This Sunday some of us will hear Psalm 30, which contains one of my favorite images and reminders in the psalter. It is this: “Weeping may spend the night, but joy comes in the morning.”
Besides being a most necessary reminder as many of us have been battered by the rough winds of public events these last many weeks, this verse also has a literary association I love. P. G. Wodehouse was an author who wrote a series of hilarious short stories about a young British man in the 1920s and his valet. These two characters were known as Bertie Wooster and Jeeves.
Bertie was always getting into some kind of scrape, being a young man with a superfluity of money and a paucity of intelligence. Jeeves, Bertie’s “servant” and intellectual superior was aways getting Wooster out of one scrape or another, often involving a girl or an aunt, often quoting great British literature just for good measure, all while maintaining a firm line on the young master’s fashion experimentation.
One of the first collections of these short stories was Jeeves in the Morning, a pun in reference to Psalm 30. The stories were hilarious, the use of language and imagery masterful. I was hooked.
It fascinated me, and at first puzzled me, the allusion to a psalm that displays honest anxiety and grief. Years later I realized that this Psalm may have held special significance for Mr. Wodehouse. For all of his genius, he also could be a bit of a bumbler—and in the early days of World War II he bumbled right into the hands of the Germans as they seized large swaths of Europe. They kept him prisoner for some weeks.
These were dark times in Mr. Wodehouse’s long life. To distract himself while in custody, he got permission to work on his ideas for some humorous short stories—and when he walked free at last, he had written the bulk of the collection known in the UK as Joy in the Morning. I suppose his working on this collection of madcap tales kept him from dwelling on the dangers being in Nazi custody.
Weeping may indeed spend the night, but joy comes in the morning. If you are feeling grief or sorrow, feel that grief or sorrow, and recognize it for being part of our creaturely existence on this beautiful earth in all its complexity. But you can also make your way through that pain because you have assurance that all of what we ourselves have experienced of tragedy in our lives, Christ himself also experienced—and emerged victorious. Weeping spending the night as part of our anxieties and our griefs—that time of day so accustomed to great emotion that one of the precious prayers in our tradition asks God to be with those “who work, or watch, or weep this night” (BCP, p. 134).
Weeping spends the night. But this night, and its weeping, WILL pass, as Psalm 30 assures us. And it will pass in the presence and companionship and protection of our Creator and our God, who accompanies us in all our ways.
Joy comes in the morning because of the assurance that faith provides, even when it is that darkest hour before the dawn, even if no way out is discernible in the moment. Because the sun will rise, and everything is more clear in the light of day.