And yet they took care to note that "the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land...And they did sing praises unto the Lord; yea, the brother of Jared did sing praises unto the Lord, and he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord." (Ether 6:5–6, 9)
* * * *
When he was young he fled his home in the face of a murderous brother. Now, years later, he returns with wives and children at the behest of his God. His servants bring him word that they have seen his brother on the road, advancing toward the caravan with 400 men. "Greatly afraid and distressed," he divides his caravan in an effort to save at least half from his brother's vengeance. Then, having done all in his power to protect against this threat, he turns to the God who sent him here. "And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac...I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto thy servant." (Genesis 32:7, 10)
* * * *
A multitude of at least 5,000 has followed Him into a desert place; they are now hungry. But there is no food...at least, what food is there is so little that it may as well be nothing. He takes the measly amount and gives thanks for it. (John 6:11)
* * * *
A dear friend dead. A family grieving in the wake of prayers unanswered. A crowd gathered to comfort and to critique His performance. He weeps at the sorrow He sees; walks with the sisters to visit the grave. He commands the stone rolled away and peers inside as the tomb exhales the putridity of rotting flesh. All watch as He lifts up His eyes and breathes, "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me." (John 11:41)
* * * *
Thrust down from power and prestige for the testimony he bears of Christ. Preaching in Macedonia at the beck of his God. Apprehended for casting an evil spirit out of "a certain damsel." Arrested for "troubling the city" thusly. Stripped and beaten savagely. Then cast into prison, with orders to its keeper to "keep (him) safely." Thrown, bleeding and torn, into the belly of the prison, and fastened in the stocks. Every reason, physical and emotional, to languish and quake in the faith of the God who sent him here. Yet "at midnight Paul...prayed, and sang praises unto God. And the prisoners heard them." (Acts 16:16, 23, 25)
* * * *
Midnight. That blackest portion. The point at which it does not seem the world can get any darker. Light could not be more lost. And that's speaking metaphorically too. The time at which the eyes feel most swollen, the hands heaviest, the knees most feeble, the mind most anguished, the heart most broken.
It may happen once. It may happen frequently. Its duration may be short. It may seem to last forever. It may happen to an entire people. An entire family. A single person. Expected or unexpected, it can prompt fear, doubt, questioning. Always too much; always too long. Never welcome. Ever deliverance sought.
The midnights may end happily, miraculously, as they did in the accounts above. They may not. But the ending does not matter so much as do the attitudes of those in the midnights.
The midnights have the potential to swallow life whole—to blacken the perspective and, thus, make the heart bitter. I see the tendency in my own midnights. I admit it. And yet I have found the pattern above.
And this statement—for those times when life seems black, when Heaven seems closed, when light seems lost; when all you can manage is to stumble along the boulder-strewn, lightless path the Lord has fixed for you and He seems as afar off as the promises:
"At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of thy righteous judgments...The earth, O Lord, is full of thy mercy." (Psalm 119:62, 64)
The Parent does not spare His children the midnights in His eternal round. Sometimes He allows them. Sometimes He leads us to them. Sometimes He delivers us from them. Sometimes He leads us through them. However long He deems they last.
And truly, midnight is but the fulcrum of darkness. The midnights prove the softness of the heart, the mettle of the faith. Perhaps nothing shows greater mettle than to praise the light that seems vanished; to express gratitude and praise for God at midnight. However long the fulcrum lasts. God lasts longer. His love shines brighter. The earth is full of His mercy...for those who see it. And those who see it are most often those who rise at midnight to give thanks to Him. As He did. As His disciples did.
Nothing better preserves the heart, blesses the mind and frees the Lord's blessing hand at midnight.