As I was driving in town and listening to the radio this morning, I contemplated how I usually find myself somewhere between the lyrics expressed in the songs. Here’s what I mean:
As I listened to Amy Grant sing these words, I admit to feeling what I always feel when I listen to this song. There’s just something that never sits just right in my soul. “We pour out our miseries, God just hears a melody. Beautiful the mess we are, the honest cries of breaking hearts, are better than a Hallelujah. Better than a church bell ringing; better than a choir singing out.”
Maybe it’s the word “better” that bothers me. Is it true that when we pour out our miseries or when our lives are beautiful messes, that it’s better to God than a sincere Hallelujah? Maybe it’s just me, and I’m wrongly interpreting the lyrics to be an attempt to communicate again how the Church has it all wrong. You know, it’s that sentiment that conveys that broken and messy people are the ones who make God most happy because they are the only honest ones. Unlike those hypocrites who are always faking peace and joy. (I really do get it if it means that sincere sorrow is better than insincere praise. But is genuine praise impossible when we suffer?)
As I was pondering these things, the very next song took me to more thoughts: “I love You, Lord, for Your mercy never failed me. All my days, I’ve been held in Your hands. From the moment that I wake up until I lay my head, oh, I will sing of the goodness of God. And all my life You have been faithful, and all my life You have been so, so good. With every breath that I am able, oh, I will sing of the goodness of God. ‘Cause Your goodness is running after, it’s running after me. With my life laid down, I’m surrendered now. I give You everything.”
YES! YES! Isn’t it actually better to sing a Hallelujah … with every breath … from morning til night?! Even in our pain? That rings much truer. I can honestly sing along with that one.
Not so fast, Melodye! Can I really say I do that? Do I speak and sing and suppose the goodness of the Lord all day long, every single day?
Just as I was trying to take it all in, these words came across the airwaves: “Lord, when I’m listening for Your voice, and I’m shutting out the noise, I know that You will speak clearly. When I’m living out my faith, when I’m stepping on the sea, I know You take my hand and walk with me. And I’ll praise before my breakthrough, til my song becomes my triumph. I will sing because I trust You. I will bring my heart, I will lift my song. He who came in power, He will come again. He who heals the sick, won’t He move again? He who raised the dead, won’t He raise again? And I will sing. I will sing!”
That was it! The missing piece. Or maybe I should say “peace”.
We’ve just come out of a series in the book of Psalms. I am very aware that these songs represent honest cries from the singer’s heart. And they weren’t all Hallelujahs. But, shouldn’t the resurrection change our perspective? I think it should. Earlier this morning I had read these words of Paul to the church at Corinth: “For every one of God’s promises is ‘Yes’ in Him. Therefore, the ‘Amen’ is also spoken through Him by us for God’s glory. Now it is God who strengthens us, with you, in Christ and has anointed us. He has also sealed us and given us the Spirit as a down payment in our hearts .Additionally, brothers and sisters, rejoice. Become mature, be encouraged, be of the same mind, be at peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you…”
And to Timothy he said, “This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—and I am the worst of them. But I received mercy for this reason, so that in me, the worst of them, Christ Jesus might demonstrate His extraordinary patience as an example to those who would believe in Him for eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen!”
In our temptations and trials, we rejoice because our faith is being purified.
As we work through our real fears and doubts, we can simultaneously preach to ourselves the truth of where our real hope lies. Not all people who declare ‘Hallelujah!’ (meaning “God be praised!”) in the midst of their pain are attempting to conceal or deflect their deep sorrow. Although some people may try to hide behind sadness with false Hallelujahs, I don’t think it’s best to coach them to avoid praise by assuming that it can’t possibly be genuine. Instead, I want to learn how to walk in faith, with honest praise in the midst of my suffering. It is not hypocritical to refuse defeat when we experience painful seasons! Sometimes, I feel like I must not be doing it right. Is the only genuine Christianity one that is constantly admitting to others what a “beautiful mess” I am? Or can it be sincere to confess what a beautiful hope we have? Can we truly attain and maintain a joyful heart that beholds and holds the utter supremacy of Christ that pushes against the darkness in our suffering?
My goal is not to be a hypocrite, coldly declaring things I don’t mean. What I desire is that my heart would be transformed so that I’ll honestly “consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”
Jesus IS better.
Make my heart believe, Lord.
Yes, we cry. We even wail. And thankfully Jesus cries with us. But I need to be constantly reminded that He is sovereign and that the brief moments of grief should be accompanied by real hope that springs forth shouts of Hallelujah! Also, I’m willing to admit that I may be missing the meaning of the lyrics of Amy’s song. Maybe it’s not meant to be interpreted as a math equation. (Sincere sorrow > Sincere praise). And maybe her own words about the song are influencing me: “The song is just so poignant and redemptive. In the lyric, there is no religious code or lingo going on and the message is true, it’s good news. I love every scenario it’s painting.” Hmmmm.
I guess it comes down to what I really do know even when I don’t necessarily feel it. And that’s summed up by John Piper’s most familiar and probably most quoted statement: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”
I believe that God gets the most glory when we sincerely hope in Him. It’s when we choose to worship Him in the middle of long nights with crying babies and dark days of silence and distance that we discover soul satisfaction we never thought possible. It’s praying for and to peace. It’s holding on because we know He’s holding us. It’s somehow finding the way to despair of life while at the same time putting our hope and trust in the living God. (2 Corinthians 1:8-10)
The honest cries of breaking hearts are better WITH a Hallelujah.
There. I fixed it. (For myself, anyway. :))
I’m gonna sing, in the middle of the storm;
louder and louder, you’re gonna hear my praises roar.
Up from the ashes, hope will arise.
Death is defeated, the King is alive!
I raise a Hallelujah, with everything inside of me.
I raise a Hallelujah, I will watch the darkness flee.
I raise a Hallelujah, in the middle of the mystery.
I raise a Hallelujah!
Fear, you lost your hold on me!