“May that night be barren;
may no shout of joy be heard in it. ”
Job 3:7 (NIV)
“‘Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, to those who long for death that does not come, who search for it more than for hidden treasure…'” Job 3:20-21 (NIV)
One of the finest writer of hymns in the 1700’s in England was a man named William Cowper. Cowper had a brilliant mind for verse that was sadly clouded by bouts of severe depression. He spent time in an asylum and made several unsuccessful attempts on his own life. It is sad that such a gifted person could be so tormented as William Cowper was. His hymn, Light Shining Out Of Darkness, that was quoted in yesterday’s devotional has brought untold comfort to people in pain from the first day it was published. Cowper’s literary gift is a permanent blessing to the church of Jesus Christ.
So deep was Cowper’s depression that he came under the false assumption that God had created him in order to damn him. His poem The Castaway is a haunting work that gives insight into his mental torment. He is pictured on a boat in the stormy Atlantic Ocean and is washed overboard. The poem ends with the verse:
No voice divine the storm allay’d,
No light propitious shone;
When, snatch’d from all effectual aid,
We perish’d, each alone:
But I beneath a rougher sea,
And whelm’d in deeper gulfs than he.
Job, who authored the verses for today, had a similar experience as he cursed the night of his conception and the day of his birth.
Many earnest Christians, who have been genuinely converted to faith in Jesus, have had these dark nights of the soul as they suffer desperately and wonder if God might hate them and is preparing them for eternal retribution.
Insensitive souls counsel the struggling saint to “Trust the Lord.” or “Just claim the promises brother/sister.” Their own faith is so shallow they cannot comprehend how anyone could come to the place Cowper or Job did as seen in our verses today.
When we find ourselves in such a dark time we should seek out the help of someone who has also experienced darkness in their life’s journey and who has found light to brighten their lives. Such people will have the needed tenderness to listen, the patience to be quiet, and the wisdom to know when to speak and what to say.
Reading some passages out of the life of Jesus where He invites the weary to come to Him for rest can help (Matthew 11:28-30). Passages from Isaiah (eg. Isaiah 40), certain special Psalms (Psalm 23, 121), can also be a medicine for the soul. May you have grace today to minister gently into the life of such a person near you.