In the Broadway musical The Lion King, there is a beautiful song called “Endless Night.” This song, which is not in the original movie, is sung by Simba at a pivotal crossroads in his life. Let me provide some key context for those unfamiliar with this story or who have not seen it recently (warning: there are some spoiler alerts).
Having run away from his pride at a young age because he falsely believed that he was solely responsible for his father's (Mufasa) death, Simba finds himself in the land of "hakuna matata," where there are no worries. You don’t think about anything that troubles you. However, in his absence, Scar (the evil uncle of Simba, who is responsible for Mufasa’s death) takes over ruling the pride. The pride, once thriving and in harmony with the circle of life, encounters death and destruction under his leadership. Nala, Simba’s best friend, runs away from the pride to escape marrying Scar. In doing so, her path crosses with Simba, and she begs him to come back and rule the pride, as he is the rightful heir to Mufasa’s throne. However, Simba is plagued with guilt, shame, and grief and says he cannot go home. Disappointed by what Nala observes as Simba’s cowardice, she walks away.
Shortly after that encounter, Simba, staring up at the stars (which his father had once told him were the lights of the great kings of the past looking down and guiding them), sings “Endless Night.” The song begins melancholically as Simba anxiously comments on how long the night has been and questions the absence of his father:
“You promised you'd be there whenever I needed you; whenever I call your name, you're not anywhere. I'm trying to hold on, just waiting to hear your voice.”
Suddenly, there is a shift in the music. The tempo quickens, the notes become more melodic and upbeat, and in the background, you begin to hear voices quietly but joyfully chanting,
“I know that the night must end and that the sun will rise. I know the clouds must clear and that the sun will shine.”
Their chanting permeates Simba’s despair. Slowly and a bit unsurely, Simba makes this chant his own. Each time he repeats it, with the sun slowly rising in the background and the night fading away, his voice becomes stronger, his posture changes, and by the end of the song, you know that he believes the words he is saying. My literary and theological senses perked up when I heard this song, as I could not help but think of the "dark night of the soul" and the spiritual battle so many saints have faced. So many have felt the absence of the Father’s voice; so many have wondered when the night would end. Yet, they have courageously persevered, not allowing their emotions to dictate their relationship with God or prevent them from living out their call to holiness. Deep in their souls, they believe in the hope of the resurrection and in the truth that the Son has conquered the darkest night.
The song also reminds me of the story of an amazing prophet and faithful servant of God—Joshua. The book of Joshua begins with the death of Israel’s dedicated leader, Moses. Someone else must go on to lead God’s chosen people. The Lord calls Joshua and tells him that he is to follow His commands and lead the Israelites out of the darkness of the wilderness into the light of the promised land. God promises to always be by Joshua’s side, instructing him to follow His law and to take courage:
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; be not frightened, neither be dismayed; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
It is a command God speaks to each of us, as well. We, too, are called to follow His law, to lead His people, to have courage, and always to know deep in our souls that He is with us wherever we go.
Perhaps, like Simba, we find ourselves trapped in a seemingly endless night, struggling to hear the voice of our Father, grappling to live out our call. In those moments, let us listen closely to the rising chorus of the communion of saints who constantly cheer us on to heaven, reminding us that the night will end, for indeed, the Son has risen. Then, let us courageously join their chorus, even if our voice is weak and unsure, and boldly live the truth that God is with us wherever we go. When we do, we will surely embrace our baptismal call and help lead those around us to the light of the promised land.