On a late-night talk-show to honor those slaughtered in a recent terrorism attack, rock band U-2 sang “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” This might be the most sung anthem in 2017. Lead singer Bono called this a restless gospel song.
2017 celebrates the 30th anniversary of U2’s tidal wave Joshua Tree album and its hit title “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” The world might well sing this song more often than any other this year – a restless gospel rock anthem. Why?
I urge you to hear this song with gospel choir here, and from the original album again. U2 synthesizes dynamic lyrics and driving swelling music with an edgy persuasive vision, a powerful challenge to look for something more. Songs of prophetic poetry can light fires in our hearts to seek what matters most with blazing passion.
Still, how can a “gospel” be restless? I believe “the gospel” is Jesus’ original good news of the kingdom of God – God’s new reality of love, life, justice, peace – coming in our midst, begun, happening, still-to-come, with much more to look forward to… This gospel will make us more restless amidst the struggling state of this world than any other vision. This is a spirit confident of love, passionate for hope, and restless for more. This is some of Jesus’ most profound wisdom:
Blessed are those who lament:
They will be given hope.
Blessed are those who long for love and justice:
They will be satisfied.
The Restless Heart
What are we so restless for? What is it that we have not yet found but keep looking for? And why for heaven’s sake would we embrace this restlessness – as people of many cultures dancing and singing this longing in unison at rock concerts?
I believe this is the universal human phenomenon of our restless hearts seeking something greater than we have yet fully experienced. Sure, most people do not live every minute in restless mode. Most of us believe we have tasted at least something meaningful beyond ourselves. And that is why we want more…
U2 sings, “I believe in kingdom come – you know I believe it…” That is why we also acknowledge we still haven’t found all that we dare hope. The Apostle Paul affirms in his New Testament letter to the Romans (chapter 8) that hope envisions a surpassing good, which we do not yet fully experience, but which we hold to be a promise we believe for, long for, wait for, and expect!
The creation waits in eager expectation…
In hope that the creation itself will be liberated…
We know that the whole creation has been groaning
as in the pains of childbirth…
…we ourselves… groan inwardly as we wait…
…if we hope for what we do not yet have,
we wait for it…
– Romans 8 (NIV)
Wrestling In the Dark
The ancient figure Jacob was named “Israel” in a restless night of the heart. In Genesis (chapter 32) Jacob wrestled with God, over troubles that promised a red dawn of blood-threats upon his life. But Jacob prevailed: As he cried out in the agony of that night, God blessed him. Yes, we live with God’s promises. With Jacob, we also walk with a limp that reminds us of these dark nights of the heart.
Walking into God’s promises is wrestling with the troubles in this world. We need to walk through these deep waters with people around us, with all humanity – even if we must walk with a limp. Jesus walked the Via Dolorosa, the way of suffering, a sacrifice for love. If we follow Jesus, this is his way.
Courage to Lament
One profound meaning of prophetic poetry, of old and today, is its power to give wings to the cries, the laments, the tears that plague our lives. These are the songs that are saying to us: If you want to wrestle through the night to a dawn of blessing, you do well to face the music, name your fears, and cry them out – out of yourself, into the night, to God, where they can meet with a more blessed hope.
Restless laments perform a powerful purpose beyond themselves. They point to what this human experience is pushing us, inviting us, challenging us, to look for – to look forward to. This is the faith that it is not the darkness, but it is truly what we look for, what we hope for, that defines us. That is what we hope for in God’s promise of a new creation, now beginning like a new birth crying its song back to us.
One Man’s Love
U2 also sings of a man who came in the name of love (The Unforgettable Fire): One whose love was betrayed by a kiss; his follower killed for seeking civil rights in America; all who suffer because they settle for nothing less than such a hope. In this quest, too, I have also found a kindred spirit in Martin Luther King. I am a white American who believes Dr. King expressed the most powerful vision in modern America. King challenged us to believe that God’s love remakes this world. I believe this can happen, as U2 sings it, through the one in whom “all colors bleed into one.” This invites and emboldens us to live the dream that Jesus’ compassionate justice creates a new world better for all, and we can come to live in this promised land.
Praying the Dream
The first U2 song that mused its way into my heart was “MLK” (The Unforgettable Fire), their restless lament and prayer for Martin Luther King and his dream:
Sleep, sleep tonight
And may your dreams be realized…
So let it be. So let it be.
“So let it be” is one meaning of “Amen,” the longing our prayers cry out with faith for an answer. A simultaneous promise of this prayer in the night declares to the darkness: “So it will be!”
Readers are also encouraged to explore other posts in this series: Culture Contact.
God so loved the world… God is love!
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth…
and the tree of life…
at the middle of the great street of the city…
and the leaves of the tree
are for the healing of the cultures.
John 3; 1 John 4; Revelation 21, 22
One thought on “Restless Gospel”
Thanks for reminding us of the hope we have in Jesus! Sorrow may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning; He changes our mourning into dancing–let the lament rise and release.