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  • Writer's pictureRachel Coyle

In Darkness but Not Alone (Psalm 139:11-12)

If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night," ¹²even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. —Psalm 139:11-12

The call came, unexpected. Shock tore through my body when I heard my mom say, “If you want to see your dad alive, you need to come right now.” Thirty-six hours later, Dad was gone. He passed from this life to his eternal home in heaven, but knowing that didn’t erase my pain. A cloud of grief settled over me, shrouding my mind with fog. The sorrow choked my breath and threatened to crush me beneath its weight. Darkness became my constant unwelcome companion for many long months.

Because we live in a fallen world, darkness is familiar. In Scripture, darkness conveys meanings beyond the literal use, including distress, dread, mourning, confusion, or sin. A study of David’s life reveals that he was no stranger to periods of darkness. He faced persecution, betrayal, fear, guilt, and grief. Sometimes darkness came as a result of his own doing. Many of David’s psalms were written in the midst of darkness. But Psalm 139 is a reflection on what has been. Here, David seems to be remembering moments when the darkness threatened to overwhelm him. 

A brief word study helps us understand the depth of today’s passage. In Hebrew the word surely is assertive. It introduces, with emphasis, the expression of a supposed truth. David remembers times when he felt certain: I know–without a doubt–the darkness is going to cover me!

As terrifying as it must have been to think that the darkness might hide him from God, that wasn’t all. The Hebrew word for cover is used only three other times in the Old Testament: twice in Genesis 3:15 and once in Job 9:17. In those passages the word means “bruise” or even “crush.” David recalls feeling certain that the darkness he was experiencing would crush him. That’s how I felt when my dad died. 

Have you ever felt what it’s like to be in the black hole of depression, where all you want is to hide from the world? You climb into bed and pull heavy blankets over your head. The suffocating sensation reflects your emotions. You feel certain: I know this darkness is going to smother me

Then there is the suffering of unspeakable loss or pain. It comes in the form of financial ruin, broken relationships, loved ones who have died, or any number of situations. The distress is bleak and full of fear with no end in sight. You can convince yourself, I know this darkness is going to crush me.

On such occasions and many others, the light of God’s truth seems eclipsed by the darkness. In Psalm 139, David reflects back to how he overcame feeling like the darkness would destroy him. It’s a lesson for us: he did battle with his feelings; his weapon was the truth.

Note how our passage begins with the phrase, “If I say…” We learn from David that saying something, feeling it, or even believing it does not make it true. What’s true is God’s Word (John 17:17). There were times when it felt like the darkness would crush him. Emotions are powerful, but often deceptive (Jeremiah 17:9). We must submit our feelings to the truth of God’s Word or they can destroy us. David moved from his burst of emotion to recalling the truth. The truth is that darkness is as light with God. The truth is that God knew, God saw, and God was with him in the darkness. David remembered how God’s omniscience and omnipresence brought comfort. 

The same is true today. When the darkness threatens to crush you, “Take [up]…the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). Remember that God knows all about the darkness you face. He sees clearly in your darkness. Darkness is the same as light with Him; there is no difference. 

He is present with you in your darkest moments. You feel alone and perhaps abandoned, but the truth is that he is right there with you. He is a good and sovereign God, and He has a purpose for your pain. The darkness can be a catalyst to draw you closer to the Lord. It can push you down onto your knees—in prayer. It can make you feel desperate—for His Word. It can leave you longing—for more of Him. Whatever you do, don’t stay in the darkness. Come into the light of Jesus. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). It didn’t overcome David; if you are in Christ, it won't overcome you, either.


For Reflection

  1. Is there an area in your life where you need to do battle with your feelings? What truths do you need to remember so those feelings don’t overwhelm you?

  2. Are you experiencing darkness in your life right now? How can remembering that God sees clearly in the dark and is always with you bring you strength? 

  3. Thank God for the comfort of His presence and His power over the darkness you face. Thank Him that the darkness will not overcome you.


Rachel Coyle is a biblical counselor, Bible teacher, and author of Help! She's Struggling with Pornography from Shepherd’s Press. She and her husband Philip have six children. Scripture memory plays a pivotal role in their parenting and homeschooling as they sing, write, and discuss the meaning and application of passages. The Coyles live in South Carolina where they're members of Boiling Springs First Baptist Church.


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1 Comment

Kate N
Kate N
Jun 02

Wow, so powerful. Thank you for writing such a moving and heart-felt devotional.

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