Friday, September 23, 2005

What do miserable Christians sing?

This was the title of the most recent edition of the Sovereign Grace Journal.  The lead article was discussing the loss of the lament in modern Christian worship.  While the Psalms are filled with many songs to be sung by those grieving or feeling abandoned or angry at God, the whole genre is absent from our worship services.

I've come across one song that, while not written for worship, is I think a good example of a modern-day lament.  I've used the song in my personal devotions, and I'm going to try to adopt it in our family devotions.  My children are 5 and 7, so I'm not sure how they'll interpret it, but it will give us a good chance to talk about how to respond in faith when we're mad, or sad, or lonely.

The song is Rich Mullin's Hard to Get.  It's copyright 1998 by Liturgy Legacy.
You who live in heaven
Hear the prayers of those of us who live on earth
Who are afraid of being left by those we love
And who get hardened by the hurt.
Do you remember when you lived down here where we all scrape
To find the faith to ask for daily bread?
Did you forget about us after you had flown away?
Well, I memorized every word you said.
Still I'm so scared, I'm holding my breath
While you're up there just playing hard to get.

You who live in radiance
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in skin?
We have a love that's not as patient as yours was
Still we do love now and then.
Did you ever know loneliness?
Did you ever know need?
Do you remember just how long a night can get?
When you are barely holding on
And your friends fall asleep
And don't see the blood that's running in your sweat.
Will those who mourn be left uncomforted
While you're up there just playing hard to get?

And I know you bore our sorrows.
And I know you feel our pain.
And I know it would not hurt any less
Even if it could be explained.
And I know that I am only lashing out
At the One who loves me most.
And after I figured this, somehow
All I really need to know....

Is if you who live in eternity
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in time?
We can't see what's ahead
And we can not get free of what we've left behind.
I'm reeling from these voices that keep screaming in my ears
All the words of shame and doubt, blame and regret.
I can't see how you're leading me unless you've led me here
Where I'm lost enough to let myself be led
And so you've been here all along I guess
It's just your ways and you are just plain hard to get.
I think this song has many fine, lamenting elements.  Written in that dense, informal style so characteristic of Rich Mullins, it expresses fear, frustration, abandonment, doubt.  Yet it is shot through with statements of faith, with the recognition of Jesus' sympathy with our suffering, and submission to his love and leading.

However, at the same time, it is uncomfortable.  It says things that I know are unworthy of God, and ends with a sort of hopeful resignation.  Rather reminiscent of some of the lament Psalms.  Perhaps, just the sort of thing a miserable Christian could sing.

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