A Very Long Night
Have you ever had a night you thought would never end?
One afternoon we met in my office in Ft. Wayne, IN. I was president of the Missionary Church USA, and I met with Dr. Kenneth Geiger, the former president and Rev. Eugene Panchat, our overseas director of World Missions. Dr. Geiger was going to be speaking in a Bible Conference in Nigeria and Rev. Panchat would be meeting with our missionaries. We spent time in prayer and asked for God’s enabling for both men.
A day and a half later I received a call from one of or missionaries Rev. Charles Nelson. The call came at 2:30 AM, my time. It was not a good connection, but I understood very clearly what had happened and what was expected of me.
The men had been picked up at the airport in Lagos, Nigeria, by a driver and my good friend, Samuel Illoyade, one of our Nigerian church leaders. As they were traveling up country, a tire blew and the driver lost control of the vehicle. Dr. Geiger and Rev. Panchat were killed outright and Samuel died from injuries a short time later.
I asked repeatedly for information to be sure I was hearing correctly, even though I knew I was. Then the missionary said, “Brother DeWitt, you will need to notify the families and then let them know that mission policy says we will not make any attempt to return the bodies to the States.”
Due to all the red tape and the fact that countries would hold the bodies as ransom, the men would be buried in Nigeria. Needless to say, sleep left me the rest of the night. In some ways I prayed morning would never come, so I wouldn’t have to make those phone calls. Leadership demands a price. For the rest of the night, I wept, and cried out to God. I kept looking at the clock. Time was moving painfully slow. Somehow the LORD got me through the night and the news was shared and an entire denomination grieved.
Folks – it doesn’t matter whether you are the President of the United States or a humble factory worker. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, educated or uneducated … Sooner or later, you will experience pain and grief. Another thing I can assure you of − there are no easy answers to our questions. One thing I know for sure is that God cares and we don’t have to face these dark times alone.
David, in Psalm 23:4 wrote “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for You are close beside me. Your rod and Your staff protect and comfort me.” (NLT)
The Apostle Peter wrote, “Give all your worries and cares to God for He cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7 NLT)
Back in 1963, when God led me through the dark valley of death, He led me to a passage that I felt was written just for me. The Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 gives us some great insight.
Satan, who hates God, will try to sour us on God. He seeks to sabotage our lives. He will even try to convince us that we deserve the tragedy and heartache. In Revelation 12:10 he is identified as our accuser.
But I want us to come back to 2 Corinthians now for some wonderful insight —-
2 CORINTHIANS 1:3-7 NLT
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 5 For the more we suffer for Christ; the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. 6 Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. 7 We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.”
Consider the truths Paul sets before us in the verses —
1. God is worthy of praise at all times.
2. He is the Father of our LORD JESUS CHRIST.
3. Our God is merciful.
4. He is the source of all comfort.
5. He comforts us in all of our troubles.
6. He does this so that we will be able to comfort others with the same comfort we have received from God.
7. When we are weighed down, it is for the peace and comfort of others. They will learn to patiently endure even as they watch how we handle adversity.
The truth that is so powerful is that God has a divine purpose in whatever God allows into our lives. Even as we are being tested, He is thinking of others who will benefit from what He is teaching us.
“He comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
2 Corinthians 1:4b
Years ago, Dr. Paul Billheimer wrote a little book entitled, “Don’t Waste Your Sorrows.” The gist of the book was that we are prone to dismiss or discount the trials and troubles we experience, rather than realize that an all wise God may have a purpose for them.
As I look at what Paul wrote in the 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 passage, I get the impression that he felt God wants each of us to have a personal ministry that may very well be born out of those “Very Long Nights” in our lives.
That ministry begins as we share with others what God has taught us or how He carried us through.
I pray that your “Very Long Night” will be turned into days of victory and celebration.
For His Glory,