Monday, 28 March 2011
This whole post was by Charles Spurgeon, but it has been extensively paraphrased by me. I hope that you would take the time to read the whole extract, which is very insightful and eloquent in addressing the perseverance through the valleys in the Christian life.
"NIGHT appears to be a time peculiarly favorable to devotion. Its solemn stillness helps to free the mind from that perpetual din which the cares of the world will bring around it. The stars looking down from heaven upon us shine as if they would attract us up to God. I don't know about how you may be affected by the solitude of midnight, but when I have sat alone musing on the great God and the mighty universe, I have felt that indeed I could worship Him: for night sky seemed spread like a temple for adoration, while the moon walked as high priest, amid the stars, the worshipers, and I myself joined in that silent song which they sang unto God:
“Great are You, O God! Great are Your works. When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You are mindful of him? And the son of man, that You visits him?”
I find that this sense of the power of midnight not only applies to Christians, but non-Christians all the same. The poet Lord Byron, who was best described as a reprobate: a man very far from understanding God and His works. One who I may say is an infidel, a man with minimal moral restraints of the worst order, and yet he says concerning night in one of his poems:
“‘Tis midnight on the mountains’ brown,
The cold round moon shines deeply down;
Blue roll the waters, blue the sky
Spreads like an ocean hung on high,
Bespangled with those isles of light,
So wildly, spiritually bright;
Who ever gazed upon them shining,
And turning to earth without repining,
Nor wish’d for wings to flee away,
And mix with their eternal ray.”
Even with the most irreligious person, a man farthest from spiritual thought, it seems that there is some power in the grandeur and stillness of night to draw him up to God. I trust many of us can say, like David:
“I have thought upon Thee continually; I have mused upon Thy name in the night watches, and with desire have I desired Thee in the night.”
The Christian man has not always a bright shining sun: he has seasons of darkness and of night. While it is written in God’s Word: “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace;” and it is a great truth that Christianity — the true religion of the living God — is calculated to give a man happiness on earth as well as bliss in heaven. But, often experience tells us that if the course of the just were “as the shining light, that shines more and more unto the perfect day,” sometimes that light is eclipsed. At certain periods clouds and darkness cover the sun, and we can see no clear shining of the daylight, we walk in darkness and see no light.
Now there are many who have rejoiced in the presence of God for a season; they have basked in the sunshine God has been pleased to give them in the earlier stages of their Christian walk; they have walked along the “green pastures,” by the side of the “still waters,” and suddenly — in a month or two — they find that glorious sky is clouded; instead of “green pastures,” they have to tread the sandy desert; in the place of “still waters,” they find streams salty to the taste and bitter to their spirits, and they say, “Surely, if I were a child of God this would not happen.”
Oh, don't say such things when you are walking in darkness! The best of God’s saints have their nights; the dearest of His children have to walk through a weary wilderness. There is not a Christian who has enjoyed perpetual happiness; there is no believer who can always sing a song of joy. It is not every lark that can always sing and it is not every star that can always be seen. And not every Christian is always happy. Perhaps the King of saints gave you a season of great joy at first because you were a raw recruit, and He would not put you into the roughest part of the battle, when you had first enlisted.
You were a tender plant, and He nursed you in the hothouse till you could stand severe weather. You were a young child, and therefore He wrapped you in furs and clothed you in the softest mantle. But now you have become strong, and the case is different. Luxurious holidays do not suit Roman soldiers; and they would not match with Christians. We need clouds and darkness to exercise our faith; to cut off self-dependence, and make us put more faith in Christ, and less in evidence, less in experience, less in frames and feelings. The best of God’s children — I repeat it again for the comfort of those who are suffering spiritual depression — have their nights.
Sometimes it is a night over the whole Church at once. There are times when Zion is under a cloud; when the gold becomes dim, and the glory of Zion is departed. There are seasons when we do not hear the clear preaching of the Word; when the doctrines are withheld; when the glory of the Lord God of Jacob is dim; when His name is not exalted; when the traditions of men are taught, instead of the inspirations of the Holy Spirit. And such a season is that when the whole Church is dark.
Of course, each Christian participates in it. He goes about and weeps, and cries, “O God, how long shall poor Zion be depressed? How long shall her shepherds be ‘dumb dogs that cannot bark?’ Shall her watchmen be always blind? Shall the silver trumpet sound no more? Shall not the voice of the gospel be heard in her streets?” Oh, there are seasons of darkness to the entire Church! God grant we may not have to pass through another, but that, starting from this period; the sun may rise never to set, till, like a sea of glory, the light of brilliance shall spread around the earth!
At other times, this darkness over the soul of the Christian rises from temporal hardships. He may have had something unexpected — something has gone wrong in his business, or an enemy has done somewhat against him; death has struck down a favorite child — bereavement has snatched away the apple of his eye; the crops are struck down with frost; the winds refuse to push his ship homeward; a vessel strikes upon a rock; all goes bad with him, and, like a person who called to see me, he may be able to say, “Sir, I prospered far more when I was a worldly man than I have done since I have become a Christian: for, since then, everything has appeared to go wrong with me. I thought,” he said, “that religion had the promise of this life as well as of that which is to come.” I told him, "Yes, it had; and so it should be in the end. But he must remember there was one great legacy which Christ left His people; and I was glad he had come in for a share of it — “In the world ye shall have tribulation; in Me ye shall have peace.” Yes! You may be troubled about this, you may be saying, “Look at so-and-so: see how he spreads himself like a green bay-tree. He is a wicked man and extorts; yet everything he does prospers.” “They are not in trouble as other men, neither are they plagued like other men.” God has set them in slippery places, but he casts them down to destruction.
Better to have a Christian’s days of sorrow, than a fallen man's days of mirth. Better to have a Christian’s sorrows than a worldling’s joys. Ah! It is happier to be chained in a dungeon with a Paul than reign in the palace with an Ahab. Better to be a child of God in poverty than a child of Satan in riches. Cheer up, then, you downcast spirit, if this be your trial. Remember that many saints have passed through the same; and the best and most eminent believers have had their nights. Christian men very frequently have their nights; but a Christian man’s religion will keep its color in the night. “With my soul have I desired You in the night.” What a mighty deal of seeker-sensitive churches we have in this world! Men will follow Christ when every one cries, “Hosanna! Hosanna!” The multitude will crowd around the Man then, and they will take Him by force and make Him a king when the sun shines, when the soft wind blows. They are like the plants upon the rock, which sprang up and for a little while were green; but when the sun had risen with fervent heat straight away the plant withered away.
Demas, and a great many others, are very pious people in easy times. They will always go with Christ by daylight, and will keep in company so long as fashion gives religion the doubtful benefit of its patronage. But they will not go with Him in the night. There are some goods whose color you can only see by daylight. If they were in the night of trouble and persecutions you would find that there was very little in them. They are good by daylight, but they are bad by night.
Do you not know that the best test of a Christian is the night? The nightingale, if she would sing by day when every goose is cackling, would be reckoned no better a musician than the wren. A Christian if he only remained steadfast by daylight, when every coward is bold, what would he be? There would be no beauty in his courage, no glory in his bravery. But it is because he can sing at night — sing in trouble — sing when he is well stuck in despair; it is this which proves his sincerity. It has its glory in the night. The stars are not visible by daylight, but they become apparent when the sun is set. There is full many a Christian whose piety did not burn much when he was in prosperity; but it will be known in adversity. I have marked it in some of my brethren when they were in deep trial. I had not heard them talk much about Christ before, but when God’s hand had robbed them of their comfort, I remember that: I could discern their truthfulness and commitment infinitely better than I could before. Nothing can bring our religion out better than that. Grind the diamond a little and you shall see it glisten. Do but put a trouble on the Christian, and his endurance of it will prove him to be of the true seed of Israel.
All that the Christian wants in the night is his God. “With desire have I desired You in the night.” By day there are many things that a Christian will desire besides his Lord; but in the night he wants nothing but his God. I cannot understand how it is unless it is to be accounted for by the corruption of our spirit, that when everything goes well with us we are setting our affection first on earthly object and then on another, and then on another; and that desire which is as insatiable to death and hell never rests satisfied. We always want something, always desiring something beyond us. But if you place a Christian in trouble you will find that he does not want gold then — that he does not want man's praise — then he wants his God.
I suppose he is like the sailor, when he sails along smoothly he loves to have fair weather, and wants this and that to amuse himself with on deck. But when the winds blow all that he wants is the haven. He does not desire anything else. The biscuit may be moldy, but he does not care. The water may be salty, but he does not care. He does not think of it in the storm. He only thinks about the haven then. It is just so with the Christian; when he is going along smoothly he wants this and that comfort; he is aspiring after this position, or is wanting to climb every mountain. But let him once doubt his interest in Christ — let him once get into some turmoil in his soul, so that it is very dark — and all he will feel then is, “With desire have I desired You in the night.”
When the child is put upstairs to bed it may lie while the light is there, and look at the trees that shake against the window, and admire the stars that are coming out; but when it gets dark and the child is still awake it cries for its parent. It cannot be amused by anything else. So in daylight will the Christian look at anything. He will cast his eyes round on this pleasure and on that; but, when the darkness gathers, it is, “My God! My God! Why have You forsaken me?” “O why are You so far from me and from the word of my roaring?”
Have you been going through valleys or dark nights lately? Do you find that it makes you pursue God with greater fervor, and further refine your faith? Can you say like King David that "with desire have I desired You in the night"?