Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Night Guest and the Morning Caller

Psalms 30: 5

For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favor is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

There’s a song from an old musical called Oklahoma that goes like this:
Oh what a beautiful morning,
Oh what a beautiful day,
I've got a wonderful feeling,
Everything's going my way.

We tend to regard happiness in that light. "When everything's going my way, I'll be happy." It's like being on a treadmill. We can run all our life but we'll never reach the point where everything's going our way. The truth is…there is no possibility in this life that everything WILL go our way. Psalm 2:11 says "Happy are all who take refuge in God". This means that genuine happiness is the inalienable right of all who trust in God…when everything's going their way AND when everything's NOT going their way.

This verse of scripture is one of the most well known in all Christianity. In fact, the “B” clause is quoted in churches around the world almost every Sunday morning. “Weeping may endure for a night; but JOY cometh in the morning!”

As Christians, we use this scripture verse as a sort of pacifier for our crying soul…when things are not going our way. We spread it like a balm on our burning hearts when life deals us unexpected blows. But despite our fondness of this verse, it may be one of the most misunderstood verses of scripture in our memory’s repertoire. So today I want to take a moment to expose the truth…not in part…but the WHOLE truth revealed in this precious verse…a Word from God that paints a wonderful picture of hope in the midst of despair.

The first thing we notice is that there are two double comparisons made in this verse. There is the comparison between anger and favor, moment and lifetime; and there is the comparison between night and morning, and joy and sorrow. In the first double comparison, the Psalmist says that anger lasts but a moment, but favor is life. The word LIFE means LIFETIME. In other words, the Psalmist is saying that God’s anger lasts for a moment; but His favor lasts a lifetime!

In the second double comparison…we see the words weeping and night, in conjunction with joy and morning. But despite their differences, both of these double comparisons suggest substantially the same thought – the persistence of JOY, and the transitory nature of SORROW. It records the succession of emotions we all experience as we struggle to cope with life, and it records the comfort we find in the assurance of God’s Divine intervention.

The Psalmist is obviously commemorating his deliverance from some affliction, probably an illness. The illness is long past, and the tears that it caused have long since dried up, but his immortal shout of JOY has lasted all these centuries, until this moment in our lives, when we once again read his testimony of victory. And as we read it, we can’t help but wonder – How will the world read OUR testimony in centuries to come? Will they read it with cheerful confidence and be able to sense the same victory in our own lives?

You can’t live without experiencing joy AND sorrow. There is a portion of joy and sorrow in each of our lives, whether we like it or not. But if we take a calendar and mark off the days of our sorrow, we would draw the quick conclusion that sorrow is transitory. Sorrow is like the thunderstorms that come crashing through on a hot summer day…they may disrupt things for a time, but they’re brief; and as tempestuous as they seem, in the end they bring forth sunshine and calm.
Sorrow, then, is transitory, but JOY is continuous…for behind every cloud, there is the sun.

If we are honest, we will have to admit that we have a better memory for sorrow than we do for joy. Sadness seems to cling to our psyche, and if we let it, it will color the WHOLE of our being…like a drop of dye in a vat of water. The prick from a rose is felt longer than the fragrance in our nostrils. We have long memories for pain. Wise counsel, then, would be to try NOT to magnify and prolong our grief, or we will end up minimizing our joy. Those who surround themselves with persistent gladness can better handle the thick folds of enveloping sorrow. Emotions like cheerfulness, courage, thankfulness and resolution are able to overwhelm the shadows of disappoint, grief, pain and sorrow.

So we realize that sorrow MUST come as part of life; but JOY is ever present. But what of anger? This verse begins by reminding us that God’s anger is for a moment. Is God’s anger a necessary part of life as well? And the answer of course is YES. Just as the circle of life includes all moments, the circle of God’s love includes His anger. God’s favor holds anger within itself. The wrath of God is a necessary aversion of His perfectly pure and holy love. And though the two…favor and anger…may be set against each other, the reality is that they are ONE. Anger is the mode by which God manifests His favor. God’s anger is proof of His love.

To better understand this, think of your own motivation when you chastise a disobedient child. Do you do it out of hate, or out of love? An irate parent is not an unloving parent. If there were no love, there would be no anger. It is the same with God. His love manifests itself in both anger and favor. His love may manifest itself in anger and correction, but His love expands itself in favor and blessings!
Whether God is angry with us, or showing us His favor, in both instances He is displaying His love!

And the same is true of joy and sorrow. Just as anger is MASKED love, sorrow is MASKED joy. Our deepest sorrows and our bitterest tears create wounds that penetrate deep into our bleeding hearts, but they all come from the same motive…and they are directed to the same end…JOY. Our finite minds may be temporarily blinded by its pain, but IN THE MORNING…

Two guests come into our lives. One is robed in darkness or night; the other in the bright garment of light or morning. Weeping only SEEMS to persist, because of the night’s oppressive nature. But JOY comes in the morning.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made…and no heart, however wounded, continues to always bleed. The roughest edges are smoothed over time. God’s recuperative powers come to dull the cutting edge of our pain. The night guest…Sorrow…slips away, and before we know it, another guest sits in her place…the morning guest, JOY!

Some people actually try to fight against that merciful redemptive process. Somehow they get the idea that there is merit in continuing to experience pain, however artificial it may be, and they spend a lifetime in treason from God. They prefer to blame God, rather than let His morning guest…JOY…arrive on their doorstep.

But not the Psalmist! He allows the transformation of his evil experiences to give way to a radiant form of Joy. For the Psalmist, sorrow is JOY disguised. JOY is like a prince disguised in rags, who comes at night to the aid of a poor man, and in the morning, slips off his outer garment of sorrow to reveal his true nature. If the guest is welcomed in the night…if we allow sorrow to draw us closer to God…then the transformation from sorrow to Joy is SURE to come.

This joy is not like what the world calls joy. The world can’t give it to you. It’s not loud or boisterous, ringing with temporary frivolous laughter! Instead, it is pure, deep, sacred and permanent. Sorrow’s experience gives way to fertile JOY. The most beautiful vegetation grows on the slopes of a volcano; and all our troubles…big and small…are converted into gladness if we accept them as God meant them. To illustrate this truth, consider that there is in the Worcester Cathedral an ancient slab, which bears the solitary inscription 'Miserrimus' (most miserable). But down in the catacombs—those vast underground chambers of the dead where early Christians hid from their fierce persecutors—a stone bears this beautiful engraving, 'Felicissimus' (most happy).

I know some of you are right now saying, “Pastor, there are two kinds of sorrow; the kind that can be cured, and the kind that cannot.” You’re willing to gamble that your pain is unique and immeasurable. To you God says this; “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye SHALL go forth…(Malachi 4:2). If you carry a load on your aching back…a load that you cannot release…remember that when your night is far spent, and your day of eternal reckoning is at hand…God WILL reveal to you that He has turned every one of your raindrops in your life into a beautiful rainbow.

The Psalmist’s testimony is clear…a life spent in God’s favor, must also be spent in God’s fear. If we trust Him, the voices that have been raised in weeping will be heard in gladness, and sorrow shall be turned into joy. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory!” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

The night guest is just that…a guest. When the night is over, he is gone. But the morning caller comes to stay. He is Joy IN THE MIDST of our sorrows. This is no ordinary joy…the Psalmist is speaking of a “joyful shout”! This voice that briefly wept is once again caught up in exultant praise. Sorrow’s experience has not been erased. He still harbors the memory of the past. But sorrow’s memory has been softened by the JOY of the morning caller! And he can’t help but shout “Hallelujah!”

On the coast of Pascadero, California, there is the famed Pebble Beach. On that beach, the waves dash with a ceaseless roar and thunder among the stones on the beach. Nearby, there is a towering cliff that breaks the force of the dashing waves. In the quiet cove, sheltered by the cliff, is an abundance of stones. These stones are rough and angular, because they have escaped the turmoil and the beating of the waves. But the stones on the beach are pounded by the merciless waves, which repeatedly toss and grind the stones together and hurl them against the rugged cliffs. Day and night, the wearing down of THOSE stones continues unabated. Tourists from all over the world gather the beautiful, round, polished stones for ornaments on their mantels.
Like those polished stones on Pebble Beach, the tempest waves of our sorrow and trouble polish and refine us, and give to us the opportunity to prove the genuineness of the Savior's comforting and healing words. Our waves of discontent are no match for the Savior’s love! There may be someone here who is cowering in the cave of disappoint and grief. Life may have sharpened your anger and toughened your exterior. Maybe it’s time to come out and venture into the healing waters…

Maybe its time for you to let God smooth out the rough edges of your past sins;
Maybe its time for you to let God liberate you from the penalty of sin.
Maybe its time to say goodbye to the night guest, and experience the JOY of the morning caller!
Maybe its time for you to come home.

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