A Hymn for Midnight

You know when you can't sleep? I remember my high school calculus teacher mentioned how he read about a book a week on top of teaching school full time, having a small business as a side hustle, and raising two kids. Where did he get the time? Insomnia. I heard about one of the investigators of Watergate used to really bother his wife tossing and turning all night. By the time she ended up asking him what was up, it was the night before the whole world was about hear the recordings of Nixon coordinating the Watergate break in. This whole time he couldn't sleep because he was working on the biggest scandal in US history. 

Charles Wesley, one of the most prolific hymn writers in history, wrote one hymn that really spoke to the midnight soul. The folks over at "Wesley Bros." explain, "Where does the despairing soul find new hope? The travel from London to Georgia had wrecked Charles Wesley to the core.  While we may become weary from the jet lag and long flight, in the 1700’s it took months to cross the Atlantic by ship.  The Wesley’s ship, The Simmonds, boarded in England on Oct. 14, 1735, and they didn’t step foot on ground again until March 9, 1736!  The Holy Club worked hard to keep their religious duties at the forefront, which kept them busy and useful to the other crew members. But Charles wrote one of his darkest hymns on that journey: “A Hymn for Midnight.” Here’s an excerpt:

Absent from Thee, my exiled Soul / Deep in a Fleshly Dungeon groans; / Around me Clouds of Darkness roll, / And laboring Silence speaks my Moans; / Come quickly, Lord! Thy Face display, / And look my Midnight into Day.

Charles’ journal and letters from that journey reveal a disconnect between his hope for the gospel and his emotional experience. Just before landing, he wrote his female friends back in England: “I cannot follow my own advice; but yet I advise you — Give God your hearts” (Feb. 5, 1736)."

I always find so much hope when I see that my heroes had as much trouble as me. Maybe that seems counter-intuitive. But just the fact that I am not alone in those midnight moments of the heart helps. But also, that last line quoted from the Wesley Bros. really gets me, "look my Midnight into Day." There is such a strong desire to not be in the midnight time of despair. And it feels like God could just so easily fix everything, with just a glance.

However, when we are in the middle of the night, the greatest lie is that we are alone. The lie tells us that even God is not there. Nobody cares, nobody will listen, I have no hope. But the truth of the Gospel tells us that God made every sacrifice to be here in the midst of us. God took on a body as Jesus. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to stay with us. We are not alone. 

Perhaps this is why Charles' brother, John, said on his death bed, "best of all, God is with us." 


P.S. If you are struggling with the midnight of the soul, maybe you need spiritual guidance. If that is the case, I know any pastor would be happy to listen. But don't kid yourself, there are lots of ways that we can be in the midnight time. If you are struggling with depression please reach out to a professional counselor or therapist who can do far more than your pastor. We would be happy to recommend one to you.