As I write this, sunshine is pouring through the window, a delight after such a wet May. Sunrise happens every day, even when we can’t see it. Perhaps in the UK we take it for granted. In polar extremes, the first sunrise after winter does not simply mark a new day but the beginning of the end of a very long period of darkness. It indicates the start of a healing process, recovery from the effects of Polar Night Syndrome which can leave people feeling exhausted and worn down. The new sunrise is eagerly waited for and celebrated by children singing “welcome back my dear friend.”1
The writer of Psalm 130 captures this sense of longing, of yearning for release from darkness, the darkness of the depths of anguish and personal failings. It seems a particularly relevant psalm for today. There are many for whom these past months of Covid have been a great burden, physically, emotionally or spiritually, and who are crying out from the depths, and what stands out for me in Psalm 130 is the writer’s confidence in God’s presence in the midst of our troubles. The psalmist cries to God, “let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication” (v2), begging God to attend: not just to listen but to be on hand and to give special care. Then he calls to Israel, “Hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love and with him is great power to redeem.” (v7). Even while we cannot see the resolution of our difficulties or the way forward, we are invited to be patient and to keep looking forward because God is present with us and draws into his safety those who doggedly watch and wait for Him.
During this last year there are people who have discovered in themselves a yearning for meaning, for relationship and connectedness with something greater than themselves, and who have never had the chance to get to know God. Perhaps this psalm that speaks of waiting and hoping “more than night watchmen wait for the dawn” (v6) is for these seekers too, and calls us also into this search.
I am reminded of F.W. Boreham’s writing about this longing and watching for the light of faith as if a watcher was pressing his face “against a window pane, eager to discover …some grey glimmer of the coming dawn.”2 Boreham relates an encounter of a Christian with the agnostic scientist Thomas Huxley, in which Huxley suggested that the Christian might opt not to attend Sunday service but instead take time to talk with Huxley about his religion. The Christian declined, on the basis that he was not clever enough to refute Huxley’s scientific objections. Huxley then asked the man instead to stay and simply talk to him about his personal experience of faith. So, the man did not go to church that Sunday but told Huxley the story of all that Christ was to him. This made such an impact on Huxley that he said, “I would give my right hand if I could believe that!” And in time Huxley came to argue fiercely for the acceptance of faith and science as different lenses through which to understand the world.
It is not enough for us as individual Christians only to watch and wait for the Lord. We need to be ready to attend alongside those who are crying in the depths, and to share our own story of Christ with those who are peering through the window for a glimmer of light. We don’t need clever arguments, only a willingness to tell the story of all that Christ is to us personally.
God is longing and watching for each of us, in whatever place or situation we are, whether we can see the sunrise or not, so that he too can say, ‘welcome back, dear friend’ and can give us his healing blessing.
- R. Hersher, In the Arctic Circle the sun will come up after 58 tomorrows, BBC World Service, 26 January 2016
- F.W. Boreham, The Luggage of Lif, Ch.8 ‘The Face at the Window’. The Internet Archive.
Photo by L.Gildersleeves