¯The evening and the morning were the first day.¯
Was it so even in the beginning? Did light and darkness divide the realm of time in the first day? Then little wonder is it if I have also changes in my circumstances from the sunshine of prosperity to the midnight of adversity. It will not always be the blaze of noon even in my soul concerns, I must expect at seasons to mourn the absence of my former joys, and seek my Beloved in the night. Nor am I alone in this, for all the Lord¯s beloved ones have had to sing the mingled song of judgment and of mercy, of trial and deliverance, of mourning and of delight. It is one of the arrangements of Divine providence that day and night shall not cease either in the spiritual or natural creation till we reach the land of which it is written, ¯there is no night there.¯ What our heavenly Father ordains is wise and good.
What, then, my soul, is it best for thee to do? Learn first to be content with this divine order, and be willing, with Job, to receive evil from the hand of the Lord as well as good. Study next, to make the outgoings of the morning and the evening to rejoice. Praise the Lord for the sun of joy when it rises, and for the gloom of evening as it falls. There is beauty both in sunrise and sunset; sing of it, and glorify the Lord. Like the nightingale, pour forth thy notes at all hours. Believe that the night is as useful as the day. The dews of grace fall heavily in the night of sorrow. The stars of promise shine forth gloriously amid the darkness of grief. Continue thy service under all changes. If in the day thy watchword be labour, at night exchange it for watch. Every hour has its duty, do thou continue in thy calling as the Lord¯s servant until he shall suddenly appear in his glory. My soul, thine evening of old age and death is drawing near; dread it not, for it is part of the day; and the Lord has said, ¯I will cover him all the day long.¯
¯He will make her wilderness like Eden."
Methinks, I see in vision a howling wilderness, a great and terrible desert, like to the Sahara. I perceive nothing in it to relieve the eye, all around I am wearied with a vision of hot and arid sand, strewn with ten thousand bleaching skeletons of wretched men who have expired in anguish, having lost their way in the pitiless waste. What an appalling sight! How horrible! a sea of sand without a bound, and without an oasis, a cheerless graveyard for a race forlorn! But behold and wonder! Upon a sudden, upspringing from the scorching sand I see a plant of renown; and as it grows it buds, the bud expands¯it is a rose, and at its side a lily bows its modest head; and, miracle of miracles! as the fragrance of those flowers is diffused the wilderness is transformed into a fruitful field, and all around it blossoms exceedingly, the glory of Lebanon is given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon. Call it not Sahara, call it Paradise. Speak not of it any longer as the valley of deathshade, for where the skeletons lay bleaching in the sun, behold a resurrection is proclaimed, and up spring the dead, a mighty army, full of life immortal. Jesus is that plant of renown, and his presence makes all things new. Nor is the wonder less in each individual¯s salvation. Yonder I behold you, dear reader, cast out, an infant, unswathed, unwashed, defiled with your own blood, left to be food for beasts of prey. But lo, a jewel has been thrown into your bosom by a divine hand, and for its sake you have been pitied and tended by divine providence, you are washed and cleansed from your defilement, you are adopted into heaven¯s family, the fair seal of love is upon your forehead, and the ring of faithfulness is on your hand¯you are now a prince unto God, though once an orphan, cast away. O prize exceedingly the matchless power and grace which changes deserts into gardens, and makes the barren heart to sing for joy.
When your soul is troubled and you feel overwhelmed, sometimes you need to just stop stewing and praying and tell yourself to eat, for God¯s sake.
I get this from psalms like Psalm 43:
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 43:5)
This psalmist feels overwhelmed by his troubles. In the first four verses he pours out his soul in prayer to God. But then he stops praying and speaks directly to his soul.
When psalmists talk to themselves like this, what are they doing? In every instance, whether in desperation or celebration, they are reminding themselves that their hope is in God. Why? Because in the world they have tribulation (John 16:33) and they feel it draining their hope. They know that if they don¯t eat they will despair.
Here¯s what I mean. Hope is to our soul what energy is to our body. Hope is the spiritual energy generated in the soul when we believe that our future will be good, even if our present is bad. Our souls must have hope to keep going just like our bodies must have energy to keep going.
When our body needs energy, we give it food. But when our soul needs hope, what do we feed it? We feed it promises ¯ God¯s promises of ¯a future and a hope¯ (Jeremiah 29:11). Hopeful promises are soul food.
Hope is something we only feel about the future, whether it¯s ten minutes or ten thousand years from now. We¯re never hopeful about the past. We can be grateful for the past. The past can inspire or even guarantee a hopeful future for us. But all the wonderful things that have happened to us in the past will not fuel our hope if our future looks bleak. We must have hope for the future to keep going.
That's precisely why the Bible is a book of ¯precious and very great promises¯ (2 Peter 1:4). Man was not designed to ¯live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God¯ (Matthew 4:4). So God designed the Bible to be a storehouse of nourishing soul food for his saints.
And if promises are soul food and hope is soul energy, then faith is how the soul eats and digests. Faith is the confidence we have that God's promises are trustworthy ¯ ¯the assurance of things hoped for¯ (Hebrews 11:1). That¯s why ¯the righteous¯live by faith¯ (Romans 1:17). We must eat to live. Faith eats and digests God¯s promises and this produces hope.
So in Psalm 43, when the writer exhorts his soul to ¯hope in God,¯ he¯s preaching to himself by saying, ¯Listen, soul! What are you afraid of? Have you forgotten the glorious future God has promised you? Do you believe your threatening circumstances are stronger than God? Get your eyes off your troubles and remember the Source of your hope! Eat, soul! Eat God¯s promises!¯
And this is what you and I must do as well. When our soul is in turmoil, God does not want us to be passive. We must pray, yes. But sometimes we need to stop praying. We need to stop listening to our soul recite its fears. Then is when it's time to preach to our soul. Fear is an indicator that our soul is hungry for hope. And the only foods that will really nourish and sustain the soul are God¯s promises.
In Jesus, ¯all the promises of God find their Yes¯ (2 Corinthians 1:20). The past grace of his death and resurrection guarantee a never-ending stream of future grace for us extending into eternity. To eat these promises is to eat living bread and live forever (John 6:51).
So eat, eat, eat to the glory of God! And ¯may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope¯ (Romans 15:13).%%detect_both%%