03 August 2010

The Fourth Watch: Darkness Just Before the Dawn

This post is dedicated to my dearest friend, Leslie.

Dear Friend,

During our conversation last night, I ached to find the words to comfort you and enable you to feel hope again. I don't understand why things have happened the way they have--especially after the peace we both felt about the future and our plans to "take over" the world. At times like this, all I am left to do is return to the basics--to say with Nephi "I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things" (1 Nephi 11:17).

Not knowing the meaning of things is difficult for a planner like me: I want to know all of the details (how it will happen, WHEN it will happen, etc)...but sometimes these details aren't available. And that's when my faith and my hope must kick in.

I know you, Leslie. I know how faithful you are. I feel your faith and hope when we discuss even the mundane aspects of business. Your faith has been tested tremendously throughout your lifetime and especially in the last few years. But look at you. Look at how you and the Lord have overcome! With the Lord's help, you have endured the harrowing of your soul, financial setbacks, and betrayal and abuse from someone who should have been protecting you. Look at who you are today because of what you've endured. You are amazing!

I know it's easy for me to sit on the sidelines and give you a "rah rah rah" pep talk--much harder when *I* am the one enduring the crisis--so as I've been praying for the words you need to hear, I've thought about situations in my own life and what *I* would need to hear at those times. I hope these words will convey to you my love and, even more importantly, Heavenly Father's love for you.

This morning as I drove to work and thought and prayed about you, another devotional came to mind to share with you. Brother S. Michael Wilcox, a CES instructor and author, shared some very valuable insights in a Brigham Young University-Hawaii devotional last year. His remarks were entitled "Bread or Stones: Understanding the God We Pray to." The entire devotional is enlightening; I recommend you read it all. The part I want to share with you, though, is the section about how God usually comes during the "Fourth Watch."

... The Savior has fed the five thousand that day, and in the late afternoon, early evening, He is sending his apostles down into the ship. He will dismiss the multitude. He wishes to pray that evening, and then He will meet the apostles a little later on the shore and they are to pick Him up. In late afternoon, early evening, the apostles get on the ship; they push out in the Sea of Galilee. The Savior dismisses the multitude, and prays. The Savior could pray a long time; so, He prays late into the night. We read in Mark what takes place with the apostles:

And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray. And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land. And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea. (Mark 6:46-48)

In John’s account of this particular story we read that the apostles had rowed the equivalent of about seventy-five football fields against the wind. There are times in our lives when we toil, rowing against the wind. We are trying to make progress and sometimes it seems that there are forces that are against us. There may be some great blessing that we deeply desire. There may be some trial that we want deeply to be over. And it doesn’t seem like we are making any headway against the wind. We wonder if the Lord is listening.

Now we need to understand something about our Father in Heaven, and that is that He is a fourth watch God.

The Hebrew night was divided into four watches. The first watch—six o’clock at night to nine [p.m.], second watch—nine to midnight, third watch—midnight to three in the morning, fourth watch—three in the morning to sunrise. Sometimes that creates a bit of a problem for us, certainly for me. I worship a fourth watch God. One who tends to feel that it is good to let His children toil in rowing against the wind to face a little opposition. My problem is that I am a first watch person. Now there is something inside of me that understands that it is good for me to toil in rowing against the wind. But certainly by the second watch He would come. And when the second watch has passed and He still has not come. Sometimes I forget that as Mark says, He is watching. He watched them toiling and rowing.

I began to make some assumptions that are often dangerous to make—maybe you make the same. We begin to assume that, number one, He is not there. That is why He’s not responding. And then we calm down and understand that He is there; He is always there. Then the second assumption is if He is there, He must not be listening. And then again, in calmer times—He always listens. Well then the third assumption is He must not care. No—He’s there, He listens, He cares. Maybe the most dangerous assumption, the fourth assumption is I must not be worthy. Now that fourth assumption we are probably correct on. But when has that ever stopped Him from responding; we are as worthy as we can be. We must assume that we have not yet reached the fourth watch; and He is a fourth watch God.

The scriptures are full of fourth watch stories: Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove—“At the very moment I was ready to sink into despair” (JSH 1:16). Do you ever feel that way? “Just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light” (JSH 1:16). It was when the widow of Zarephath was gathering two sticks to make a final meal for her and her son that Elijah came walking through the gate to save them from the famine (1 Kings 17). It was when the water was spent in the bottle and Hagar had placed Ishmael under a tree because she did not want to see his death, that the angel came to say, Hagar, what aileth thee? and showed her a source of water (Genesis 21:17).

We worship a fourth watch God. So when the trials aren’t over and the blessings don’t come, don’t assume that He is not there, or He is not listening, or He doesn’t care, or you’re not worthy. Always assume you have not yet reached the fourth watch.

-- S. Michael Wilcox, "Bread or Stones: Understanding the God We Pray to," Brigham Young University-Hawaii devotional, 31 March 2009 (emphasis added).
This may or may not be the "fourth watch" for you right now--it could even be the "first watch". What I *do* know is that the Lord is with you. He will help you through this.

Hold on! The light, the peace, and the miracles of our "fourth watch" God will come!

Love you!


  1. What a wonderful friend you are, Maddy! Friends like you are ever so rare. Leslie is truly blessed to have someone as compassionate and as spiritual as you.

    I, too, have suffered violence in my childhood (I don't know Leslie's circumstances regarding that truth), but what has severed a clear path through the torrents of darkness that threatened to devour my soul was Heavenly Father's love for me. I tasted of the fruit at a young age, and when times darkened around me, the desire to hold to that swept me through.

    I am a better person for remembering Him through my darkest hours.

    Thank you, again, for your forthright honesty. I hope to somehow get to know you personally. I'd love a friend like you on my side!