What does it look like to live each day with abandon? To not hold back in every aspect of our lives, regardless how mundane or trivial these tasks we undertake are? What does it really, truly mean for us to place aside every fear, burden, uncertainty and the like, and jump two feet into what we believe God has in store for us both now and into the future, in spite of our very real and present fears that what we undertake may not look like what we imagine or envisage, or worse still, what we hope God will accomplish in our lives as a result of our big decisions, isn’t what God has in store for us at all, but the exact opposite? Hard questions, I know but sometimes it is these questions that need to be said and discussed. To be asked and dialogued well by all involved, knowing full well that as we open up this forum to those close to us, we have to hope and know that what we say won’t be frowned on or judged. If we struggle with hopelessness, uncertainty, trying to determine the will of God in our lives, or even our plans v. His; regardless of what we lay bare on the table, surely we ought to know that those close to us won’t abandon us, no matter what skeletons rear their ugly heads?
It is in these times of difficulty where we lean on worship the most. Where worship is really lived out in that moment rather than what we just sing in the form of a worship song on a Sunday. That’s not to say that all worship music don’t depict the harsh realities where everything doesn’t go right; but sometimes, and I mean that in a loose term; worship music isn’t necessarily real enough. Don’t get me wrong, I love worship music in all its facets. Yet sometimes I find that the overcommercialisation of worship music, either through label groups, radio or even the artists themselves; can drag down the overall message. Songs are written and sung from the point of view where everything’s fine and good, and we’re praising God because of that. Yet are we still willing to praise God when the bad times are aplenty, when we’re in the middle of the desert and the only thing we can cling onto are the promises of God?
Countless times through sermons and songs, we’ve heard the message that we can praise God through the storms of life, it is whether we are in the place where we can vulnerably admit our struggles over to God or not, that is a different story. Because when all is said and done, nobody likes to be vulnerable. Sure we open up to different extents depending on who we surround ourselves with. But to be vulnerable with always the possibility that someone within our circle of friends judges us because of what we say…boy that really scares us. Scares me too. But until we realise that in Christ, whatever we have done or will do isn’t going to change His love for us (though it may change what people think), we can never be free. Free to share and be open, without condemnation. Free to lift our hands and declare to our Father “Blessed be your name”! Our lives and how we live them are a mirror and reflection of what we believe is our concept of our heavenly Father; and what people see will ultimately determine whether they believe the God we follow is a God they want to know.
When it all boils down to it, to live with abandon is a hard thing to do because there’ll always be something in the way. It is a struggle, often a daily one, and while we may bemoan about the struggling process, God is still acting and impacting our lives, even in that moment. Softening our hearts, to the point where we will declare God to be sovereign in the storm, even if now we may not believe it ourselves. It may take some time, and it may hurt along the way, but in the end, I’m sure that what we experience, good and bad and everything in between; will far outweigh our own what ifs and buts. We may ask the question why along the way, and at the end of it all, may still be hesitant at times to jump in with two feet firmly grounded in the hope that God will carry us into the unknown and what He has set before us; but we will still hope, know and realise that God is working, often more during our difficulties than our triumphs.
Two songs come to mind when I’m discussing these layers of themes in this post- Matt Redman’s “Blessed Be Your Name” and Casting Crowns’s “Praise You in the Storm”. Both songs aren’t necessarily new- the former was made in 2002 and the latter in 2005. And herein lies the beauty of it all. A song doesn’t have to be new to be impactful, nor do we always have to listen to new tracks for tracks to impact our lives. We as a culture seem to run through music songs like water, yet sometimes, we can still be impacted in a positive way by songs that are decades old. This is exactly the case with these two songs. With both these songs presenting similar themes, we are reminded through the heartfelt lyrics that regardless of good times and bad, God is still working for our good, and because of that fact and that alone, we will still praise Him. Not because of whether we ‘feel’ it or not, but rather, because His promises are steadfast and true. Feelings can change, yet as we see in these two songs, God is still faithful. What we ‘feel’ is not indicative of what God really is in that moment. Nevertheless, we still find it hard to declare God’s faithfulness during our storms. Yet what I reckon these two songs ought to give us, if nothing else; is a great reminder, that ‘…I lift my eyes unto the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth…’ (“Praise You in the Storm”), all the while being presented with the fact that the same God who takes things away from us gives it too, and that if things are taken away, it is because something else better is coming along. It is in that light that we can declare- ‘…my heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be your name…’ (“Blessed Be Your Name”).
As I finish this post, may I remind you all- to always remember God’s faithfulness; even during the times where it looks like a Job moment. Because God is faithful, period. Out of that we live, fearless, not of what is to come, but because that there’s nothing we can or can’t do that’ll diminish His love for His creation. Living to the full is a lifelong quest and journey, and ought to be taken with courage, hope and comfort, in all its facets. The loss, the hopefulness, the hurt, pain and encouragement, the moments we fail and the moments we triumph are all part of the life we lead. Do we at times often wonder whether life would be easier and simpler if all the bad things didn’t happen? Sure. Yet to be alive and to experience good and bad is what makes us know and realise that everything we experience and everything we do, is used and shaped by God for His glory. It is with this revelation that we stand up on our feet on Sunday mornings to declare songs like “Blessed Be Your Name” and “Praise You In the Storm”. Sure they are older than the songs you may sing currently on a Sunday, but the truths within these songs are ever more prominent and poignant as many others.
Which songs, like these two, have impacted you throughout your life? Are you living to the fullest? Do you truly believe that God is working through all circumstances for our good? Let us know in the comments. Til next time!