Even in familiar surroundings, nighttime presents special challenges – we grope around, stubbing our toes on out-of-place furniture, trying to feel our way in the dark for a simple glass of water. We know the path well, but our inability to see prohibits our clarity and confidence. Plus, the noises of a house asleep – creaks, nighttime creatures, our flag flapping in the wind, and sleeptalkers – set us on high alert.
We know morning will come eventually, shedding light on the askew table that has our toes throbbing the next day.
But what do we do when, in life, our “night seasons” linger? When the joy and illumination of the morning seems impossibly far away? How do we fumble and find our way to the Living Water that will refresh us when we’re parched and sustain us for the long haul?
Maybe we’re all feeling it now – the lagging uncertainty of pandemic living. We are in the familiar/unfamiliar – at home, but off our routines, weary of the not-knowing and unable to see through the thick cloak of dim unknowns.
Psalm 30:5 tells us weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
For you and me, “morning” may be far off, especially if it means a change in circumstances or a resolution to trials. The Bible graciously shows us countless examples of long periods of famine, waiting, suffering, or seeming silence from God:
-25 years for Abraham and Sarah to wait for their promised son
-The Israelites enslavement in Egypt for more than 400 years
-God’s people wandering in the desert for 40 years and exiled in Babylon for 70 years
In lingering darkness, we will do well to remember:
It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. Lamen. 3:22-23
God’s mercies are new every morning, even if that morning is foggy, dreary and heavy with unwelcome realities. In addition to living with current covid-19 realities, your darkness may be a difficult physical condition. It could be unrelenting grief over a death or wayward family member. Loneliness. A difficult or high-needs child. Daily mundane tasks like work or serving your family that bring little immediate praise or recognition.
But it doesn’t mean your night season is overlooked by a loving God; it doesn’t mean His mercies aren’t present. It also doesn’t mean that it’s easy to endure.
Remember January 2020 – you know, the beginning of a hope-filled year? I was happy to say good-bye to 2019, as I looked forward to a year of predictability and productivity – ha!. I wanted to get into a good writing rhythm and pursue speaking opportunities – also ha!
But before everything shut down in the spring, I was able to share with ladies at my church about my own prolonged night seasons – and how God has stretched my faith beyond simply seeking relief, instead seeking His presence as my guide to endurance and hope. Those lessons hold true now in our current night season, and I share them here.
3 Ways to Endure Night Seasons with Hope
Do the Next Thing
“Do the next thing.” This often-quoted phrase is all over the place. Elisabeth Elliot said it. Author Emily P. Freeman has a book and podcast on it. It’s even a song in Disney’s Frozen 2. The phrase was most likely originally sourced in an old English poem from 1897. Here’s a portion of it:
Fear not tomorrows, child of the King;
Trust them with Jesus: Do the next thing.
Do it immediately, do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing his hand
Who hath placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ’neath His wing,
Leave all results, do the next thing.
When the big picture seems overwhelming, we can do the tangible “next thing” to firmly plant us in the present reality and keeping us from freezing in fear. When I faced a prolonged illness at the age of 20, that meant giving myself sponge baths. It was the suggestion of a tough-love nurse, and I was having none of it at first. “I am the patient!” I thought indignantly. She was wise, and once I took her advice, I felt some sense of control and purpose in spite of my uncontrollable circumstances.
O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit. Psalm 30:3
In difficult times, your life has purpose. Even if you are deep in a “night season” – the small things you do are acts of trust in a faithful God.The small things you do are acts of trust in a faithful God. Click To Tweet
In addition to practical “next things,” reading God’s word is always a right thing. It saturates our sorrow with comfort, our confusion with clarity, and our waiting with reminders of God’s unchanging character.
This practice is one we hear again and again. Science confirms it. Scripture instructs us to do it (Psalm 30 and Psalm 40 for example). There are countless books on gratitude and numerous practical ways to incorporate it into our daily lives.
Journal a gratitude list every day or every week – be specific. Include small things like hot showers or coffee. Sing songs of praise about God’s character. Rewrite and pray Psalms of gratitude. I have told loved ones that if I’m ever in the hospital again, I want to list five things I’m grateful for every day on the white board in my hospital room. (I do this now in a journal nearly every night.)
Just this morning in my devotional, I read: “The answer to anxiety is always to exalt Christ.”
It may not be immediate, but we will reap the rewards of peace in a time of panic when we develop a habit of intentional gratitude.
You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3
Lingering night seasons make us want to retreat into the safety of seclusion. We want to present the best version of ourselves to others – faithful, courageous, and victorious. But that darkness will threaten to envelop us if we don’t invite in others. This is one purpose of the church.
James 5 says for believers to pray for the suffering, sing praises to rejoice together, pray and anoint the sick, restore those who have wandered from the truth and forgive those who have sinned. Confessing our sins and admitting our weaknesses will aid healing.
God knows our frame and has compassion on us (Psalm 103). When we are ashamed to seek help in our suffering, we are causing the church to be weak in its duty to walk alongside us. The church, in order to be like Christ, must exercise its compassion and comfort.
If the Bible says “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses,” why don’t we do it? Pride? Embarrassment? Fear? Christ’s power is ushered in when we admit our weaknesses.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corin. 12:9
For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 2 Corin. 1:5
Yes, it can be vulnerable to invite others in. People may say the wrong thing. They may not know how to practically help. But if we don’t share our burdens, we are essentially stealing God’s glory for ourselves and not allowing His church to flex their spiritual muscles of prayer, service and compassion.
Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. 2 Corin. 1:7
The verse here says “our hope for you” – we can lend our hope to others when theirs runs dry.
We do not have to grope in the dark on our own. As we invite in community, we can find shared comfort. As we practice gratitude, our minds can find peace for lingering trials. And as we do the next right thing, we can fight the overwhelm of the unknowns.
- As our night seasons linger, remember these 3 things:
Do the next thing.
- From the Scriptures below, choose one chapter and write down specifics that can help encourage you to endure lingering night seasons.
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Each Monday, I plan to offer you a “Monday Goodness” devotional. I pray it will encourage you to focus on God’s goodness, His Word, and truths to help you cling to Him in life’s impossible. You can find past Monday Goodness devotionals here.