JOY COMES IN THE MORNING A reflection for Thanksgiving
What do we have to be thankful for on Thanksgiving day? What could we possibly have reason to be thankful for in this ‘Annus Horribilis’, in this horrible year when everything seems to have gone wrong. A year that will long be remembered for all the wrong reasons has been made more challenging still with personal sadness for various people. For many, the loss of loved ones, the loss of health, the loss of the familiar, the loss of employment, the loss of personal confidence, the loss of faith even, have made this year notorious and difficult.
There are very few of us who will review 2020 in our life’s journal as anything other than a year best forgotten. Yet are we without hope? Have we no reason for thankfulness to God?
Psalm 30 is known as a song for thankfulness for answered prayer and is entitled as a song composed for the dedication of the house of God or the Temple. This Psalm expresses so well a wonderful truth that God does hear His people when they pray. The Psalmist rejoices that God has listened to His prayer and brought him healing. He rejoices that against all odds, God has given him life and hope once again. In verse 5 we read ‘Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning’.
For many reading these words, this has been a difficult and challenging year. For some of you, this year has been like the dark night of the soul. A time when God seems so far away, and you have been left to traverse the dark valley all alone. A time when friends are few, doubts are many, and there are no answers to the desperate cries of your heart.
In that dark valley, the reality is that there often is tears and sorrow. The Psalmist is right, weeping may endure for a night, and I do not doubt that many have known some dark, awful nights in this year that has passed. Illness, pain, grief, isolation and many other things besides have made this year seem like a long and unending night. But are any of these things more powerful than the love of God for you? The Apostle Paul was right when he triumphantly proclaimed that nothing can separate us from the love of God. ( Romans 8:39).
In one of the lesser-known of his Chronicles of Narnia books ‘ The horse and his boy’, CS Lewis describes how Shasta the runaway slave has to spend the night near a foreboding place called the tombs of the ancient kings. It is a gloomy, strange and frightening place. However, in that place of darkness and fear, he is comforted by a friendly cat, that stays with him during the night. At various points in the night, marauding jackals draw near to him but are chased away by a large and powerful lion. Only later in his journey is Shasta made aware that the friendly cat and the ferocious lion are one and the same. During his long lonely night of darkness and at other times, Shasta the runway slave has had Aslan the great lion, symbolic of Jesus with him all the time.
David, the Psalmist, puts it so well in his best-known Psalm;
No matter how dark and challenging this year has been, we do have a reason for thanksgiving. God has promised never to leave nor forsake us, even if other people do. He has promised not to leave us comfortless or alone even when we are unaware of it.
Joy comes with the morning. Even on this dark Thanksgiving day, the birds sang in chorus to announce the day is coming! There is nothing that can stop the day dawning. Even during the darkest of spiritual nights, let us be comforted that joy comes with the morning, and with the promises God has given. Did the day ever dawn so bright and more joyful than the morning that Mary Magdalene met the risen Jesus in the garden? Real joy comes with the morning because He has risen!
On the last occasion I saw a dear saint from Harris, on her death bed, she whispered to me ” This too shall pass”. What a great perspective to have that in the light of all Jesus has done for us, the trials of life are but ” light and momentary troubles ( which are) achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all”.(2 Corinthians 4:17)
The Psalmist knows that no matter what comes his way, joy comes with the morning and the Psalm ends in verses 11-12 with effusive praise of God, that his mourning is turned into dancing.
I love the way these verses are expressed in the Gaelic Psalter.
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever. Psalms 30:11-12