Psalm 30:5 (New Living Translation)
“Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.”
One of my favorite worship songs says, “I will bless your name when the night is long.” There is something about singing those words to God that always impacts me deeply.
As a little girl, I had night terrors. I would wake up sweating and in a state of panic, but I remember the feeling that would come over me as I realized that I was okay, and it was all a dream. It was such a relief that I would often thank God for getting me through the night.
Today, I am 31 years old, and I can tell you that God has helped me through countless nights when terror was not a dream. I could tell you about the night before my brother’s brain surgery when I was so scared of losing him that I was throwing up. I could tell you about the time I got hit by a car while crossing the street or the moment I found out my mom had cancer. God in his goodness brought my brother through two brain surgeries, and he is better than ever today. He saved my life, and he healed my mom of cancer. There have also been times of great loss, like when my amazing auntie passed away. On this side of eternity, it’s hard to understand why.
There are seasons of life that feel like a long night that will never end or seasons where it feels like daylight, and the sun is shining constantly. Through any kind of season, there is something strong enough to remain if we choose it: joy. God’s Word tells us that our strength is the joy of the Lord (Neh. 8:10).Joy is not a constant smile or a denial of hard times. It is not bliss or the feeling of happiness. True joy comes from knowing Jesus. It is a deep sense of well-being through an interactive relationship with God, despite circumstance. Joy is more about being than it is about feeling.
As someone who struggles with anxiety and sometimes panic attacks, discovering joy in all seasons and situations has taken time. But when you begin to see your valleys fill with flowers you realize that you’ve been planting seeds along the way of perseverance, prayer, trust, hope relationships, etc.
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Romans 5:3-5, English Standard Version
Looking back, I think of some of the people in my life that had true joy. It was not a façade. They really had something special. Their circumstances were ever changing but their joy was authentic and consistent. It was tailor-made for their story.
One of my favorite movies is “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” It’s the story of Fred Roger’s impact on human beings. I highly recommend it. There are so many scenes that impacted me but one that stood out was when Fred was being interviewed by Lloyd Vogel, a seemingly insensitive journalist. Lloyd implied that he was interviewing Fred the person and Mr. Rogers, the character, and he wanted to hear more about Fred, the person. Fred Rogers couldn’t really answer the question because he wasn’t playing a character, he was being himself. Mr. Rogers and Fred Rogers were the same person.
In a time of social media and the temptation to manage our image and even hide our scars, Fred Rogers reminds us that we don’t have to pretend. We don’t have to fake it till we make it. God doesn’t want us with fake smiles and inauthentic personas. God wants us to experience true joy. Our stories are too valuable for our lives to be opaque.
Ernest Hemingway once said, “We’re all broken, that’s how the light gets in.” We’ve all faced opposition and adversity. These past couple years have been treacherous for so many of us. Through unpredictable danger and overwhelming change, we’re still here for a reason, and I want to encourage you as we enter a new year that God doesn’t sleep. The Bible says, “He who keeps you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.” (Ps. 121:3-6, Amplified Bible).
Sorrow may stay the night, but joy will wake you up. My prayer for you is that you can say, “It’s been a long night, but you’re a good God.”