By Chaplain Chet Rains
“…indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” – Psalm 121:4
I knew those hours well. I worked them during the summer nights while in high school and when home from college. They lasted from 12:00 midnight to 8 a.m. They have been given other names as well—“the night shift,” “the graveyard shift,” “nights,” and “midnights”— but were simply known to me as “third shift.” I worked them at the Graniteville Company, a textile mill in my hometown of Graniteville, SC, in the lower pointed-end of the state, just across the river from Augusta, GA. Graniteville Company employed three shifts, running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Those eight hours were not the favored ones, but did benefit those who didn’t need much sleep and enjoyed the freedom of the daylight hours, those who needed the extra shift incentive, or those who simply liked to stay up at night. I didn’t particularly care for them, but the money was decent and, at the time, I was young and didn’t listen to much that was said.
And so Graniteville Company continued to run, around the clock, never stopping except for a week-long break at Christmas. The masses, both local and global, benefitted from its continuous operation. It turned out cotton material for Dickies, denim material for Levi, canvas material for Converse, and waterproof material for Coleman. Steam was always rolling out of the huge roof vents and the parking lots were always full. Even at night, the “Big G” lumbered on, while the majority of my little town slept the night away. The townsfolk slept peacefully, knowing that things at Graniteville Company would continue to run as scheduled, because someone was always up at night and always on the job.
We are still in the midst of difficult times, but there is a light shining at the end of the tunnel. Although things will never be the same, there is the hope that valuable lessons will be learned and things will be even better. It may have seemed to some that God has been absent during this crisis. After all, would this have happened if He was still at work in the world? Being the intellectuals that we are, we look for reasons why things happen as they do. But what happens, though, when reasons aren’t apparent, or reasons are slow to be revealed? When things can’t be explained or figured out, the default blame often goes back to God. We preach and teach that God is always in control, but what about during times when it seems He isn’t? In these dark times, where is He when we need Him most? Some questions have been answered, but many others are still hanging out there….
May we rest confidently, comfortably, and securely in the knowledge that He has never been out of control, and He never will be out of control. In these seemingly night-time hours, we can still see the light of God shining in and among us. It’s always darkest right before the dawn, but it’s also during the darkest hour that light will be the brightest. We know that God is watching over us during our waking hours, but may it be an even greater comfort knowing that He is awake and vigilant even when we need to close our eyes and rest. Let’s stay focused and stay the course, because our God is working the night shift, too!