When I was growing up, my parents had a collection of LP records. We lived in Southern California, and one of their favorite Christian groups was based in Placerville called the Heritage Singers.

The Heritage Singers had a song titled “Never Give Up,” and though it’s been many years since that record was last spun I still remember the words of the chorus:

"Never give up, Jesus is coming.

"It's the darkest just before dawn.

"Never give up, Jesus is coming.

"Never give up, keep holding on!"

Recently the phrase “It’s the darkest just before dawn” began circling in my mind. You know, we all go through dark days, have friends going through dark days, and it’s a comforting notion to think that bright days are soon to come.

This phrase, at least in modern literature, finds its first mention in a poem by English theologian and historian Thomas Fuller, in his "A Pisgah — Sight of Palestine and the Confines Thereof," published in 1650. Fuller wrote, “It is always darkest just before the Day dawneth.”

A quick Google search for this phrase produced many encouraging and beautiful memes. They centered around various pictorial representations that were meant to encourage those going through dark times to hold on to hope, because the light is coming soon!

Of course, given the world we live in today, I also found some critics of the idea. And as much as I don’t appreciate those who rain on the parades of the positive, I have to admit they have their point: It’s not the darkest just before dawn. All things being equal, the darkest part of the night is arguably the midpoint between sunset and sunrise.

So that led me to the question: How could Thomas Fuller have gotten it all wrong, setting off centuries of misled optimists all the way down to 2020? Or did he?

As I reflected on this question, I realized that Fuller was almost certainly not trying to describe physical reality when he penned this phrase. Surely he would have been privy to enough scientific understanding to know that even before the sun breaks over the horizon, the sky is already warming with morning light.

Thomas Fuller was quite clearly instead describing a spiritual phenomenon. It is often true that the darkest days of our lives are those that lead us to turn to our Savior — and he is indeed the Light of the world. And this is not only true personally, spiritually; it is also true eschatologically — as the Heritage Singers’ song points out, "Never give up! Jesus is coming."

Jesus himself described in Matthew 24:12 how dark with sin and greed and selfishness the world would be just before his return. “Lawlessness will abound,” Jesus said, and “the love of many will grow cold.”

Isaiah, the gospel prophet, also predicted hope to follow the darkest hours of human history: “Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the Earth, and deep darkness the people. But the Lord will arise over you, and his glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising (Isaiah 60:1-3)."

What I see in these verses is the prediction that God’s people are not to be overwhelmed by the darkness of society in the times in which we live. We instead are called to shine ever brighter, reflecting the love of God, the character of God, and the joy of salvation to those around us.

Sometimes it’s easy to become discouraged, especially as we see this world seemingly falling apart at the seams. But we should take heart, as Jesus told his disciples regarding how crazy the world would become before it was all over: “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near (Luke 21:28)."

So let the critics and cynics find fault with Mr. Fuller’s phrase! The bad news is really the good news, because it all tells us this old world won’t last much longer. In the words of that Heritage Singers song:

"There are days I know when you get so discouraged,

"It seems that all hope is gone.

"But there's only One who can give you courage

"And strength to carry on.

"Never give up, Jesus is coming.

"It's the darkest just before dawn.

"Never give up, Jesus is coming.

"Never give up, keep holding on!"

Chester Clark III is a Seventh-day Adventist pastor living in Dalton. Contact him at cclark@gccsda.com.

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