Some mornings I wake up and need some extra strength. I get out of bed and start my normal routine, but my head and heart are heavy. I feel as if the troubles that have been worrying me for the past week, month, year have come to a head. I am at a standstill, and feel that I can only plead with God to make this easier, to bring understanding, to work in my heart and the hearts of others, to help me continue the process of letting go and trusting that everything will be OK.
I had one of these mornings recently on a Sunday, so I went to church. I sat down just in time for “All Creatures of Our God and King.” The service went on, and I realized a guest pastor was preaching. As he began the message, it was obvious he was a talented writer and speaker. He described his wife’s awesome ability to pack a road trip box to entertain their children when they were young, using descriptors that recalled memories of my own family road trips which brought a smile to my face almost immediately. Despite the magical box of toys, snacks, and games that his wife thoughtfully crafted, his children all too soon would begin to ask the dreaded question, “Are we there yet?”
The preacher read the text, Psalm 30:1-12, in which the Psalmist praises God for lifting from the depths, sparing from the pit, and turning wailing into dancing. The passage includes the verse which reads: “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”
Children ride in the car, anxiously awaiting the moment they will arrive at their destination. Mere minutes after buckling their seat belts, they become tired of the journey, demanding reprieve from the upright seats, their sibling’s pestering legs, the crayons that have slipped underneath their bottoms, causing an ache. After the discomfort of the trip, children want only to land in the soft arms of their grandmother which promise ease, comfort, and unconditional acceptance.
Especially on those mornings when I need extra strength, I am like a child. When life gets tough and uncomfortable, our tendency is to want to hurry things, get through them, move on ASAP so that our existence becomes easier. We demand to God, to friends, to loved ones– Are we there yet? Is this rough patch about to end? Will I be accepted now? Do my trials end here? Haven’t I paid my dues? It only makes sense that someone experiencing hurt would want it to end swiftly; that is natural. When we are deep into the night and there is no sunlight to be seen, the challenge is to remember that “joy comes with the morning.”
I listened to the preacher intently, distracted only by my desire to find a pen in my huge new purse– of course when I need one the most, I realize I have removed them all in an effort to lighten things up. The man preaches on, maintaining that our question should not be one that begs the answer to “When will finally be awakened by the morning sunlight?” but “How long is the night?” I understood this to mean that while we are struggling in the dark, our focus should be not on the destination, the finish, but on the duration of the night and what God can do in the midst of it.
The night– our trials, our greatest fears, our endurance through disapproval, our struggle through the loss of a loved one or a dream– the night provides us with some of the most teachable moments that we may ever encounter. It may be a cliche, but there is truth in the statement, “If God brings you to it, God will bring you through it,” and will teach you patience, honesty, acceptance, and perseverance all the while. The trick to asking the question “How long is the night?” instead of “Are we there yet?” is remembering that God is in control. Whether the night lasts twelve hours or twelve years, God is in control. We will eventually resurface and the light will shine upon our faces. Accepting this is, I think, a lifelong challenge.
The message ends with the preacher detailing his favorite beach activity: waking up before the sun and rushing down to the beach in time to watch the sunrise with his wife. It is this, he tells us, that reminds him that “the same God that opens the curtain on the morning also closes it on the night,” all in God’s time.