Songs for a Season

The other day I went for a run on a day that felt too hot for October. In order to distract myself from the 5 miles I needed to log in the 86 degree heat, I put on a sermon to listen to from the church I attended when I lived in Nashville. Admittedly, I found myself distracted, zoning out from much of the sermon as my mind wandered elsewhere. There’s been much on my mind lately, and remaining focused has not come very easily.

As I came to the last two blocks of my run, it was like the mute button had been pushed on to silence the chatter in my mind. Suddenly my thoughts all came to a stop, and my focus abruptly shifted to actually listen to what the pastor was saying.

“Sometimes I need to proclaim the excellencies of God even though I don’t believe them right now in order to help instruct my heart on what is most true…I need to sing out from my heart and sometimes I need to sing back to my heart to try to tell my heart what is true — that what God says about me is true even though I don’t believe it right now. Singing out — proclaiming God’s excellencies in song — is incredibly powerful in our hearts.”

Lately, I’ve not really felt like praying. Admittedly, I’ve often struggled with consistency in prayer, but this season has been filled with more silence than not. But I have been able to sing. Last week I got to sing along with hundreds of other voices in Harbison Chapel at Grove City College declaring ‘It is well with my soul.’

While the lyrics of “It is Well” have always struck me, its words, penned in 1873 by Horatio Spafford, have as of late meant even more. The backstory of Spafford’s hymn is widely known, but I had forgotten it. Spafford wrote the song after a decade of tragedy that included the death of his son, the Great Chicago Fire that destroyed nearly all his property, and the death of his four daughters in a shipwreck.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Singing along to these words was an incredibly powerful and moving moment, a moment that my weary soul needed. A challenge confronting me lately is believing that God really does keep His promises. I’ve been more angry than usual and have felt a general weariness. My soul hasn’t exactly felt well. But as that podcast sermon reminded me, I am able to pray like the Psalmist: in song — singing out from my heart and singing back to my heart the TRUTH — a truth that transcends my feelings, transcends my circumstances.

Along with ‘It Is Well,’ a song for this season has been Andrew Peterson’s ‘Is He Worthy.’

Is all creation groaning?
(It is)
Is a new creation coming? 
(It is)
Is the glory of the Lord to be the light within our midst?
(It is)
Is it good that we remind ourselves of this? 
(It is)

I have always been thankful for music and the role it has played in my life, but I’m especially thankful for the chance to sing out in this season when spoken words of prayer are not coming as easily. The excellencies of God are infinite and boundless, and it it good that we remind ourselves of this. It is.

* * *

The final secret, I think, is this: that the words “You shall love the Lord your God” become in the end less a command than a promise. And the promise is that, yes, on the weary feet of faith and the fragile wings of hope, we will come to love him at last as from the first he has loved us—loved us even in the wilderness, especially in the wilderness, because he has been in the wilderness with us. He has been in the wilderness for us. He has been acquainted with our grief. And, loving him, we will come at last to love each other too so that, in the end, the name taped on every door will be the name of the one we love.

“And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart, and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you rise.”

And rise we shall, out of the wilderness, every last one of us, even as out of the wilderness Christ rose before us. That is the promise, and the greatest of all promises.

– Frederick Buechner

* * *

“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on Him in truth.” Psalm 145:18

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