Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 3, 1952
NUMBER 34, PAGE 4-5a

Songs In The Night


This page is being written toward the close of the year and as a new year is close at hand. The old year with its burden of successes and failures, joys and sorrows, victories and defeats will soon pass into the oblivion of the past. When you read these lines it will be gone. It has been a troubled year. Civilization itself has seemed at times to be threatened as the ominous clouds of atomic warfare hung lowering and threatening on the horizon. Nor is the danger past. No man knows what a day may bring forth.

But for many of our readers there have been more immediate problems and anxieties, some of them growing out of the unsettled state of the world, others being such as come to all of us in any state of world affairs—grief over the death of loved ones, the breaking of health, the suffering of pain, the hard, cruel pressure of day to day living. The demands of life upon us are indeed terrific. Some there are who break under the strain (their number seems to be constantly increasing as our society grows more complicated); others there are who seem to have learned the secret of an inner strength that enables them to accept and endure all things. Indeed, they appear only to become richer and nobler in character by the tragedies that come their way.

One of the most haunting phrases in all the inspired literature is that which speaks of "songs in the night." It is found repeatedly in the Old Testament. Elihu said, "But none saith, Where is God, my maker, who giveth songs in the night." (Job 35:10) And David, the sweet singer of Israel declared, "in the night his song shall be with me" (Psalm 42), as also, "I call remembrance my song in the night." (Psalm 77) Who can ever forget the picture of Paul and Silas, their backs beaten and bloody from the punishment they had received, their feet made fast in the stocks in the inner dungeon of that Philippian jail? "But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns unto God..." (Acts 16:35) Songs in the night!

Neither stripes, nor stonewalls, nor iron bars could still the music in their hearts. They had learned to sing songs—even in the night.

The richest and most meaningful songs of a man's life are the songs that come out of the night. We sing songs of joy and thanksgiving, of course they are easy, or ought to be. It is sweet to sing with David, "Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over," That is a song of gratitude; it comes out of prosperous, sunshiny days.

But there is a deeper, richer song that men may sing. It is the song that comes from a heart stricken with unutterable grief and suffering. In the last chapter of his book, "An Autumn Hour in Greenwood," Theodore Guyler wrote:

"Yesterday, under a golden October sunshine, I climbed Fountain Hill, and stood amid the fragrant flowers which adorn the bedroom in which my own beloved ones sleep. In that little group lies the beautiful and accomplished daughter, who vanished from the home of which she was the pride and joy, a twelve-month ago. Those lips now silent never spoke a disobedient word; the first pang she caused us was when her own noble loving heart ceased to beat. Blessed are such pure hearts, for they shall see God. Never did the spot look more surpassingly lovely, with its immediate canopy of maples tinged with their autumn radiance, and the distant waters of the Bay gilded by the setting sun. The gentle murmurs of the neighboring fountain seemed like a requiem over the slumberers that were lying close around. And over the greensward, and through the crimsoning trees, poured the bright rays of the autumnal sun, kindling the flower-plats into a brilliant glow, and making the very atmosphere glorious as with the anticipated light of the better world.

"Standing in that August light I said to myself, 'So he giveth his beloved sleep.' Thanks be to him that he takes away the terrors of death from his own redeemed ones by assuring them that the redeemed and immortal spirit has 'departed to be with Christ which is far better'...All these blessed thoughts came to cheer me, yesterday, as I stood beside the narrow beds covered with tuberoses and geraniums. The air was quiet as the dear sleepers beside me, and as I turned from the sacred spot of their slumbers, I bade them as of old, 'Good-night.' Beyond these nights of earth, and the last night also, gleams the bright everlasting hope of heaven's 'good-morning'."

The song of thanksgiving is sweet and lovely, to be sure; but how can it compare with the deep, rich song of faith triumphant from an old man amidst the graves of his dead? There is a minor strain to that song, but it is a noble and exalted thing. It is a song coming out of the night—the night of grief and loneliness and an aching heart. But it is a song of trust in God and his goodness; it is a song that shows life has meaning and purpose and significance. It is the song that Job sang when he said, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." It is a song of triumph, full throated and glorious in its conviction.

The year now that opens will not be without its problems. There will be difficult and dangerous days ahead for all our nation; problems before the church will bring anxiety to the hearts of all of us; and then each will have his own problems of grief, or doubt, or suffering. But through all of them we must have a faith in God that cannot be shaken. No matter how dark the night, nor how angry the storm; we can know that God keeps watch over his own. No storm shall overwhelm us, no suffering shall daunt us, no temptation shall take us beyond our ability to bear. And however grievous the problems confronting the church, they are not impossible of solution. Out of such convictions, deep and abiding, will come our songs—songs in the night.

— F.Y.T.