How I Sing The Hymns That Hurt My Heart

I grew up singing hymns.

I was introduced to praise choruses in my mid-twenties.

I love both.

I used to hear or sing along to them and feel them feed my spirit.

My family sang in choirs, served on worship teams and was rarely absent from church for over twenty years.  Music was part of everyday life with a special bonus on Sundays.  

dominic at gray haven

Now I find it hard to hear and even harder to sing some hymns I used to love. 

One of the most challenging is “It Is Well”-really, IS it well? 

Can I sing these words with conviction or am I lying my way through just to keep others from asking questions?  

I know the story behind the hymn-at least the part every worship leader or pastor likes to share.  Horatio Spafford wrote the words as he passed the very spot where his daughters drowned in an ocean crossing.  His life didn’t end on a high note.  It’s often introduced as an amazing testimony of victory over grief and death.  If I only cling harder to Jesus, I, too, can experience perfect peace in the midst of great trial and suffering.

it is well hymn music image

We sang that hymn in church a couple of weeks ago and I realized that it is a prayer as much as (or instead of) a declaration.

In many ways, after 5 years, it IS well with my soul.

I’ve reached a place where I can rest easy with unanswered questions and where I have finally received this blow with open arms. I’m not fighting the FACT of my son’s earlier than expected move to Heaven.

On those days, I can sing the chorus as an affirmation of truth.  

i thessalonians 3 peace

But I have days (and sometimes weeks) where life and memories and anniversaries and random stress unsettle me again. So then I sing it as a PRAYER like the psalmist who turns his heart to the only One Who can fill it again with grace, peace and hope. 

It may not be well right NOW, but it WILL be well.  

sings with song

I can trust that He who began a good work in me will complete it.

I can lean on the truth that in Christ every promise of God is “yes” and “amen”.

I know, deep in my bones, that all this heartache will ultimately be redeemed and that whatever I have lost in this life will be gloriously restored in Heaven. 

Blink of an eye heaven

Random Sunday Thoughts

Church is hard for me.  

Not because I am angry with God, His people or His Word. 

But because my experience is an outlier for Western “Sunshine” Christianity.  

I don’t fit in with the folks who smile and wave and pretend that they have all they ever wanted, heaven is a nice place to look forward to, and they are “living their best life now”.  

With so much effort being poured into church growth, so much press being given to the benefits of faith, and so much flexing of religious muscle in the public square, the poor in spirit have no one but Jesus to call them blessed anymore.
― Barbara Brown Taylor

My eyes are open to the desperate reality that this world is not as God intended.  My heart knows that even though my hope in Christ is a lifeline, it isn’t anesthesia.

My soul is battered and bruised.  

My “hallelujah” is definitely broken.  

love is a cold and broken hallelujah

I have a hard time with Sunday School lessons that draw one-liner takeaways from difficult to understand scriptures.  I cannot give assent to simple life lessons designed to give congregants a mantra for the coming week.

Life is more complex than that. 

And if you listen closely to Jesus’ own words you can hear it.  

will-have-trouble-but-i-have-overcome

So sometimes I can’t gather in the halls with folks who insist life is simple, faith erases all pain and the hope of Heaven makes everything alright.  

I sit home with my Bible, my selection of honest worship songs and my God.  

He has invited me to bring my hurt to Him, so I do.  

He is a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.  

I can trust my heart to Him.

you who are weary come to me

The Good, the Hard and the Ugly

Sundays are both good and hard…good because I am with other people who believe that this life is not all there is and hard because to many of them it is still only a belief, not the lifeline they cling to for the next breath, the next heartbeat and the next step.

I’m thankful that in our country, relatively few parents bury children, but burying mine has put an invisible wall between those that can quote “all things work together for good” because they found a parking place close to the store in the rain, and me-who will have to wait until I reach heaven to see the ultimate good of my son’s untimely death.

The ugly truth is that while I wait in hope and with faith, I want my son back.  I want my family restored.  I long to see all four of my children once again around the table-laughing, fussing and sharing life together.

I trust in the Lord’s promise of redemption and restoration.

But the valley I walk in the meantime is hard and lonely.  His Word sheds light on my path but does not fully dispel the inky darkness of grief and pain.  I walk in half-lit places, stumbling on, clinging to Him.  I long for the sunshine of heaven.

“Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.”

John 6:68