In his riveting and unsettling book Night, Elie Wiesel describes his boyhood experiences as one of the countless victims of the Holocaust. Ripped from his home and separated from everyone in his family except his father (who would die in the death camps), Wiesel suffered a dark night of the soul such as few will experience. It challenged his views and beliefs about God. His innocence and faith became sacrifices on the altar of man’s evil and sin’s darkness.
David experienced his own dark night of the soul, which many scholars believe motivated his writing of Psalm 42. Harried and hounded, probably as he was pursued by his rebellious son Absalom (2 Sam. 16–18), David echoed the pain and fear that can be felt in the isolation of night. It’s the place where darkness grips us and forces us to consider the anguish of our heart and ask hard questions of God. The psalmist lamented God’s seeming absence, yet in it all he found a night song (v.8) that gave him peace and confidence for the difficulties ahead.
When we struggle in the night, we can be confident that God is at work in the darkness. We can say with the psalmist, “Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God” (v.11).
Psalm 42 (New International Version)
For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah.
As the deer pants for streams of water,so my soul pants for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? 3 My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, "Where is your God?" 4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God,with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. 5 Why are you downcast, O my soul?Why so disturbed within me?Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and 6 my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan,the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls;all your waves and breakers have swept over me. 8 By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life. 9 I say to God my Rock, "Why have you forgotten me?Why must I go about mourning,oppressed by the enemy?" 10 My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long,"Where is your God?" 11 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
When it is dark enough, men see the stars