The story is told of a creature who wakes up as the sun splashes his face. Life surges through his veins with the possibilities of the day: the breeze teasing him with fleeting fragrances, the colors dancing with abandon, hearing the sounds of birds unseen and rivers racing to the sea. He is alive! The day gets warmer, the light more brilliant, until he has had his fill and lies down to rest.
A short time later he wakes up and anxiety shortens his breath. The colors don’t seem as vibrant, the breeze has turned cold. As the afternoon fades his desperation mounts. “What have I done? How could I let this happen? Life will never be the same. It will never be good and warm and beautiful again,” his heart screams.
As the afternoon slips into night he falls into despair. In his belief that all is lost, he sadly takes his own life. Just a few short hours later the sun returns and beckons him to rise. But he will not.
It can be frustrating to recognize the needless suffering this creature experienced. A new day was just around the corner. If only someone had told him to hang in there – just wait! Crawl under a blanket and rest. Don’t do anything drastic — because the sun will rise again!
Similarly, as a counselor I have seen marriages suffer needlessly when nightfall comes. When couples experience those normal times in marriage when things cool down a little, when colors don’t seem as vibrant and anxiety starts to rise.
We face transitions in life that will naturally bring about some angst. Even good events — a wedding, a new job, and pregnancy — have some inherent sorrow to them. Every new and good experience means that we leave something behind, we experience some loss. We exchange our single lives for the warmth of marriage. We surrender our right to sleep at 3am because the baby is hungry or wet or scared. We leave friends and family for opportunities across the country.
The night is real. It’s colder, often not as inviting, but the sunrise is coming! How would we live differently if we really believed that the night is fleeting and sunrise is coming?
It is only in extreme circumstances that someone might take their life. However, as a counselor, I see hurting people try to “kill” parts of who they are. They refuse to give themselves and their spouses the enjoyment of affection, intimacy, laughter, and kindness as they slowly give into the despair of the night.
I admit. I’ve done it. I’m normally a kind, thoughtful person. But when I feel that my relationship has cooled, I sometimes tether my kindness and warmth, withholding these gifts with an attitude of “why bother?” At these times I need to remember that the sunrise is coming!
In deeper levels of despair people can move from neglect to abuse – using hurtful words and actions that reflect the heart’s surrender to the cold. If you believed sunrise was coming would you really say hurtful things to people you care about? If you knew that in a few short hours the night would pass and the warmth of day would return?
If you have fallen into the trap of abusing loved ones. My encouragement to you is to get the help you need. It is available. And remember the sun will rise again.
But what about the really dark nights? Let’s face it, some nights are longer and darker than others. There are bad things that happen to good people – broken relationships, illness, death, and financial disasters. For many, these tragedies tear apart a marriage. But for others, they can make the marriage stronger, more secure and vital. What’s the secret?
I sat down with a friend of mine recently who is one of my heroes, to gain some insights into this question. He had been married nearly 60 years when his wife died earlier this spring. When I first met him some time ago at church, I immediately noticed the tenderness he had toward his wife. She was very fragile and his care for her was inspiring. They had endured some very dark nights in their marriage. In his younger years he had been a farmer and together they had faced some very lean crops and financial hardship. While raising their family they lost their 3-year-old daughter to leukemia. I was certain that he could give me the keys that would unlock the secret on how to turn life’s tragedies into deep and fulfilling love.
I must admit I was disappointed in his answer. He didn’t seem to have any powerful insights into how they made it through. He simply said that they tried to love each other, and they knew God was there for them.
Really? Is that enough? As I have thought about his words I am struck by their simplicity. He didn’t blame himself or his wife, or even God, for the hardships. He had the courage to accept life on life’s terms.
Bad things happened, but he believed the sunrise was coming. He couldn’t hasten the sunrise, nor could he stop it. He accepted that there are things way beyond his control, and focused on what he could do; He loved his wife and believed that God was there for them.
My friend doesn’t know he is one of my heroes, and probably wouldn’t believe it if I told him. But our visit has caused me to want to be a better husband, a better father, a better man – to love my wife and believe that God is there for us.
I invite you to listen with me to this good man’s advice. As a farmer he knows better than anyone that soon you will have God’s golden warmth splash over your face again. Bright colors will return and you will rejoice in life.
The sunrise is coming!
“All you saints! Sing your hearts out to God!
Thank him to his face!
He gets angry once in a while, but across
a lifetime there is only love.
The nights of crying your eyes out
give way to days of laughter.”
Psalm 30:5, The Message