…Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5, N.K.J.V.)
English missionary James Hannington was the first Anglican bishop of East Africa. His initial missionary visit to Africa only lasted a few months because he was stricken with a high fever and dysentery which forced him to return to England. A couple of years later, though, he returned to Africa and set himself to the task of organizing and supervising a road-building project that would build a new road into the Ugandan kingdom of Buganda. At the time, the only road into Buganda was an Arab slave route that was filled with danger.
The problem the project faced was Buganda’s king Mwanga. Despite the fact that his father, king Mutesa, had been open to foreigners and had even granted them favor, Mwanga was known to be highly suspicious of outsiders and quick to put them to death. Once Hannington reached Busoga, which was an area of great strategical importance to Buganda, Mwanga sent word to Hannington forbidding him from going any further. Hannington, however, was determined and continued on with his mission. A short time later, under the order of Mwanga, a group of Bosaga’s local chiefs captured Hannington along with 50 of his men and imprisoned them.
After eight days of cruel treatment, during which Hannington himself was exhibited as a trophy, the whole party was killed on October 29, 1885. Hannington was 38 years old and died by being speared in both sides. Purportedly, his last words to his Bosagan captors were, “Go tell your master (Mwanga) that I have purchased the road to Uganda with my blood.”
We know so much about Hannington’s story because he faithfully kept a daily journal. Upon his death, the Ugandans kept the journal and sold it to a later expedition. And what is the journal entry for October 29, 1885, the day of Hannington’s martydom? He wrote:
I can hear no news, but was held up by the 30th Psalm, which came with great power. A hyena howled near me last night, smelling a sick man. I hope it is not to have me yet.
Later that same day, the hyena didn’t get Hannington but the spear did. His “night” of weeping was now finished and the “morning” of his joy had come. As Charles Spurgeon wrote in his commentary, The Treasury of David:
And so, when life with its struggles and toils and sins, bringing us perpetual conflict, ends at last in the fierce struggle of death, then God “giveth his beloved sleep.” They sleep in Jesus, and wake to the joy of a morning which shall know no wane — the morning of joy. The Sun of Righteousness is beaming on them. Light is now on all their ways. And they can only wonder when they recall the despair and darkness, and toil, and violence of their earthly life, and say, as they have often said on earth, “Weeping has endured only for the night, and now it is morning, and joy has come!”
Along the same lines, Harry Ironside wrote in his Studies on the Psalms:
My mother told me that when my dear father was dying he was suffering terribly and a friend of his leaned over him and said, “John, you are suffering terribly, aren’t you?” “Oh,” he said, “I am suffering more that I thought it was possible for any one to and live, but one sight of His blessed face will make up for it all.”
And so whatever we are called upon to endure here, whatever we are called upon to suffer here it is for only a moment, comparatively. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
Finally, I love John Phillip’s take on the verse, and it’s his words that I’ll offer as the close to this post. In his Exploring the Psalms, Phillips writes:
It is significant, surely, that God’s day begins with an evening and ends with a morning. Thus all the way through that creation chapter of Genesis we read: “The evening and the morning were the first day…the evening and the morning were the second day…” Right now we are hurrying through the nighttime of our experience. The shadows often are dark and menacing; but the morning comes, and with it a day that will never end! The night through which we are passing is only temporary. When the morning comes there will be no more sorrow, no more sadness, no more suffering, no more sickness, no more separations. “One glimpse of His dear face all sorrows will erase.” Joy cometh in the morning!