Silent is the Night

By Wade Anthony Cornelius

It’s a quiet Thursday afternoon, as I sit in my favorite coffee house. From my window seat, I sip on caffeine and watch the clouds roll by.  This place is a welcome retreat from the demands of work, but it’s hardly a hideaway. There are others here enjoying their solitary confinement.  Some on laptops, others immersed in books and one other sipping coffee, lost in thought. 

Just outside, an older gentleman catches my attention.  He is undoubtedly distressed. Tears flow freely as he talks on the phone. After a minute, he hangs up and sits alone in the patio, pondering his grief.

In that moment, I feel a certain kinship with this stranger. I can remember times when I found myself in that same place of despair, emotions reeling, not feeling I could reach out to anyone as I tried to cope with my own emotions and make sense of what was happening at the time.

Have we not all felt this way?

Each of us faces our own personal battles. The struggles we keep to ourselves. The ones we hide from the world, be it depression, anxiety, addiction, or any other form of despair. During our waking hours those struggles are suppressed as we go about daily interactions, but they are especially felt in the silence of the night, when there are no longer outside distractions and we are left alone in our thoughts and emotions.

 “I know that the night is not the same as the day,” Ernest Hemingway wrote, that all things are different, that the things of the night cannot be explained in the day, because they do not then exist, and the night can be a dreadful time for lonely people once their loneliness has started.”1

We have a loving Father that knows His children struggle.  The heroes of Scripture had their low points just as we do. In their despair they appealed to God for relief.  King David was one such person.  He wrote, prayed, and sung about his personal spiritual battles. David knew that the night was especially trying, he therefore pleaded and prayed often in those silent hours. 

David’s example is one of many in Scriptures that provides encouragement and direction for each of us in our most private battles, especially those that occur in the silence of the night.

What your feeling is normal

For a Christian believer, internal conflict may seem like an unnatural spiritual state, as if their personal faith in God isn’t strong enough to overcome the conflict within. The Bible reassures us that internal conflict is the natural feeling of every true believer. This experience is described in the book of Galatians:  

“For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other.”2

As Christians we want to live by the spirit, this will always put us in conflict with our human desires. If a believer is unaware that this conflict is natural, it will cause discouragement. The internal struggle should be a cause of encouragement because it is proof that we are striving to live as Children of God. 

Personal conflict, grief, and depression are not sins. They are normal reactions to what is happening spiritually, physically, or psychologically in our lives. However, these states of mind can be the result of sinful behavior.  If that is the case follow the example of David and ask for forgiveness. In Psalm 32, David describes, the guilt he felt at night and his state of depression because of unconfessed sin.  

“When I kept silent my body became weak…in the night your hand of discipline was heavy on me…Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, I will confess my transgressions to the Lord. And you forgave the guilt of my sin.”3

Don’t Give in to Despair

When emotions overwhelm us, it’s easy to believe God doesn’t care.  We might feel that our circumstance is punishment from our Father for the way we have lived life.  David had a sleepless night when he felt the same way.  In Psalm 77 he exclaims:

I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.

When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night 
I stretched out untiring hands and I was not comforted.

You kept my eyes from sleep;
I was too troubled to speak.
I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;
I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart meditated and my spirit asked:

“Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”4

Feelings of despair can make us feel alone and abandoned by God. Scripture is your source of reassurance at such times. The Book of Romans exclaims:

“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”5

In his distress David remembered God’s goodness. He remembered the power and blessings of God and he was comforted:

“Then I thought, to this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.
Your ways, God, are holy.
What god is as great as our God?”6

During times of conflict remember the goodness of God. Perhaps repeat the common Christian expression: God is good, all the time and all the time, God is good. 

When Others Have Wronged You 

Sometimes we lay awake concerned with the words and actions of others. This can cause feelings of anxiety, sadness, and anger. David had a moment like this when his son Absalom rebelled and attempted to kill him in order to become king. David was on the run from the usurping army.  He was tired from running, weary in his soul and cried out to God in distress. 

When we are restless, unable to sleep, and occupied with how others have wronged us, remember Psalm 63. In his struggle David found comfort by remembering His Savior. 

“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.

I cling to you;
your right hand upholds me.

Those who want to harm me will be defeated…”7

David teaches us to find rest and comfort by remembering all the times God has been faithful in helping us through the difficult times of our lives. 

You’re Never Alone

The isolation in the night hours can often bring about the loneliest of feelings as if we are completely alone in our struggles. At such times it’s worth remembering the encouragement of Psalm 139.  It reminds us that nothing can separate us from God’s presence. He is present in the darkest night, the deepest abyss and the most distant land imaginable. In this Psalm David exclaimed,

“…even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.”8

We live in a fallen world and will always experience conflict of some kind from the day we are born until the day we are called home. Throughout God’s Word believers are continually reminded to persevere and remember that eternal peace will come the day our Lord calls each of us home.  More than this, remember that, at the end of this world, eternal peace will be established on the earth when the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, returns to destroy the works of the Devil. Until that time, keep fighting the good fight:

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God.’ 

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. 
There will be no more death' 
or mourning 
or crying 
or pain, 
for the old order of things has passed away.”9

1 Excerpt from Ernest Hemingway’s, “A Farewell to Arms”
2 The Book of Galatians Chapter 5 Verse 17
3 Psalm 32:1-5
4 Psalm 77:1-9
5 Romans 8:28
6 Psalm 77:10-13
7Psalm 63:6-9
8 Psalm 139:12
9 Revelation 21:4

Summer 2017

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