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TLH Hymn 481 “Through the Night of Doubt and Sorrow”


Other than what God has told us in His Word, we do not know what the future holds. Several years ago we did not know that the whole world would essentially shut down for an entire year. We did not know that churches would be closed, and we would be watching sermons in our living rooms on video screens, without the benefit of weekly in-person contact with our fellow believers to encourage us in our faith. It has been, we might say, a “night of doubt and sorrow” that was unexpected and long.

When will the next significant trouble appear on the horizon for us? Will it be tomorrow, next week, or next year? We don’t know, but we do know that the Lord has given us brothers and sisters in the faith so that we will not need to face the next trouble alone. In Bernard Ingemann’s hymn “Through the Night of Doubt and Sorrow,” we are reminded of how important it is to stand with others, and for others to stand with us, as we march steadily onward toward the Promised Land. In 1825 he wrote, “Thro’ the night of doubt and sorrow, / Onward goes the pilgrim band, / Brother clasps the hand of brother, / Stepping fearless through the night.”

What a blessing that we are able to join with others as we “step fearless through the night,” knowing together and being encouraged together that we, as children of God through faith in Christ, all share together in enjoying His gracious presence and blessing! As we hold each other’s hands, He holds us all in His powerful hand so that we sing, “One the light of God’s own presence, / O’er His ransomed people shed, / Chasing far the gloom and terror, / Bright’ning all the path we tread.”

We also share together with our fellow Christians the sure confidence of a good outcome at the end of our journey. The Lord Himself keeps this bright hope before us all, and in the third verse of our hymn the author stresses again and again that we have others who share in our walk and in our goal. One the strain the lips of thousands / Lift as from the hearts of one; / One the conflict, one the peril, / One the march in God begun; / One the gladness of rejoicing / On the far eternal shore, / Where the one almighty Father / Reigns in love forevermore.

By His death and resurrection, our Lord and Savior Jesus has reconciled us together to the Father. We march toward heaven always appreciative of those whom He has placed at our sides: men, women, and children with whom we worship together (in person once again!) and through whom we are encouraged.

The Danish language scholar and poet Bernhardt Ingemann died in 1862, but he left us a final stanza to encourage us, as the apostle did, to “pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14 Christian Song Book). Ingemann’s hymn further urges that we pursue it together.

Onward, therefore, pilgrim brothers! / Onward with the cross our aid! / Bear its shame and fight its battle / Till we rest beneath its shade. / Soon shall come the great awaking, / Soon the rending of the tomb, / Then the scatt’ring of all shadows, / And the end of toil and gloom.

David Schaller is a professor at Immanuel Lutheran College in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.