In the still of the night loneliness and sorrow can envelop us. But God gives Christians songs in the night when they seek him in their sorrow. The perspective of Psalm 42 is someone in distress. As is often the case in the Psalms, the writer trusted in God’s deliverance though he had to endure suffering at the hands of his enemies.
Though he was in sorrow, he wanted to enjoy pleasant times with the Lord again. He fondly remembered how he led the multitude in praise as they made pilgrimages to God’s house. He eagerly desired God’s company as a deer longs for the water. After a big meal neither food nor drink are appealing. When one is feeling self-satisfied, self-sufficient, and at ease he does not hunger and thirst for God—he does not need the Father. However, when one is suffering, broken down, and weary, he acutely feels the pain for God’s presence and comfort.
The psalmist did not thirst for God’s word but for God Himself. It appears that his enemies had hindered his ability to come to the house of God and worship. Just as a young couple eagerly desires one another’s company and seeks every opportunity to be with one another, so one who truly enjoys fellowship with God will hunger for opportunities to join with Him in prayer, study and worship. Though he was suffering, he could still see the kindness of God in the daytime and sing songs as darkness enveloped him in the night.
Think about this comforting theme: God gives us songs during dark times. The phrase “songs in the night” appears a few times in scriptures and indicates confidence in God in the middle of dark times.
- Job 35:9-10 – Job’s friend, Elihu, told of the confidence of the oppressed who cry to God and receive songs in the night
- Psalm 77:1-6 – The psalmist reflected on a time when God answered him though he had to suffer some sleepless nights; yet even in his despair he had songs in the night.
- Psalm 149:5 encourages saints to sing loudly on their beds
When we are enduring trials or sorrows, we often lie on our beds staring at the ceiling and praying for help and answers. Though despair has driven sleep from us, God is ever near. It is often in the silence and loneliness of the darkness that we realize how much we depend upon God and that in suffering we see Him more clearly. John Michael Talbot said, “I can look back at my darkest periods and realize that these were the times when the Lord was holding me closest. But I couldn’t see his face because my face was in his breast—crying.”
In the darkness of pain and despair we can find a song of love, praise, and comfort from our God. Acts 16:20-25 records how Paul and Silas were severely beaten and cast into the depths of a Phillippian jail. It would be understandable if Paul and Silas moaned about their beating, complained to God, and wallowed in self-pity yet late into the night they were singing praises to God. They were following the example of Jesus who, before spending the night in agonizing prayer and going to the cross, sang a hymn with His apostles, Matthew 26:30.
Before the Civil War, as slaves labored in the field and endured beatings, separated families, poor living conditions, and all of the indignities associated with oppression they sang spiritual songs of praise and deliverance. It is a challenge to sing songs in the night when you are enveloped with despair and feel that your suffering is unfair.
How can we sing songs in the night?
First, we must trust in God’s love and care. God as our shepherd can comfort us even when the suffering is the valley of the shadow of death, Psalm 23:4. We can have confidence in His comforting presence for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” Hebrews 13:5.
We must seek strength from God. Paul urged us to be strong in God’s power, Ephesians 6:10. We must not depend so much on our own strength. This is also when we need to allow others to help us bear our burdens. God is intimately concerned about us, Luke 12:6-7, and will not keep His strength from us if we request it.
We must also realize that there will be times of joy and sorrow. Times of sorrow help us appreciate the good times. The timeless wisdom of Solomon reminds us to enjoy the good days because the dark days will come, Ecclesiastes 7:14. He further reminds us, in Ecclesiastes 11:3-8, that some things are out of our control and some things are within our control. We must do what we can do and leave the rest to the wisdom of God.
God can only give His children songs in the night. Those who have rejected Him or Christians who are rebelling against Him will only have anxiety and worry for they know that God will punish them if they do not repent. To sing songs in the night, one must have peace and true peace can only come through obedience to God.