Peter Kay’s adverts for John Smith’s bitter in the early 2000s years still rank as some of my favourite ads of all time (I used to test and research ads for a living, so I’ve always had a soft spot for the ad break). One of the best starred Kay as a dad comforting his little daughter as she lay crying in bed at night. ‘What’s the matter?’ asks Kay. ‘I’m scared of the monster hiding in my cupboard,’ replies his daughter. ‘You don’t need to worry about that – look!’ reassures Kay, opening the cupboard door. ‘It’s the robber climbing in through the window you should be scared about.’
(Rest assured, he won’t be joining our church pastoral care team anytime soon…)
The night hours can be challenging for many of us. We may no longer fear the monster under our bed or in the cupboard, but it’s amazing how small problems can seem so much bigger at night. And big problems can seem HUGE.
We toss and turn, we feel our heartbeat quicken. We may even get up and walk around to calm ourselves down. And then when morning comes – some of those things that haunted us suddenly don’t seem so bad. At least until night returns.
Little children often have ‘the night terrors.’ But it’s not unknown for us adults, either. Physical darkness can be a time of spiritual darkness too.
In our psalm today, we learn that King David knows what that feels like. And let’s be clear: it’s not caused by a lack of closeness to God. That’s a great lie the devil tells us, especially in the wee small hours – and it’s not true. When we worry at night, we are not facing condemnation for a lack of faith. Banish that thought! King David has seen God’s power and glory (v2), and dedicates his life to praise (v4, v5). He is close to God, but he’s not immune.
David’s solution to night worries is to focus on what he chooses to remember. When David frets in the darkness, he remembers his Lord (v6) – if need be, he keeps coming back to God through the night. He sings (quietly?) if he has to (v7). And he clings (v8) – he’s not afraid to cry out for help in the depths of his heart.
Think, sing and cling – it’s a bit cheesy, but it’s not a bad strategy. When your worries surround you in the quiet hours, choose to remember God: let him rest at the heart of your being, and consciously invite him back into the midst of your problems. Sing praise songs and hymns under your breath, claiming God’s truth and power over those worries. And don’t be afraid to cry ‘help!’ Only God hears – but God is the only one who needs to hear.
And however long the night lasts, daylight always comes. God’s mercies come to us afresh every morning. May those mercies come to us today – in light and darkness.