A collective grief can lead to collective praise

How do you recall important truths about God when you are exhausted? How do you offer praise when you mostly feel pain? What do you say when you are at a loss for words?

These questions usually come to mind when I visit someone in the hospital undergoing an intense surgery or treatment, or visit the home of someone grieving the loss of a loved one. Energy is depleted. Concentration is difficult. Words are few. And emotions are torn.

As Advent approaches, the often isolated traumas that weigh people down have become a collective experience and grief. We are again a people who are longing for something, and no one can tell us just how long our waiting will be.

The walk down the hospital hallway to a person’s room or the walk up the driveway to the front door of a home often reminds me of the gift of scriptural truths put to song. When I need to borrow someone else’s words, and I need those brief words to express both the groanings of this moment as well as the hope found only in God, I thank God for the work of poets and songwriters. Here are a few examples.

My Hope is Built on Nothing Less – Edward Mote

When darkness veils His lovely face,

I rest on His unchanging grace;

In every high and stormy gale,

My anchor holds within the veil.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand.

 

He Giveth More Grace – Annie Flint

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,

When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,

When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,

Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

 

I Am Not Skilled to Understand – Dora Greenwell

I am not skilled to understand,

What God hath willed, what God hath planned;

I only know at His right hand

Stands One who is my Savior.

 

Be Still My Soul – Katharina von Schlegel

Be still, my soul, the Lord is on thy side;

Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.

Leave to thy God to order and provide;

In every change He, faithful, will remain.

Be still, my soul, thy best, thy heavenly friend

Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

 

We’ll Understand it Better By and By – Charles Tindley

We are tossed and driven on the restless sea of time.

Somber skies and howling tempest oft succeeds a bright sunshine,

In that land of perfect day, when the mists have rolled away,

We will understand it better by and by.

Trials dark on every hand and we cannot understand

All the ways that God would lead us to that Blessed Promised Land,

But He guides us with His eye, and we’ll follow till we die,

For we’ll understand it better by and by.

 

Jesus, Lover of My Soul – Charles Wesley

Other refuge have I none,

Hangs my helpless soul on Thee;

Leave, ah! leave me not alone,

Still support and comfort me.

All my trust on Thee is stayed,

All my help from Thee I bring;

Cover my defenseless head

With the shadow of Thy wing.

It only takes one phrase or line to bring to mind the entire piece. The words are a gift. Knowing that others have experienced darkness, grief, confusion, trials, and helplessness is a kind of gift. Knowing that it is possible to express all of this in prayer and song is healing.

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus – Charles Wesley

Come, thou long expected Jesus,

Born to set thy people free;

From our fears and sins release us,

Let us find our rest in thee.

Israel’s strength and consolation,

Hope of all the earth thou art;

Dear desire of every nation,

Joy of every longing heart.

No one can tell us how long our waiting will be. And nothing in Scripture encourages us to suppress or deny or ignore the varied challenges that waiting requires of us. But many who have gone before us have shown us that it is possible to worship and offer thanks and give generously in faith, while we wait.

Topics: Christian Life, Songs, Worship

About the Author

Petar Nenadov serves as the regional development representative for the Great Lakes region. He is a graduate of The University of Akron (B.S. Political Science/Criminal Justice) and Ashland Theological Seminary (M.Div.), and serves as lead pastor of Lakeside Christian Church in Akron, Ohio. Petar helped launch the Cleveland network of Made to Flourish and is a contributing author for The Gospel Coalition.