That memorable line jumps off page 7 of Pain Patients: Traits and Treatments by Richard A. Sternbach.
Time stands still during the dead night when suffering eclipses slumber. Darkness fills the mind as well as the room. Loneliness chokes the heart.
Job, who epitomizes suffering in our collective consciousness, verbalized these feelings:
so I am allotted months of emptiness,
and nights of misery are apportioned to me.
When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I arise?’
But the night is long,
and I am full of tossing till the dawn (Job 7:3-4, ESV).
Darkness plagues the psalmist in the Qoph section of Psalm 119, but he is not alone. In his suffering, he cries to God:
With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O LORD!
I will keep your statutes.
I call to you; save me,
that I may observe your testimonies (145-146, ESV).
The psalmist couples his cry for mercy with a commitment to obey. Instead of tossing and turning in growing frustration when he wakes in the wee hours of the morning, he fills his mind with peace by calmly meditating on God’s promises.
I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I hope in your words.
My eyes are awake before the watches of the night,
that I may meditate on your promise (147-148, ESV).
He begs for God’s response, not because he feels he deserves it, but to demonstrate God’s love and justice:
Hear my voice according to your steadfast love;
O LORD, according to your justice give me life (149, ESV).
Those who persecute with evil purpose are far from God’s law, but God is near the true believer:
They draw near who persecute me with evil purpose;
they are far from your law.
But you are near, O LORD,
and all your commandments are true (150-151, ESV).
These night cries conclude with a confession of longstanding belief in God’s eternal word:
Long have I known from your testimonies
that you have founded them forever (152, ESV).
The shimmering illusion of far-off day will eventually dawn. Light will dispel darkness. Hope replaces despair. God is closer to you than any persecutors with evil purpose.
May his eternal and true word sustain you through the dark watches of your nights!