For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favor is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
A scream… a thud… a rumble-SMASH – BANG! BANG! BANG!
These were the sounds that came from overhead that jolted me from sleep. Heart in my throat, I sat STRAIGHT and SILENT.
The racket had come from my neighbor’s apartment.
- Was it a burglar?
- Had one of the kids fallen down the stairs?
There really wasn’t any telling with Parnell, a country-boy from Jessup, Georgia. Our families shared a house the Bible College had converted into apartments for married students.
Call me a terrible neighbor, but when I didn’t hear anything else, I laid back down. Sleep was at a premium in those days. I just figured someone fell or knocked one of his many deer-heads off the wall.
The next day I saw Parnell, briefcase in hand - a smile on his face. I asked him what happened. Turned out, he had an unexpected guest… a rat… not one of those cute-little-mice we CALL ‘rats.’ But a huge rat – about the size of a squirrel. He stunned it with a book and beat it to death with his wife’s shoe.
Had there been cell phones in those days, I have no doubt Parnell would have posted a selfie with his “trophy” on Facebook.
Unexpected guests. We’ve all had them. Some we are thrilled to see – like family or friends returning from a lengthy separation. The joy of reunion – of catching up – of dusting off long forgotten memories that have grown into colorful stories. We LOVE those visits.
But not all ‘unexpected guests’ are so pleasant,
- as with Parnell and his rat…
- or those Saturday drop-bys from people peddling their watch-tower pamphlets…
- or as with some devastating news – a divorce, disease, death… those crushing moments when circumstances remind you ⇒ we aren’t home yet.
My “unexpected guest” came December 16th at 12:40 AM. It was one of those rare times when I was glad I was a light sleeper. I guess the Lord nudged me. I opened my eyes and noticed a strange light filtering through the blinds and curtains.
Our property joins a sheep farm… so a light coming from there at that time of night was unusual. I got up to investigate. As soon as I opened the curtains I knew we were in trouble –
fire was racing up the back of our house.
In a panic, I yelled to Debbie to call the fire department as I raced downstairs to wake my daughter. We opened the garage and moved the car out to the street and waited for those folks you are GLAD are there to serve - but you never want to have to call.
It wasn’t a total loss. But when morning came, it wasn’t JOY we were feeling.
We took a couple of photos for our family and friends who were worried about us.
I’ve never gone through anything like that. You just don’t know how to PREPARE for some things.
I know some of you have been through FAR worse. I have lived a fairly uneventful life – few REAL problems. But THAT night, our unexpected guest left us homeless just days before Christmas.
I can honestly say, God moved in that situation and gave us such an amazing peace. He shepherded us through the entire process, just as His Word TELLS US He will.
His people from all over the state of Missouri showed us God’s Amazing Grace. From the calls and cards, to the gifts and offers for help. God comforted us through you. And after 5 months of being displaced, I’m glad to say - two weeks ago we moved back into our home!
I am not so naïve as to suggest that EVERY tragedy we face will have a storybook ending. But I WILL DEFINITELY say – regardless the nature of YOUR ‘unexpected guest,’ God strengthens and blesses those who place their faith in Him!
I guess that’s why I love this Psalm so much. Through his own life-experiences, David could say, “For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favor is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
What can you and I take away from that sentence of 24 words that will provide comfort and wisdom in our seasons of darkness? 3 things:
1. FIRST, this verse offers us PERSPECTIVE. Fresh eyes - a different way of looking at things.
Did you notice the many contrasts in this text?
- Anger versus favor
- weeping versus joy
- night versus morning.
Those are the obvious contrasts. But the more subtle is the fact that David places emphasis on the temporary nature of the ONE and the permanent nature of the OTHER.
- God’s anger is temporary for the child of God – but His FAVOR is lasting.
- Weeping for the Christian is short-lived – but our Joy lasts forever.
- Night comes to all of us – but thankfully it doesn’t stay, it gives way to dawn.
David is providing an interesting picture with his choice of words.
The picture is that of an unexpected guest coming for a visit. The guest is dark, troubling, foreboding. But after a period of time in its company, it removes its veil, it pulls back its hood only to reveal something ELSE altogether.
JOY! Unmitigated Joy. Night gave way to dawn and the sorrow he knew unmasked itself to reveal JOY.
When you are going through hardship, you have a limited perspective. You may focus on how your loss impacts YOU. You may only see the immediate – the darkness.
But God has a different perspective. He has the LONG VIEW of our lives.
- Our focus is on NOW.
- His focus is on LATER.
- Our focus is on WHAT WE ARE – WHAT WE HAVE – HOW WE FEEL.
- He’s watching for WHAT WE WILL BECOME.
He allows those “unexpected guests” to shape us into different ⇒ BETTER people.
I have told a few of my friends, how, two days before the fire, I was pouring my heart out to God about the difficulty I was having connecting to my community.
You know, as a home missionary, that’s kind of important!
Where we live, people don’t appreciate strangers showing up on their doorstep talking about Jesus and inviting them to Church. I understand. That isn’t unusual.
I've had to learn the hard way: We don’t DESERVE an audience with people – we EARN it through relationship.
But I haven’t been able to break through and build relationships with many outside our church family. Since I am – for all intents and purposes – an outsider, people have kept me at arm’s length when it comes to building the necessary relationships to impact them with the Gospel.
So I prayed ⇒ “LORD… whatever it takes to help me connect with people, please do it.” Two days later, my house was destroyed and I was living in a Super-8 with only the few clothes I could cram in a WalMart bag.
Now, before you think – “I’m never gonna ask THAT GUY to pray for me – EVER!” I want you to know that the day after the fire I met more people from my neighborhood, I felt more concern and compassion from complete strangers than I ever did BEFORE that loss. I had people I had never met come up to me with tears in their eyes… hugs… and cards.
And besides the relationship building I’ve enjoyed with people in my community, God is making me a MUCH MORE compassionate person than I ever was before – more thoughtful of others needs and problems. I never KNEW what people went through in a fire – till now.
So if God can get glory through my loss, then praise God!
There is a certain PERSPECTIVE that comes to us through our times of suffering that we can’t see any other way. He has a way of showing us what’s important. I made it out with my family… no one was hurt - not even my dumb dog that burned my house down was injured. 😄
What is God trying to show YOU through YOUR season of ‘night?’ What is He wanting to accomplish IN you and THROUGH you as you grope through this darkness?
Remember the PERSPECTIVE of this verse.
2. But after PERSPECTIVE, we find the PROMISE of this verse. I love the promises of God. When God says something – I know I can count on it. And in THIS passage, the are two IMPLIED promises:
First, the thing that is troubling you is temporary. God wants us to know that it WILL come to an end.
In the psalm, David uses the analogy of night giving way to dawn for a reason. No matter how DARK YOUR night may be – regardless how painful and difficult the circumstances of your life ARE at that moment – as sure as the night gives way to morning-light, your troubles WILL NOT LAST FOREVER.
That’s important… WHY???
- If you allow your life to be ruled by the immediate – you will be a joyless VICTIM the rest of your days.
- If you jump to harsh conclusions about yourself, the church, or the Lord during the difficult moments – you are sabotaging any chance you have at future joy.
- Don’t let your emotions run to extremes when what you are experiencing is temporary.
We offer counsel to young people – GOOD counsel – Biblical – when we tell them to stay pure until marriage and not to do ANYTHING that would jeopardize God’s will – His BEST for their lives.
We tell them that self-control – that the temporary postponement of natural desire – is a GOOD thing! And we would be 100% correct. “Don’t let 5 minutes of pleasure define the next 50 years of your life.”
That’s good advice.
The same is true with anger – if you yield to those flashes of temper, no matter HOW JUSTIFIED you think you ARE - you will destroy the people you care about – ruin your influence for Jesus – and create tension between yourself and others that will go with you to your grave.
So we say - “Don’t let temporary passion overthrow good judgment.” ……..... That’s smart!
But WHY IS IT that we can’t heed our own counsel when it comes to the way we process life’s problems? We too often allow temporary circumstances to override EVEN the voice of God.
I MUST remind myself to hold on to the eternal truths of God’s Word EVEN WHEN everything in me wants to give up. Because this thing WILL pass and what I have done in response to it says EVERYTHING about where I put my trust.
The SECOND part of the promise is that God will be with you every minute of your darkness. You are NOT alone. God will not abandon you when your ‘unexpected guest’ comes.
If God’s Word is true – and we believe it is – then He will not, He CANNOT abandon you during your difficult moments. He loves you more than you will EVER comprehend. If you will push back those insults and insinuations planted in your heart by Satan – if you will hang your faith on the nail of God’s faithfulness, you will not only make it through this thing – you will be BETTER than you were BEFORE it.
3. Which brings us to our final thought… not only do we see PERSPECTIVE and PROMISE, there are also a few PRINCIPLES in this passage of scripture we dare not miss:
Like, trouble comes to all of us sooner or later.
- It’s part of living in a fallen world.
- You’re not the exception…
- God has not failed you and IS NOT picking on you.
- Your faith ISN’T flawed. You just need to grow.
- There is nothing necessarily wrong with you that is causing this. It’s part of life.
Second, you have a choice in how you will respond to your trials. Stop allowing Satan to make this about you… stop allowing him to paint your whole life as terrible when in reality SO MUCH of your life is WONDERFUL. You have a choice – will you obsess on the pain - or - choose joy?
And third, Your faith must be in your Redeemer, NOT a Remedy. If you are only looking for a remedy for your pain,
- you are going to miss out on the lessons you learn from pain
- you will miss out on times of intimacy with God and the family of God
- and you will eventually find yourself in a place from which you CANNOT recover.
Why? Because there are some pains, some problems, that cannot be fixed or understood until we get to heaven. But IF your faith is in your Redeemer, you can have joy no matter the hardship.
Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw, the first man to win both – an academy award AND a Nobel prize, said:
This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one: the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap, and being a force of nature ---> instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
There is a Greek word for what he said ⇒ “BOOM!”
All of us are prone to feel sorry for ourselves from time to time. Hey… it happens. But if the general pattern of your life is to obsess over one perceived slight after another, painting yourself as a helpless victim of some maniacal scheme – at the risk of sounding harsh, allow me to speak plainly - you might have a spiritual problem.
The NT counterpart to our verse – is Romans 8:28. You know it. You’ve heard it again and again. You probably have it etched in artwork around your home - or better yet, on your heart. But you’ve never looked at it through the lens of personal tragedy:
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
It doesn’t say, “All things are good.” No. NOT EVERYTHING that happens to you is GOOD – but God will work IN SPITE OF THE BAD to produce something that is for your good and for His glory. Trust it. Believe it.
As a third-century man was anticipating death, he penned these last words to his friend:
"It's a bad world, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than any pleasure of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world.
These people are the Christians--and I am one of them."
- Will you be ready when YOUR unexpected guest calls?
- Will you sit patiently in its company until it removes its dark veil and proves to you it wasn’t something to dread after all.
- Will you trust in the faithfulness of God till morning breaks?
You don’t get to choose when that guest comes – but you CAN choose HOW you will respond to it.