Is the Saying ‘It’s Always Darkest Just before the Dawn’ Biblical?
- Heather Adams Contributing Writer
- 2020 3 Dec
“It’s always darkest just before dawn” is one of those sayings that’s meant to offer hope to those going through trials, especially when they are long-lasting. Literally, the phrase describes how black the night sky is when the first light of dawn seeps in. But this image of nature is used most often to show the ebb and flow of problems we experience.
I’ve heard this phrase spoken to me and others, and looking back, I can see there’s truth to it. Circumstances have on occasion brought me close to despair, then made a turn toward the positive. And often a situation seems at its worst just before we start to see things improve.
This saying has been used so often and for so long, that many assume it came from the Bible. But I discovered that wasn’t the case. Interestingly, although this specific phrase didn’t originate in God’s Word, the meaning behind it does have similarities with Scripture. God actually has a great deal to say about tough times, namely that we can make it through them, and that they will not last forever.
The Origin Of 'It's Always Darkest Just Before the Dawn'
The first known use of this phrase, in writing at least, was in 1650, when the English author Thomas Fuller wrote this version in “A Pisgah-Sight Of Palestine And The Confines Thereof,” a book of his travels:
“It is always darkest just before the Day dawneth.”
Fuller might have composed this himself, but it’s more likely that he documented a more ancient proverb that had been passed down through the years. In 1858, Samuel Lover attributed the saying to the Irish in his collection “Songs and Ballads”:
“There is a beautiful saying amongst the Irish peasantry to inspire hope under adverse circumstances:- ‘Remember,’ they say, ‘that the darkest hour of all is the hour before day.’ “
Wherever they came from, these words have definitely resonated with people. There can be a great encouragement in the idea that troubles will pass, and a better day is coming soon.
As I explored Scripture, I found many echoes of this reassurance, but with a kind of twist on Fuller’s saying. God tells us in His Word that when we reach the end of our endurance, there is help to be found - not in our own strength or even fate, but in God’s power and provision.
Scriptures about Darkness And Dawn
Throughout the Bible, we can find a connection between darkness and dawn. Some of the verses reference the actual process in nature of night changing to morning, used either to proclaim God’s power or to indicate a passage of time.
“He who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns midnight into dawn, and darkens day into night.” Amos 5:8
“That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok...So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.” Genesis 22,24
“When I lie down I think, ‘How long before I get up?’ The night drags on, and I toss and turn until dawn.” Job 7:4
Other times, passages refer to darkness as both the black sky above them and the longing for God’s presence within them. In either case, they know God can bring the light they need.
“My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you.” Isaiah 26:9
“On my bed I remember you: I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.” Psalm 63:6-7
“God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” Psalm 46:5
In both the Old and New Testaments, prophecy and Apostles’ testimonies use the image of the morning light in reference to the Good News of Jesus’ coming. The writers proclaimed that God sent Him to save mankind out of the darkness, meaning their sinful lives. Jesus invites believers into the dawn of a new and righteous way of living.
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2
“Because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” Luke 1:78-79
“The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.” Proverbs 4:18-19
Whether we’re searching the sky for the first rays of the morning or seeking the first victories in our battle with sin, these verses confirm that God is our true source of light.
5 Hopeful Truths for Christians Awaiting Dawn
Going through times of darkness can leave us unsteady and even frightened. But by meditating on some of God’s promises, we can find a measure of confidence in the murkiness. These truths have led me to deeper trust and dependence on Him.
1. God Stays with Us in the Darkness.
“By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me.” Psalm 42:8
2. God Will Light Our Paths through the Darkness.
“You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light.” 2 Samuel 22:29
3. God Can Calm Our Fears of the Dark.
“You will not fear the terror of night...nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness.” Psalm 91:5-6
4. God Gives Us a Way to Stand in the Darkness.
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
5. God Wants to Use the Darkness to Make Us More like Christ
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete.” James 1:2-4
No one wants to experience hardship. But even as we wait in the darkness, we have a reason for hope. As believers, our faith is not just in a comforting saying, but in the truth that God meets us where we are, and creates something new and bright out of our troubles.
Prayer for Awaiting Dawn
Heavenly Father, the phrase “It’s darkest just before dawn,” has a fuller meaning for me now. I’ve learned that because of You, I can hold on through dark times, knowing that You are working. Thank You for the hope this truth brings to my heart.
Lord, from the beginning, You’ve brought light out of the darkness. From the creation of the world to sending Your Son, shining into black or shadowy places has been part of Your plan. So, whether we face darkness out in the world or within our own hearts, we can rest in the knowledge that we will see Your goodness.
I pray that You will help me to see trials as opportunities to look for Your hand. And please lead me to share Your promises with others who are at their darkest point. In Jesus’ Name, Amen
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/TanesNgamsom
Heather Adams is an author, speaker, and singer living in Connecticut. Heather’s passion is to equip and encourage believers to seek more of God’s truth and to experience more of His joy each day. Her book, Bow Down: The Heart of a True Worshipper is a practical, 30-day devotional about worship based on the writings of King David. Heather's blog, Worship Walk Ministries, offers weekly Scripture passages and insights to ponder. A native New Englander, Heather is settling into her home in the South, trying out local foods and watching for the alligators that live nearby!