know the Word in order to make it through times of suffering and battling anxiety.

Believing in the Dark

There are countless treasures that I have laid hold of in this season where darkness seemed to hide His face, many that I will continue to share, and others that I will hold in my heart. But I want to leave you with one last treasure that I continue to understand as I keep walking through this valley, and that is this:

You will never know Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.

I’ve been stripped of my pride, abilities, health, plans, schedule, and work. I’ve had to stop everything, cancel speaking events, take a hiatus from social media, receive countless meals from giving friends, and accept help in taking care of my son. I’ve had to lay down what I thought this season should look like and accept the new story that is being written.

In the end, I’ve realized that all of those things will not satisfy my soul. In the darkness of this season, I’ve come to know in a fresh new way that Jesus truly is all that I need. I once heard that we should never doubt in the dark what God has told us in the light. It is His mere grace that we would believe His promises in the dark. It is a battle we have to fight, and when we are too weak to fight, He fights for us (Exodus 14:14).

He’s been fighting for my heart like a mighty warrior, and He is fighting for you as well. No darkness is ever too dark for our God (Psalm 139:11-12). When darkness seems to hide His face, rest on His unchanging grace and sing:

On Christ the solid Rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand; All other ground is sinking sand.

The darkness will not be dark forever, dear friends, because Jesus is the light, and He always brings a rainbow after the storm clouds clear away.

singing in the dark,


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  1. Anonymous says:


    Thank you for sharing this part of your life. I have been battling health concerns as well and it has been so refreshing to hear how you have clung to Christ during this time. It is a great reminder and a great encouragement to have read this today. It’s almost as if it was written specifically so that I could read it. Praying for you dear friend.

  2. iriszstill@gmail.com says:

    Amazing testimony!!! God is using your story in a mighty way for others ladies and men to hear that what they are experiencing, God can hear them as well and help them, if they humble themselves and ask God too and read His Word for the true meaning of healing, day by day!

    Again, thank you for being transparent and allowing God to use your brokenness, for His glory!

    Praying for you sweetie! Hugs! 😘🙏

  3. Elizabeth says:


    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I also have been battling some ongoing health concerns that have come up in this past year with sinus and physical pain that will not seem to go away or have answers for. I have a 13 month old and on days where my energy is gone and my head hurts from all the pressure it is really hard to not get depressed about it. God is continuing to remind me that this is a season, and He cares for me. It has been hard to see what seems like other moms effortlessly going through life, and this past year has been such a battle for me. We always think others have it so much easier than we do. Thank you for reminding me this is not the case. I will be praying that you get some answers and the physical pain and anxiety is healed!

  4. Susan Wood says:

    Gretchen – Thank you for sharing your story with us. As you know I am a mother of many and have a life threatening chronic illness. I GET IT… I understand with a loving and praying heart for you and your family. I fight everyday the anxiety and struggle. Remember what the Bible says about where fear comes from. I did find that sharing brings a lot of support and love. Love you dear sister in Christ.

  5. Tracy Patterson says:

    Beautifully written Gretchen! Praying for you and physical healing!

  6. vpwas@comcast.net says:

    Wow I felt like I was reading my own story. Ten years ago I had my gallbladder out and the anxiety hit me hard. I felt like it was going to over take me. I had three small children and I found barely function. God also used that time to open up things in my life I had to deal with, but looking back he was so merciful. I so understand how you feel. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I’m praying for you. Kelly

    • gretchen@lifelivedbeautifully.com says:

      Wow! It sounds like we had the same thing happen! He truly is so merciful when we are at our weakest points. Thank you for praying, Kelly!

  7. Oh Gretchen, I get it. I get it 110%. I’ve had chronic anxiety and stomach pain (each feeding the other) for 18 years. Yes, 18. Medical doctors had no answers for me, all the different tests showed nothing. There were times when I wanted to end my life because day after day of feeling utterly awful drained every last bit of hope from me.
    I am now seeing a holistic doctor who knew what tests to run and DIAGNOSED ME!! I have a gut condition called SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth). It’s a beast to heal but I AM starting to heal with the help of a specific diet and herbal supplements.
    Praying that you get the answers you need. Please give me a holler if you would like to chat. I truly, truly understand!!

    • gretchen@lifelivedbeautifully.com says:

      Thank you for sharing this with me, Wendy! I am just so grateful! We have sought several doctors wisdom and found healing. He is so faithful. Grateful for you!

  8. Liz says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I have been struggling with Anxiety for quite a while and at times I feel like if only I had enough faith and I just want God to heal me and take the anxiety away. I love this new perspective of God using this darkness to reveal hidden treasures to us. I will pray for your healing and for your ministry.

  9. Misty says:

    I am on the hill going up from depression and anxiety. I so questioned my faith when it started why couldn’t I pray this spiritual warfare away. I don’t want to ever go back to what the last 6 months have been, except for this – I have never known Jesus so intimately. Would I go back to the bottom of the trench to meet Him…

    • gretchen@lifelivedbeautifully.com says:

      Hey Misty, it is so true, the anxiety won’t control us forever because our God is greater! The enemy does all he can to defeat us, but he can’t. However, we have to fight with all our might and surrender to our Savior’s arms! I am praying for you today and am so grateful to hear that the Lord has been healing you just like He has me! Our experiences sound so similar. Our God is so good!

  10. Meghan says:

    The darkness will not be dark forever, is right. I have experienced many of the feelings that you shared in this post through battles with anxiety and depression. And yet, in the suffering, I grew to know Jesus so much more deeply than I would have otherwise. You are right, it is all part of his amazing testimony for you. I am so sorry for the pain you are experiencing sweet Gretchen… but know that it is only for a time and there will be light. Praying for you tonight.

  11. Meghan says:

    The darkness will not be dark forever, is right. I have experienced many of the feelings that you shared in this post through battles with anxiety and depression. And yet, in the suffering, I grew to know Jesus so much more deeply than I would have otherwise. You are right, it is all part of his amazing testimony for you. I am so sorry for the pain you are experiencing sweet Gretchen… but know that it is only for a time and there will be light. Praying for you tonight.

    • gretchen@lifelivedbeautifully.com says:

      Thank you for sharing this with me, Meghan! And for your encouragement – it truly means the world to me!

  12. Mollie says:

    Thank you for your words! I’m in the exact season and I have definitely been spoken to through you and another friend. Keep speaking His truth! He’s using your trials!

  13. Laura :) says:

    God bless you, dear sister. This shouts His praise and gives Him such seeet glory. Praying for you and your family in this season of your life. Lots of love and hugs. (The Desert song by hillsong is one of those songs I have to turn up in the darker seasons of life) ❤️

  14. Rachel says:

    Thank you for sharing! I too, am gradually climbing out of the pit of extreme anxiety and panic. I know the Lord will use our stories for his glory! When anxiety strikes I have to tell myself "this is kingdom work"! Your story has helped to redirect my focus from self pity to Jesus. More Jesus, less me! My husband and I have been praying for you!
    Singing with you in the dark,
    Rachel Gresham

    • gretchen@lifelivedbeautifully.com says:

      I am praying over you today, Rachel! Know that the anxiety and the panic does not have any control over you. He is with you and He is accomplishing a great work of freedom in you!

  15. Lívia Bergel says:

    Thank you for sharing! I’m so gratefull for your life Gretchen. You’re such un example for me! I want to leave for you two verses that God spoken to me this days: Hebrews 4:10 And Psalms 119:50. May you find rest in God and I hope that his word bring life to you this days! And remember, that God Is greater than your problems. He has everything under control, your home, your health, your son, your ministry… everything! In prayer for you, Livia Bergel.

  16. lacythreloff@yahoo.com says:

    Gretchen♡ I read this tonight, captivated. I think because I’ve been through what you are going through and I know how hard it can be. To feel so tired, of being sick, of wanting answers of wondering if God will ever pull you out of this. I prayed for you tonight, and am so thankful that you are so transparent in your journey. It is so helpful for so many of us when we know that others are experiencing the same heartaches. I will continue to pray for your sweet family! Thank you for all you do for all of us….your commitment to God blesses us tremendously! Keep moving forward!

    • gretchen@lifelivedbeautifully.com says:

      Lacy, I am praying for you today and want you to know that you are not alone! God is with you and He is FOR you!

  17. Been thinking about you… Will continue praying for joy and peace even in the valley. I know the feeling of mysterious health struggles… It is so frustrating and difficult. Keep smiling and singing sweet lady!!

  18. Sharon says:

    Dear Gretchen. I truly believe that you will yet look back and praise God for this time of suffering. I was brought very low in health and mind before my lupus was diagnosed and then again a few years later before the fibromyalgia was diagnosed, it is hard and yet as we have to lean more and more upon Jesus, add more and more of self is stepped away there is beauty in suffering. Now I look back and praise God for that time. He knew the danger my soul was in and knew just what was needed to bring pride down, to lay me low at His feet wanting and needing onlyHim. Life is still a struggle but that no longer matters because that is what is keeps me looking up and takes away the ‘ME’ leaving instead ‘Christ in me’, living through me. Dear friend, just keep leaning into His amazing Grace, moment by moment, day by day. Sending you gentle hugs, Sharon. (@Inspirationalyarns)

    • gretchen@lifelivedbeautifully.com says:

      Thank you for sharing your story with me Sharon! It means to much to me to hear what God has been teaching you these past few years. I am amazed already that I can look back and see how He has been working for my good, even when I felt like I was completely breaking and unable to be repaired. He sees the big picture and I am so grateful for that!

  19. Kimmy says:

    Powerful Words. Thank you for sharing this and as I have been fighting my own anxious battles of the mind this is what I needed to hear! You are so right, in these moments when we realize Jesus is all we have we realize how much we need him!

  20. Tillymay117 says:

    2 Corinthians 1:8b-10 We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.

  21. Thank you so much for your honesty. Women need to hear this. I needed this. Isaiah 45:3 is such a good reminder.

    • gretchen@lifelivedbeautifully.com says:

      Yes. It is something I have clung to and I want to keep speaking truth into this! I felt so alone, but God is showing me I have never been alone and I want others to know that as well!

  22. Katlyn says:

    Thank you for this. I struggle with anxiety and it’s something I hide well. I just read your post and I’m currently sitting in my car crying out to Jesus to free me from this stronghold the enemy has me under. This was so encouraging. Thank you so much

    • gretchen@lifelivedbeautifully.com says:

      Just wanted to encourage you today, Katlyn, not to hide. God brings great freedom when we walk in the LIGHT with Jesus. Don’t let the enemy keep you in the dark. Freedom is found in the light! I know it because I have been living it. Praying for you today!

  23. Oh, sweet friend. This is so absolutely beautiful. Thank you for your rich and eloquent and wise sharing of the truth. Always. Your heart is an inspiration and a stunning arrow pointing our own hearts to Jesus. I’m so thankful for you. Thank you for walking us through the dark valley with you, that we might cling to the very same Savior in our own valleys. You are such a grace-filled and gifted teacher of the Word. Praying strength and joy and peace to wash over you and fill you–every day. So much love to you.

    • gretchen@lifelivedbeautifully.com says:

      Thank you sweet Becky. I know that you know what it feels like to walk through a dark valley. You are a great encouragement and example in my own life! Grateful for you precious sister!

  24. Stephanie says:

    I’ve been walking through some tough stuff these past few years as well, often feeling as though His face was hidden. Thank you so much for sharing your heart. There is encouragement here.

  25. Lindsay says:

    Thank you so much for humbling yourself and sharing what God has been doing in this difficult time. Praise Him that He has made himself known to you in the midst of your suffering. Praise Him that He would not want you to carry the burden of trying to hold things together. Praise Him for what He has revealed to you and what He will reveal to you!
    I’m so thankful that you have a group of family and friends who have surrounded you in this season and have been the hands and feet of Jesus to you! I love seeing your sweet smile and hearing the words of wisdom and love that God gives you to share with us. But thank you that you found someone to take over the Flourish Study when you weren’t able to point us to Christ and His word, just as you do. Praying that you will continue to sense His presence as you walk through this season of suffering and that He will give you wisdom. And that you will experience Him as your Healer. Thank you for continually pointing us back to Christ!

    • gretchen@lifelivedbeautifully.com says:

      Thank you for joining me in praise Lindsay! And for this encouragement. This truly has been a humbling season. But God has been so good and my heart rejoices in His unchanging grace! Grateful for you sweet sister!

  26. crump.rosie@hotmail.com says:

    I’ve only just got round to reading this and it has done my heart and soul so much good! I am sorry that you have been through so much the past few months but you’re right, the Lord has His way of bringing us to Himself in these times and it’s so encouraging to hear how He has done that for you! That hymn has been popping up here, there and everywhere in my life for the last few months and I’ve found it such a help to me!

    I loved what you said about Him being our ‘forever Saviour’ and not just a ‘pick up the concordance’ God! So simple but it’s something I find myself doing so much.

    Thankyou for sharing this so honestly and I will be praying for you as many others will be I’m sure, that God would show you more of Himself in this time.

    Thanks : )

    • gretchen@lifelivedbeautifully.com says:

      I am so grateful to hear that Rosie! I am pray8ing that you would truly rest in His unchanging grace!

  27. babysweets03@gmail.com says:

    Gretchen, when you went through this dark season how did you read the Bible? Was there a specific place you read or sis you just choose a passage at random? I often find it hard to read the Word because of what I’m going through but also because sometimes what I read it doesn’t really pertain to what I’m going through and I get frustrated. I know that isn’t the correct response but maybe you can share some tips on how you found the motivation to read during this time or what you did. I am looking for something to help me pick up the Bible in the morning because I run from pain and I use movies to make myself numb so I can try and ignore this dark season I am in but it only makes it more dark and lonely.


  28. Annie Joy says:

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! My heart is saying, ‘Yes!’ to every one of these sentences. Thank you SO much for sharing, Gretchen, in this post and ‘Does My Depression Disappoint God?’ I’ve been walking through a very difficult season of anxiety, depression and physical weakness as well and I’m just starting to see that the Gospel is really good news for me right where I am. This post gives me so much hope and encouragement, because the weight really is crushing and it feels like it’ll last forever. Thank you most of all for pointing to Jesus and how you found him in the Psalms. I’m going to run to the Psalms right now and allow him to be the Anchor of my soul. Lots of love from Australia!

  29. Leah says:

    I am printing this out and putting it in my journal!! This joyful, outgoing mama has been battling daily with anxiety, depression, unworthiness, and uncertainty. My disease has tried to take me down in all aspects, but Jesus has been reminding me daily that he is my anchor in this storm, that he equips me with His Holy Spirit and I’m not to live in fear because “I’m out of control”. He has made my body, knit me together and doesn’t want me to get caught up in my emotions. Thank you so much for sharing your heart, honest confession of life and encouragement in God’s word!! Blessings to you!!

  30. Shelley says:

    Thank you for this. I too had my gallbladder out in June of last year and have suffered crazy things since. I pray that in these years since your surgery, your body has returned to health, sister.

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