The first of these episodes screamed
with the discord of confusion and pain…
Related happenings wove into a deeper harmony,
and peace sang its way into my heart…
All you need is love… A bridge over troubled waters… One hand, one heart… May your dreams be realized… God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you… You have a friend in me… A whole new world… Love in any language… (and a couple more of my favorites: Why should the devil have all the good music?!, California dreamin’, the king is coming…) These are just a few daring declarations of diverse musical styles from somewhat recent times. And amidst our ever-spinning experiences of how “the times they are a changin’,” song can persistently weave together through the fabric of our lives the deepest longings, pulsing pains, and soaring hopes of the human heart.
I was reminded recently of several connected personal experiences which happened over many years. The first of these episodes screamed with the discord of confusion and pain. As my journey continued, related happenings wove into a deeper harmony, and peace sang its way into my heart. I offer this story as a testimony to how music can carry us through times of deep struggles, and empower us to believe God’s better future of hope.
This personal symphony began with an utterly painful shock to our lives. My wife and I lost our baby due to miscarriage in three pregnancies. This occurred somewhat early on in each case; all were horribly painful. We have experienced healing from these losses in God’s love, in various ways through many seasons. That both of us are comfortable sharing this story testifies to the potentials of healing in this world.
In the second of these experiences, I had come to a strong sense that the baby was a girl. We planned to name her: Anastasha Joy – Resurrection Joy! When we lost her, we were totally crushed. I was so stunned, I was in a daze of sadness for weeks. More than anything else at the time, one song got me through. I don’t remember the exact title, but it was based on the story of Job. Not the more recent bad-theology song about God taking things away from us and we’ll trust anyway – God did not do evil things to Job (everyone, please let’s read that whole story altogether again, more carefully this time). God did not take our baby away – God is not cruel (God is love, 1 John 4)! That loss in our lives was a tragic experience due to the fragility of sickness in this broken world. But Job’s story speaks hope for all who dare to trust in God: No matter the enemy’s attack, no matter the tragic loss we suffer, God is the friend who never betrays us, God is the one who is still there when we feel alone, and nothing can separate us from God’s love (Rom 8 – God’s love sealed for us in Jesus). With God there is always hope, because God’s love and blessing will always have the last word. Ultimately, there is no more enemy attack, no more tragedy: There is God’s love of over-flowing blessings.
More recently when teaching a course on the wisdom literature of the Hebrew Scriptures, I challenged students to wrestle with this question. The book of Job is most like a drama in its literary form (its genre)– but is it a tragedy, a comedy, or a fairy tale? I encourage you to pause here yourself, to reflect on this creative question…
I believe the story of Job is something of all of these – and profoundly more. We do experience tragic suffering and evil in this world – Job’s story competes with and even probes more deeply than Shakespearean tragedy. But God always has the last laugh on the most diabolical enemy – the greatest cosmic comedy. Ultimately, God makes the world fully right again – the most surpassing fairy tale. And there is more. This is happening for real, in our lives in God’s creation, through God’s future to come for us. Especially In Jesus, God’s Messiah, nothing can take God’s love and this destiny and inheritance away from us. That is the true news of what’s actually happening – and it’s really good. So I believe the story of Job most powerfully embodies the genre of Gospel – good news. Here, one triumphant melody sings forth with utter clarity: God’s good news always wins in the end…
For me, the song I listened to after losing Anastasha Joy simply sang the honesty of painful loss, and hope to come in the promise of God’s faithful goodness. In those weeks of living and working through a daze, I listened to that song over and over and over, sometimes several times strait in a row. Somehow, in a way deeper than words alone can express, that song got me through.
For all of us when we’re struggling, find every true help you can. And find your song – the song that most sings the pain and the hope of your heart! When you need a vision, find a song to encourage you to dream. When you need courage to face a challenge, find a song that stirs you to stand strong. When you need to laugh and dance, find a song of contagious joy. Listen to your song early, often, and late. Even when you can’t sing yourself, let it sing for you, and into you.
A story is told from the early days of the American Civil Rights movement. Most everyone thought they were a small motley lot, no power, no money, “just” some black people making some noise… But the big-wig denominational church leaders in New York were curious. They sent someone down to the South to scout out what was really going on. The guy came back with one message: This movement is going to change America – because they have a song! It was the simple anthem of the movement throughout its sacrifices, pains, and triumphs. A generation later, I remember singing this song at a prayer vigil, joining in with a full-gusto black-American gospel singer-piano-player, with brothers and sisters praying for the people protesting against the racial oppression of Apartheid in South Africa – and it all stirred a deep hope in my heart. Please find this song and listen on youtube.
We shall overcome, We shall overcome,
We shall overcome – some day…
Down in my heart, I do believe
We shall overcome, some day!
Years later in a foreign country, I was teaching a week-long series on God’s father-heart of love, from John’s gospel. One of those afternoons, I was walking and praying in a plush nature preserve near the city. I knelt down by a trickling stream. Just then, no advance notice but in perfectly relevant timing, I heard the assurance of God’s love in my heart: Michael, your daughter, Anastasha Joy – You will see her some day; that is the promise of the resurrection!
Through the years, we have also seen God’s hope become real in the privilege of sharing this life with two glorious children, telling them stories and singing them songs at bedtime, seeking to walk with them through their pains and dance with them in their joys, watching with wonder for their courageous adult lives and service, and welcoming a wonderful son-in-law into our family. Life truly doesn’t get any better than that.
Whatever your struggles, visions, and joys, find your song. Let its melody and harmonies sing into your bones. Let the deeper music of hope help you take God at God’s word, to believe that God’s goodness will overcome in your life, that days of blessings will come, over-flowing – both in this life, and in God’s future to come forever… Remember: You truly are never alone: God is everywhere, surrounding you, with love. And God’s love is the breath that fills our songs.
Readers are encouraged to explore other posts in this series: Created to Create.
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