Have you ever awakened in the middle of the night and cannot go back to sleep? Worse yet – has your mind started racing and thinking of all kinds of not-so-wonderful things—the pain of rejection, deep loneliness, unmet expectations, misunderstandings. Often these thoughts are quickly followed by another that serves to deepen and widen the pain, “It is going to be like this forever – I’m helpless to change the situation.”
You are not alone. Listen to the agony of this writer. Could these words be yours?
1 I cry out to God; yes, I shout.
Oh, that God would listen to me!
2 When I was in deep trouble,
I searched for the Lord.
All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven,
but my soul was not comforted.
3 I think of God, and I moan,
overwhelmed with longing for his help.
4 You don’t let me sleep.
I am too distressed even to pray!
5 I think of the good old days,
long since ended,
6 when my nights were filled with joyful songs.
I search my soul and ponder the difference now.
7 Has the Lord rejected me forever?
Will he never again be kind to me?
8 Is his unfailing love gone forever?
Have his promises permanently failed?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he slammed the door on his compassion?
10 And I said, “This is my fate;
the Most High has turned his hand against me.”
Psalm 77:1-10 (NLT; highlighting mine)
When circumstances don’t change or turn out the way we think they should, it can lead to “night time moments” or even seasons. We are often too distressed even to pray as the Psalmist says in verse 4. Maybe your spouse has left you after an affair or you are living in a loveless marriage. Maybe your kids are living a life far from what you dreamed for them. Maybe you just got a disturbing message from your doctor or have lost a child.
Life is filled with difficult circumstances beyond our control. In one of the darkest night seasons of my life, I spoke all these words and felt all these same feelings—trapped, discouraged, helpless, frustrated and angry with a God who said he would be there. My mom was dying of cancer and though I begged God not to take her—He did. I was angry and sullen leading to a deep depression which I couldn’t even admit to because I was a “good” Christian who “trusted” God. How could I be angry with God?
I guess I didn’t know about Psalm 77!
At a conference for pastor’s wives a year and a half after my mom’s death, I was given the opportunity to kneel before an empty chair and speak as if God was there. While I had a nice, polite prayer planned for the moment, when I started to pray, the bitter, angry words that rushed out in a torrent shocked me. I was actually unaware of the bitterness and anger I was carrying towards God. That day my healing began. With the help of a godly counselor, I was able to work through that anger, lay it aside and move on like the Psalmist did in verse 11 of the 77th chapter.
“11 But then I recall all you have done, O Lord;
I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.
12 They are constantly in my thoughts.
I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.”
While night time moments or seasons can be extremely difficult to endure, there is hope if we will remember all the good God has already done for us – remember His promise to always be with us and never leave us – remember back to the nights when we were filled with joy – fix our thoughts on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8 NLT).
In addition, remember:
- Night time moments or seasons are better shared. Find a trusted, safe friend to help carry your burden. God never intended us to do life alone. Galatians 6:2
- Night time moments are not forever. Tell yourself the TRUTH. “I have walked through difficulty before. He has carried me. God is faithful. Together we will make it through again.” If you are having difficulty finding the truth, find a godly friend or counselor who can help you.
- Night time moments are times to draw closer to God. If you are awake more than 20 minutes, get up and go to your quiet place where you meet with the Lord. Get out your journal and your Bible (not your phone!) and begin to record your honest feelings, being curious about them and sharing them with the Lord. Write them down even if they seem irrational or crazy! (For a step-by-step process of how to care for your own feelings, read my article on Keeping Your Sanity as a Pastor’s Wife.) Ask God for help in the sorting out of those feelings, and decide how you want to act based on the information He shares with you. No matter how busy I am the next day, I find these times refreshing with the Lord and don’t miss the sleep. (Honestly you are probably going to be awake anyhow!)
- Night time seasons provide compassion for others walking through similar circumstances. Christ, Himself, went through suffering and testing while here on earth and is able to help us when we are being tested (Hebrews 2:18). Thus, in turn, we can be compassionate to others in their difficult times – for potentially we’ve walked a similar path.
I honestly would love to never face another trial but that is not realistic. As long as I bring to mind the goodness of God, I can face ANY TRIAL that comes my way and so can you! Don’t struggle alone! Let the Son shine in your “night time moments” and radiate God’s glory through you.
This article was written with help from a dear friend, Beverly Porter. We both want you to know we care about you. May joy and peace by yours in abundance! John 10:10.