When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches.
NOW AND THEN, ALL OF US HAVE AWAKENED IN THE WEE HOURS AND NOT BEEN ABLE TO GO BACK TO SLEEP. Usually we see that as an undesirable event, but I want to suggest that being awake while the world is asleep is not necessarily bad. The handful of times when I have had the deepest communion with God and the clearest insight into reality have been in the watches of the night.
The quiet, dark hours can be a dangerous time, spiritually speaking. If grief or loneliness is what we’re experiencing, we are more easily tempted in the night watches to certain sinful thoughts. So when we find ourselves awake and alone, we need God’s protection and strength, as well as His help and comfort.
But if we discipline our thinking, we can use our time awake to gain greater spiritual depth. David often spoke of meditating on the Lord at night: “When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches.” There is no better time for prayer and godly meditation than while everyone else is asleep. Indeed, it’s worth it to get up deliberately during the small hours for the purpose of thinking about God. “My eyes are awake through the night watches, that I may meditate on Your word” (Psalm 119:148).
I once had a job as a nightwatchman for a college that I was attending. It still sends shivers up my spine to remember entering an old, creaking lecture hall at two-thirty in the morning, walking to the podium, and just standing there, listening to the quiet and imagining all the great teachers who had been there and the words they had spoken. I believe that we do have moments of numinous joy — moments (maybe only a few in a lifetime) when the supernatural breaks into our hearts with such a piercing joy that we know we were made for more than we can ever experience in this world. Those moments of sharp and joyous longing for God are unpredictable. They might happen in the daytime also. But in my life, they have usually come when moonlight falls across the floor.
When the house doth sigh and weep,
And the world is drowned in sleep,
Yet mine eyes the watch do keep,
Sweet Spirit comfort me!