Keep Singing!

For the family at Cedar Crest,

An encouragement for a happy heart in a time of sorrow.

“Do you hear the people sing

Lost in the valley of the night?

It is the music of a people

Who are climbing to the light

For the wretched of the earth

There is a flame that never dies

Even the darkest night will end

And the sun will rise!”

-Les Misérables

            For those of you who are unfamiliar with musicals and that sort of thing, allow me to provide some context for the above quote. This particular lyric is a stanza in the concluding piece of the musical Les Misérables, a spectacular sung-through narrative that highlights values such as love, faith, freedom, endurance, and redemption and takes place in the heat of the French Revolution. Following the story of a man struggling to find his place, and to find peace with God, the songs speak of loss and misery, but most importantly: hope. It is truly a beautiful story with beautiful music and was released as a movie only a few years ago! I highly recommend it.

            Anyway, I have always loved those particular lyrics because they remind me of a certain truth from Scripture. Call to mind with me a familiar promise that our brother Paul wrote down for the Church long ago:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, 

we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, 

and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, 

knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, 

and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, 

because God’s love has been poured into our hearts 

through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 5:1-5

            Writing to the People of God in a time when their physical suffering was so great and so often, Paul urges them to remember the truth of the Gospel. For those who trust God and believe on Christ, we “have been justified by faith” and “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). We are assured as well that being at peace with God by the work of Christ is also having access to a peace “which surpasses all understanding”, so by the work of the Holy Spirit, we can be still and meditate on the truth of these words (Philippians 4:7). While we rest in this Promise, let us look very closely at one very bold statement within these words from Romans 5:

“hope does not put us to shame”

            In the mundane of life I can read a sentence like that in the Word of God and simply go on about my day. However, when disease and panic has swept the whole of the Earth, and I read that promise, I tremble. This is life-giving truth. To have hope in a football team that ends up losing is to see our hope put to shame. To have hope in a body that will end up dying is to see our hope put to shame. To have hope in a world that will fade like a vapor in the wind is to see our hope put to shame. Oh, but to have our hope in Christ is to be sure that “even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise” (Les Mis.). Our hope will not put us to shame. 

            However, even though we can know without a shadow of a doubt that such a promise is true and belongs to us, how do I keep my heart from doubting? It may just be me – though I have a feeling we are all in this boat – but even though my mind can know this promise is true, my heart often doubts. I am often “like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6). How do we fight this?

We sing!

            I know that I’m talking to Baptists, and we’re not a very loud crowd, but look to the Scriptures at all God has to say about singing! There are Psalms upon Psalms that are beautiful pleas to the soul to look up and praise God! All throughout the Psalms we see David and the people of Israel singing not to tell about how happy they are, but to tell of how they can still rejoice in their sadness. I could put a reference here but there are so many to choose from. Look at Psalm 6, 7, 42, 56, 119, and so many more. Those are just a few that speak to suffering very clearly. Singing aloud is a gift that God has given us for joy, and a tool for belief. The Israelites sang these songs not to tell how strong their hearts were or how smart they were. They sang them so that their hearts could catch up to their heads. They sang so that their emotions would reflect the reality of the security they knew they had in God. 

Just as they did, let us sing not only because we believe, but so we will believe. 

            This is why we have come together week after week to sing and to listen. Scripture commands us to come together to teach and admonish one another in all kinds of songs, so that we can encourage one another to give thanks to God in all circumstances (Colossians 3:16-16).

            So how do we find this encouragement in this awkward time? Has this pandemic robbed us of the joy of singing together? Absolutely not. Though we can only gather online, there is no less reason to rejoice loudly together. As one who is worshipping from the platform, I am filled with grief that I cannot hear all of your voices in person, but let us join together and continue to sing aloud these promises of God as we meet through Facebook live, Zoom, and whatever other methods you may be using. Here are some encouragements to help you continue to sing while we meet online.

  • Turn the live stream up! – I know that it is difficult for some to sing because they don’t like   hearing their own voice, so turn it up until you’re comfortable and rejoice! Your heart will be helped and God will be pleased no matter how your voice sounds.
  • Sing with your family! – If you are fortunate enough to be sharing your home with others, gather together and sing. The Bride of Christ is still heard by God wherever she gathers. If you are alone in your house, reach out to those who are low risk to gather responsibly. The Governor has said we can still support a friend or family member during this crisis, and this is certainly reason to do so.
  • Use this time to think on the importance of singing together! – Meeting week after week to sing, we can become so jaded to the wonder of it. Allow this time to remind you of the blessing it is to hear brothers and sisters around you rejoice in the promises of God!

            I know that it’s awkward. I know that it’s hard. I know that all of us are just stumbling around, trying to figure out how to follow Jesus during all this panic. I know some of you brothers and sisters of mine are facing trials because of all of this that make you wonder how you even could sing and rejoice. Please, let me encourage your hearts to lift your voices.

When we doubt, let us sing until we trust again.

When we hurt, let us sing until we are healed.

When we are anxious, let us sing until we are thankful.

When we forget, let us sing until we remember.

When we do not believe, let us sing so that we believe again.

Let us sing until we believe again in Christ and all that He has said and done.

            Brothers and sisters, because of how this pandemic wrecked our plans, I just married the woman of my dreams in her parents’ house last Monday. As she walked down the aisle we played the hymn “This is my Father’s World.” Remember the lyrics?

This is my Father’s World,

Why should my heart be sad?

The Lord is King, let the heavens ring,

God reigns, let the Earth be glad.

            I know that what we are experiencing is not a war like the French Revolution, but it is a time of pain, confusion, and sorrow, nonetheless. Keep singing through the confusion, the doubt, and the sickness! Keep urging your heart and the hearts of those around you to remember our hope in Christ. Remember that it is a hope that will not put us to shame. May we sing loudly in our homes now, and when we gather again soon, may we sing again as the voice of one Church, one body, one mind. On that day, may our singing be louder, more full of joy, more sure of grace, more filled with compassion for our neighbor, more desperate to be near to Jesus, more in awe of the Gospel. May all the world hear our song today and when we gather face to face again and say,

“Do you hear the people sing

Lost in the valley of the night?

It is the music of a people

Who are climbing to the light!”

In the shadow of the Cross,

-Jackson Taylor.

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