A First Aid Kit for Dark Days

Do you have a first aid kit in your home? If not, you should. You may not plan on experiencing an injury, but sooner or later you will. So, it is good to be prepared. Having a well-stocked and accessible place for first aid supplies is prudent.

In like manner, those who live with an enduring trial are going to experience dark days and need supplies at ready access to see them through. Dark days are sure to come. Those living with chronic pain will face days when life seems overwhelming. Parents enduring a painful journey with a prodigal will experience days of deep distress as the latest crisis turns their world upside down. People plagued by memories of past abuse will have days when the horror of what happened to them haunts their every waking moment. Those living in the shadow of bereavement will have periods when they feel like life has entered a solar eclipse. For others, darkness descends with an unexplainable regularity—taking their mind into places they should not dwell.

How can we help people who regularly walk through such moments of darkness? We are, of course, powerless to prevent the arrival of days of distress, dread, and even despair. But we can equip others with tools to find light when darkness overtakes them. We can help them prepare a spiritual first aid kit for troubled days.

In the most memorized of the Psalms, the Singer of Israel declares,

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4                  

We cannot lift others out when they find themselves in a valley enveloped in darkness. But we can help them see what they need to see from within the valley—they need to see God there. A spiritual first aid kit provides tools near at hand to see truth when all has gone dark. We can encourage others to create such a kit with content that will provide spiritual help in their time of need.

1. Songs of Sacred Truth

Gospel-saturated music is a marvelous gift that is a balm to the soul and a beacon in darkness. When darkness gripped King Saul, he was refreshed by the music of David (I Samuel 16:4-23). When the sons of Korah, the musicians of Israel, were led away into the Babylonian captivity, they penned one of the most reassuring of all the Psalms (Psalms 42). What was the last thing Jesus and his disciples did before they headed for the Mount of Olives on that fateful night—the place of his deep anguish? They sang a hymn (Matthew 26:30). Songs of biblical truth can steady our soul—they anchor us to truth when life’s circumstances become tumultuous.

While smartphones can make us dumb, they also allow us to have songs of gospel truth at ready access to lift our souls in troubled times. We should all have a few go-to songs that help us see God in times of darkness. For me, He Will Hold Me Fast and In the Valley are songs that have often brought peace and hope in the troubled waters of life.

2. Psalms for Guiding Prayer

How do you pray when you don’t know how to pray? This is a time to let Psalms be a template for our prayers, especially Psalms of lament. Lament has two simple parts: 1) Talk to God about your feelings, and then 2) Talk to your feelings about God. Well-illustrated by Psalms 13, the psalmist gives voice to our pain, then steadies us with sure truths. Other Psalms take our eyes off our trouble and focus them on our gracious Creator (e.g., Psalms 8 and 19). We should each have a small set of Psalms to which we turn in difficult times.

3. Saints to Intercede for Us

Asking other saints to struggle for us in prayer while we struggle with our hearts should be a key element of a spiritual first aid kit. If we believe that the prayers of the righteous accomplish much (James 5:16), we should be quick to seek prayers when gripped in darkness. We all need a list of faithful prayer warriors to whom we can turn in a time of need, with their phone number or email close at hand. Doing so should be or become second nature for us.

4. Contact for Structured Help

Sometimes a first aid kit is not enough. You need more structured help. That’s why 911 was created and poison centers distribute stickers with their phone number. We also need to know where to turn when our own spiritual first aid kit is insufficient. Helping others think through when and where to turn at such times is really important. We need to know who and how to connect with those in the church who are best equipped to help. This should be decided before the tempest of a test overwhelms.

Each of us would benefit from a spiritual first aid kit, tools within reach to help us when trouble comes. But it is especially needful for those living with an enduring trial.


Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

Craig SvenssonCraig Svensson
Dr. Svensson is Dean Emeritus and Professor in the Purdue University College of Pharmacy.