In his sermon, “Bright Songs in Dark Nights,” the late Rev. Gardner C. Taylor wrote, “You and I will never grow into what God wants us to be until we learn to pass through the nighttime.” He continues, “When things go against us, when we are under stress, when we do not know how it is going to turn out, when it looks like it will not turn out right – you and I need that.”
Many but not all people in America are under stress as the administration appears to be leading the country toward Armageddon. Many with health issues are not sure if they will be able to keep their health care if they were finally able to get it; many others who need health care and who believed that this administration would lead the way for them to get it, are realizing that what they were promised is turning out to be nothing but hot air. All or many of the gains made by oppressed groups of people – including African Americans, women, children, the elderly, the poor – are being targeted and are threatened with extinction.
America is in a nighttime, the likes of which she may never have experienced before. This night is so dark that many close their eyes so as to make the night darker so that they cannot see what they are seeing. For African Americans, nighttime isn’t new; we have lived in the night and learned how to cope, survive and thrive with “night vision” a long time ago. But for those who have been used to living only in daytime, being spared the “terror by night,” and who can see what this country is going through and what it is seemingly headed toward, i.e., an unabashed oligarchy, the approaching night may be nearly unbearable.
If we couple the national mood with the personal moods that we so often experience, we are burdened, almost beyond endurance. Things seem to be falling apart; that which we knew and treasured is not stable, and some are nearly paralyzed with worry and anxiety. For some, the anxiety is manageable, but for others, it is not, and for those who cannot manage all that is going on, in our country and in our lives, there is kind of a dual desire – that night come quickly so that we can retire to our beds and be covered by our blankets, but also that the night will hurry and pass, because the darkness is far too dark and has lasted too long.
For the country and for some individuals right now, it is nighttime.
Dr. Taylor would say that this is a good time, a necessary time and an inevitable time. Night is always going to come, no matter how long or bright our days may be. In the northernmost part of Alaska, residents will not see the sun for 67 days in winter, but in summer, they have 80 days of uninterrupted daylight. Neither the long period of nighttime nor the long period of daylight last, though for some, daylight may have been on their side for a long time. Nighttime always comes, no matter what.
What do we do when we are in our nighttime? Some retreat to a corner of life; they let the darkness of their night darken their very souls. Others try to walk through the night unattended and unaccompanied by God, and they bruise their souls and their faith.
Others call on God, reach for God’s hand and take it willingly and eagerly. In so doing, they receive the blessed assurance that they are alone, that God hears, God sees and that God cares. Knowing that takes the terror out of the night.
If America is in trouble, it is because it has given lip service to its belief in God and now, in this nighttime, does not even know how to call on God. For many, money and power are their gods, and neither money nor earthly power can make the night go away or make it easier to endure. America’s lip service to god damaged the very core of her soul decades ago, and now the damage is rising to the top. Those who have benefited from the daytime of evil will now experience the fruit of their decision to abandon God for the gods of the empire. The trajectory has been set and, short of a miracle, will not stop. America, though not ever perfect, is on a downward spiral and is too arrogant to call out for God to take its hand.
But for individuals who learned long ago, in the middle of the night, to call on God, to sing a song or pray a psalm, to utter a prayer, even if it is just one word, you already know the value of nighttime. It is a place where we grow by default. It is a place where our eyes, straining to see through the darkness, become sharper, and where our spirits, connecting to the One who can give us the power and strength to make it to daylight, become more aligned with the spirit of God. We know what the words, “The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?”mean, because we have lived through many a nighttime and are still here.
Nighttime is a blessing. It is not pleasant, and for some, it only encourages some to cover our heads, bodies …and spirits …with something which feels like it will make everything be better. The warmth of the blankets we use comfort us. But it is better to endure the night with eyes wide open, hands outstretched to find God, so that God can not only give the comfort, but also lend us His/Her strength to get through the nighttime to the light – the daylight – that is always there. It is a difficult thing to do; our natural inclination is to sink into hopeless and despair, but if we can look for God and lean on God, we will receive divine whispers which remind us that “trouble don’t last always.”
It doesn’t. Trouble feels like night, and night comes, but it passes. Sometimes more slowly than at other times, but it does pass. Garner Taylor said God can give us “bright songs in dark nights.”
Amen and amen.