Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It Came in the Morning

"For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning" (Psalm 30:5).

The night time, with its cessation of noise and busyness, is the opportune time for reflection. It is the moment of the day when we come to greater grips with our problems.

I confess to having gone through periods of night weeping lately. Just last night, I couldn't sleep. I was burdened and saddened by the fact that the sale of our house is taking too long to become realized. I have a daughter to send to school and bills to pay. My wife will be giving birth to our 3rd child in a few months' time. I am in lamentation over my inability to conquer certain weaknesses. My thoughts were moving towards notions of escapism. I was secretly wishing for a warp zone that would take me to an alternate universe where things were better—in other words, I wanted the role of God.

This morning, I woke up refreshed. I picked up my copy of "The Valley of Vision" and, as providence would have it, I was now on the section entitled, Peril. It read:

Sovereign Commander of the Universe,
I am sadly harassed by doubts, fears, unbelief,
    in a felt spiritual darkness.
My heart is full of evil surmisings and disquietude,
    and I cannot act faith at all.
My heavenly Pilot has disappeared,
    and I have lost my hold on the Rock of Ages;
I sink in deep mire beneath storms and waves,
    in horror and distress unutterable.

Help me, O Lord,
    to throw myself absolutely and wholly on thee,
    for better, for worse, without comfort,
    and all but hopeless.
Give me peace of soul, confidence, enlargement of mind,
    morning joy that comes after night heaviness;
Water my soul with divine blessings;
Grant that I may welcome that humbling in private
    so that I might enjoy thee in public;
Give me a mountain top as high as the valley is low.
Thy grace can melt the worst sinner, and I am as vile as he;
Yet thou hast made me a monument of mercy,
    a trophy of redeeming power;
In my distress let me not forget this.

All-wise God,
Thy never-failing providence orders every event,
    sweetens every fear,
    reveals evil's presence lurking in seeming good,
    brings real good out of seeming evil,
    makes unsatisfactory what I set my heart upon,
    to show me what a short-sighted creature I am,
    and to teach me to live by faith upon
        thy blessed self.

Out of sorrow and night
    give me the name Naphtali -
    ‘satisfied with favour' -
    help me to love thee as thy child,
    and to walk worthy of my heavenly pedigree.

I owned the prayer. I repented of my discontent. I relinquished any perceived right to ease and comfort and reaffirmed my faith in the kind and merciful providence of God. Joy came for me this morning.

"If God at any time chastise his people, he not only mitigates the rigour of their punishment, but is immediately appeased, and moderates his anger; whereas he prolongs his kindness and favor for a long time...If we are prosperous, we devour God's blessings without feeling that they are his, or, at least, we indolently allow them to slip away; but if any thing sorrowful or adverse befall us, we immediately complain of his severity, as if he had never dealt kindly and mercifully with us. In short, our own fretfulness and impatience under affliction makes every minute an age; while, on the other hand, our repining and ingratitude lead us to imagine that God's favor, however long it may be exercised towards us, is but for a moment. It is our own perversity, therefore, in reality, which hinders us from perceiving that God's anger is but of short duration, While his favor is continued towards us during the whole course of our life. Nor does God in vain so often declare that he is merciful and gracious to a thousand generations, long-suffering, slow to anger, and ready to forgive...Our condition in this world, I confess, involves us in such wretchedness, and we are harassed by such a variety of afflictions, that scarcely a day passes without some trouble or grief. Moreover, amid so many uncertain events, we cannot be otherwise than full of daily anxiety and fear. Whithersoever, therefore, men turn themselves, a labyrinth of evils surrounds them. But however much God may terrify and humble his faithful servants, with manifold signs of his displeasure, he always be-sprinkles them with the sweetness of his favor to moderate and assuage their grief. If they weigh, therefore his anger and his favor in an equal balance, they will always find it verified, that while the former is but for a moment, the latter continues to the end of life; nay, it goes beyond it, for it were a grievous mistake to confine the favor of God within the boundaries of this transitory life. And it is unquestionably certain, that none but those whose minds have been raised above the world by a taste of heavenly life really experience this perpetual and uninterrupted manifestation of the divine favor, which enables them to bear their chastisements with cheerfulness. Paul, accordingly, that he may inspire us with invincible patience, refers to this in 2 Corinthians 4:17, 'For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.'

In the meantime, it is to be observed that God never inflicts such heavy and continued chastisements on his people, without frequently mitigating them, and sweetening their bitterness with some consolation. Whoever, therefore, directs his mind to meditation upon the heavenly life, will never faint under his afflictions, however long continued; and, comparing them with the exceeding great and manifold favors of God towards him, he will put such honor on the latter as to judge that God's goodness, in his estimation, outweighs his displeasure a hundred-fold. In the second clause, David repeats the same thing figuratively: Weeping will lodge in the evening, and rejoicing shall come in the morning He does not simply mean, that the affliction would be only for one night, but that if the darkness of adversity should fall upon the people of God, as it were, in the evening, or at the setting of the sun, light would soon after arise upon them, to comfort their sorrow-stricken spirits. The amount of David's instruction is, that were we not too headstrong, we would acknowledge that the Lord, even when he appears to overwhelm us for a time with the darkness of affliction, always seasonably ministers matter of joy, just as the morning arises after the night" (John Calvin, Commentary on Psalm 30:5).

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