God Gives Me Songs in the Night

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.

Working With God To Relieve Suffering

In the grand questions of how a good God can permit suffering, sometimes we forget that man can stop or help relieve the suffering of his fellow man. In all suffering, God is present if we will seek Him.

OTHER ARTICLES:

  1. How Can  A Good God Permit Suffering
  2. Man Creates Much of His Suffering

It is easy to see how man, through his greed for power and material wealth, ignorance, or acting based on “acceptable risks” creates situations that brings suffering upon himself and others. Some suffer terrible diseases or physical problems because they do not exercise, eat properly, or continue in other bad habits that have been proved to hurt the body. Man clearly has a hand in much of the suffering in this world.

Where Were You When Others Suffered?

However, man also can be a power to relieve suffering or provide comfort in a time of need. In the face of disasters some ask “Where was God?” but a question equal, or perhaps of greater significance is “Where is man?” In every suffering there is an opportunity to be compassionate and responsive. During the Judean famine of the first century churches throughout the world who were not suffering famine were able to provide assistance. In 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, 13-15, the wealthy brethren helped their needy brethren to provide food during this time of deprivation. Involved in this action is the understanding that the Judean Christians would have the opportunity to repay that kindness when they helped other Christians during their suffering.

I have forgotten the source of this great quote: “In some kind of suffering that befalls man, I am afraid to ask ‘Why didn’t God do anything about it’ for fear that he will ask the same thing of me!” A story told by Stanley Jones illustrates this well:

A wealthy farmer prayed in his family circle that his unfortunate neighbors might not starve. When they arose from their knees, his little girl said to him, ‘Daddy, you needn’t have bothered God with that, for you can quite easily keep them from starving’

The question is less about what can the church, government, or society do to address a problem to the practical “what can I do to address this need?” He who curses the darkness could light a candle

Be Careful Not To Blame God

We have to be careful about the role we assign to God. Unless He explicitly states through His word what He has done, we are only speculating–and often terribly–about His actions. Sometimes people try to account for God during sufferin in a way that opens up more criticism. For example, an email that circulated after the September 11th attacks said that God “held up the towers while the people escaped.” If your loved one was one of the 2,830 who died, would you not be angry and wonder why God held it up long enough for many to escape but did not continue holding it up until all could escape? Why did He let it go when He did? Why not create obstacles for all the people (cancelled flights, etc.) so no one had to die? When we begin down this road, we come to some illogical and unscriptural conclusions.

I see this type of ignorance when people try to explain the death of a child. A well-meaning person tries to comfort the sibling by saying God wanted his little brother so much that He took him to heaven. In a misguided effort to provide comfort they terrify a kid and make him scared of God. Who knows when He’ll be back to get another one of us? Good intent; terrible approach. Better to understand that death is just a part of life and enjoy the comfort that while the death of the child was unfortunate, that God is comforting and caring for the child now.

Similarly, we must not assume that suffering on an individual or national level is the result of the judgment of God. We do “reap what we sow” and “our sins will find us out.” However, sometimes we suffer as a consequence of the action of others or being in the wrong place at the wrong time. God allowed Job to suffer many things as the devil sought to lure him away, but Job’s friends falsely claimed that he was suffering as a result of some sin. When Jesus and the apostles discussed some Jews killed by Pilate and eighteen people killed when a tower collapsed He did not blame their fate on sin, but told them that the dead were no worse sinners than anyone else (Luke 13:1-5). In John 9:1-3, Jesus rebuked the foolish question of whether the sin of a man or his parents led to his blindness. It is better not to blame God for suffering that may be simply the result of chance or natural consequences of one’s actions.

Where is God When Others Suffer?

It is easy to find God during suffering if we will open our eyes. He has entered the suffering with us and can strengthen us. God in the flesh had compassion on the lepers, forgave the immoral who repented with broken spirits, groaned in His spirit at the sorrow of Lazarus’ loved ones and wept with them, suffered rejection and violence at the hands of wicked men, was spat upon, beaten, and mocked, abandoned by his friends, and died a slow agonizing death on a cross of shame. Hebrews 5:5-9 tells us that Jesus learned obedience through suffering and is sympathetic to our pain.God can make “all things work together for good” for those who love Him, Romans 8:28. People find strength in suffering. Some learn compassion and become selfless. Some learn humility. Sometimes a small tragedy energizes a community to create laws or systems that prevent greater tragedies in the future. All suffering helps us to look forward to an eternal home where suffering is absent.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:4

Where is God? He has entered into our suffering and grief and can give us strength to endure and use us to relieve the suffering of others until the day when we rise to live with Him in a world without suffering.

When God Delays

When we pray to God, sometimes we expect God to answer us immediately. We are used to instant results from texting, overnight shipping, fast food, etc. Sometimes we may feel that God is not listening or doesn’t care when we cry out to Him. However, as we mature in our faith we discover lessons that can only be learned by God’s delay in answering our prayers.

Despite the empty promises of some health-and-wealth preachers, believers are never promised a life free of suffering. In fact, suffering believers are main characters in the Bible story. The story of Job and the words of Jesus in John 9:1-2 and Luke 13:1-5 clearly separate suffering and disaster from one’s righteousness or lack of it. We may suffer consequences of sinful actions but we can also suffer from time and chance. If obedience to Christ guaranteed a prosperous and pain-free life, few would reject the gospel’s call. Sometimes we must suffer as Christians.

Believers sometimes feel that God is not helping them during trials. We can feel abandoned and cry out “Why have you forsaken me?” Perhaps we might wonder if we have cleansed our hands in vain (Psalm 73). In agony or frustration we might cry out to God, “Where are you?!?” Consider these heartfelt cries from the Psalms:

  • Psalm 43:1-2 – “Why have you cast me off?”
  • Psalm 44:23 – “Why do you sleep, O’ Lord?”
  • Psalm 88:13-14 – “Why do you cast off my soul?”

Our cries are more bitter when we hear the scoffer and enemy say, “Where is your God?” Depression can lead to doubt. Frustration with God can lead to anger. How can God’s delay in answering our cry benefit us?

Delay Challenges Us To Use Our Faith

Jim happened to meet the minister on the street one day, and during the conversation told him of all the troubles he had had during the past year. He wound up with: “I tell you right now, preacher, it’s enough to make a man lose his religion.”  “Seems to me, Jim,” the minister told him quietly, “it’s enough to make a man use his religion.” Tan, P. L. Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations.

Jesus told a parable to teach believers not to give up. The Persistent Widow and the Judge (Luke 18:1-8) teaches that God is a just and loving Father but sometes He “bears with us” before answering. It takes faith to continue to pray and hope when it appears that any reason to hope is gone. Jesus asked a soul searching question at the end of the parable: “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Will He find people who still trust Him even when it appears that He is not responding to their prayers? He told a parable to teach believers not to give up and wonders if anyone will not give up!

Delay Teaches Total Dependence On God

Some consider themselves dependent on God but when things turn against them, they feel God has forsaken them and they reject Him. Dependence on God must not depend on external factors: possessions, health, employment status. It is easy to feel dependent on God when your enemies are lying at your feet, the battles are won, and the treasures gained. The challenge is to be faithful when you remain faithful in the face of defeat. Revelation 20:8-9 portrays a small city of saints surrounded by a army reaching to the horizon all around. Only when the enemy closed in and was ready to smash the small company of believers did God unleash His fury and destroy the opposition. Though He could have destroyed them before they came near the city, He challenged the faith of the believers to maintain their hope and dedication in the face of what appeared to be certain defeat. How many will lose faith and give up before the victory? Who will still rely on God when it appears that God is unreliable?

We often rely too much on our own power. We must understand that control is an illusion and that most things are out of our control. God’s delay reinforces this and encourages us to rely on God’s power (2 Corinthians 4:7-10)

Delay Teaches The Believer Hope

According to Romans 5:3-4, it is tribulation that yields hope, not ease. Perseverance is not succeeding but trying and failing, without giving up. Character is not a sterling reputation but the excellence that comes from enduring trial when it would be easy to give up or, through deception, trying to escape a trial that one must face. When we have forged strong character through patient endurance, we emerge with a hope for better days and eternal rest from all trials.

What Christians sometimes fail to realize is that suffering on earth sweetens the taste of heaven! The more we must endure suffering, the less hold the world can have on us. Why should we desire rest for our labor when the work is not hard? Why would we hope for a home in heaven if our home on earth is comfortable enough? Can the promise of “no more sorrows or tears” in heaven mean anything if our hearts are not broken and we suffer no loss on earth? Suffering allows us to see earthly things in their fragility and the greater value of eternal things.

When you must face trials that seem unending and unrelenting, let it draw you closer to God and teach you lessons you could learn no other way.

Visiting the Sick

“Miserable comforters are you all,” said Job to his friends, and sometimes we are too. When visiting the sick we must guard our tongues. Many patients have had to endure well meaning visitors describing horrible tragedies of people who have had the same procedure as the patient, died after undergoing the same treatment, or died through neglect of the hospital. We should not compare medical war stories. We may make a patient fearful and even impede their recovery by our “comforting words.”

© BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons

 

When we visit the sick we should make our visits brief and speak softly.  We should not overwhelm the patient with many visitors at once, but wait if there are several others already in the room.  If there are other sick people in the room, we should be considerate of them.  We should listen to the patient and offer words of comfort. We must not depress them.

One doctor noted that we “should not reveal negative emotional reactions through voice, countenance or manner.  The patient may want to show his wound or a bottle of gallstones.  Sometimes the patient may be in a pitiful condition, or the odor in the room may be so disagreeable as to make the visit an unpleasant task.  Remember that the patient, if conscious, is humiliated about his own condition and aware of the burden he is placing on others” (from Wayne Emmons).

Comforting the Grieving

Most of us have great difficulty when visiting the bereaved at their home or the funeral home.  After all, so great a tragedy has taken place, what can we do?  We feel helpless when trying to comfort the bereaved.

We must first remember to help the living.  We should show our brethren that we are concerned about them.  We can show our concern by visiting them, but also taking food to the family, washing clothes, preparing the clothes for the family to wear to the funeral, assisting with children, and other needful things.

We must also be mindful of our words.  We must remember that no word or phrase that will completely calm the mourner.  Note some phrases intended for comfort that can sometimes hurt:

  • “Time heals all wounds.”  Who wants to forget their loved one who has died?  Of course, things will get easier in time, but now it is not comforting.
  • “After a while you will forget.”  Again, who wants to forget their loved ones?
  • “He/She would have wanted you to…”  No one knows what a person would have truly wanted at such a time.  It is an empty and speculative phrase.
  • “What a great loss you have suffered.”  Pretty obvious statement.
  • (Unborn child) “At least it happened before the baby was born.”  (Someone really said to a friend of mine.)  The parents build a bond with a child even before the child is born.  It is no easier to lose a child in the first few months than it is after the child is born.

Perhaps the best thing that we can do during the time of grief is to say nothing.  A warm hug and a sympathetic ear are often the best comfort we can provide.  It is good to recall the deeds and the personal memories of the deceased.  It can comfort the living to know that their loved one meant so much to others.

“Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” –Matthew 25:44-46