Our biggest sale! 50% off your PLUS subscription. Use code SUMMER

It Isn't Always Salvation I'm Singing About

Originally published Tuesday, 11 December 2012.

Music is in every inch of my life. In the car, in the kitchen, in the stillness and the movement, there is always music of some kind. Sometimes it’s an iPod and sometimes it’s the rhythmic drumming of my husband’s hands on the kitchen table or my son’s small fingers on the walls of his bedroom. Everywhere we go, we tend to create our own soundtrack.

I always have the radio on while I’m driving. My kids have grown so accustomed to one specific station, that when I go rogue, to avoid songs or DJs I don’t care for, they bust me on the change and are quick to voice their protests. “Turn it back to our station!” they plead in unison from the back of the van. They know every sound the station produces, right down to the call letters that the eighteen-month-old (who speaks about ten words total) can sing along with. It’s always surprised me how quickly their small ears notice when they no longer recognize the songs and sounds of “their” station. Sometimes it’s amusing and endearing. At other times, I’ll admit, it’s downright annoying.

The Tunes I Sing Matter.

I need to treat my feelings and my thought-life like a radio station, guarding against station changes as dogmatically as my children do. But rather than guarding my mind and taking every thought captive, I mentally check out and stop listening to the soundtrack. Unexpected trials sneak in unnoticed and wear down my defenses. Before I can regroup, I cave under the overwhelming pressures of my own reactive thoughts and feelings. My meditations turn from truthful songs of hope and joy found in Christ, to a constant stream of melancholy melodies.

I sing the same song the Israelites sang back in the book of Exodus as they wandered in the desert. After God faithfully delivered them from slavery, parted the Red Sea allowing them to pass through, and provided manna to eat, they still moaned and complained over the blessings they didn’t have. “Oh that we were back in Egypt” they griped.

As I despair- inside my head or on the phone to my friends, I take an active step away from faith and towards discontentment. Knowing Jesus and believing the gospel won’t keep my unchecked emotions from waging war on the peace God promises me. As stress increases and peace vanishes, my heart hardens and turns cold toward God. My songs of rejoicing all but disappear.

God Commands Me To Sing.

God is familiar with grumbling and complaining. Over and over throughout the Old and New Testaments he commands his people to sing a new song, to praise his name, and to rejoice. Sometimes I just need a wake-up call, jerking me back into reality like children screaming from the backseat. “Change the station! Sing a new song!” 

Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!

Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.

Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!

For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.

For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens.

Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. -Psalm 96:1-6 

When I’m feeling underwhelmed by the gospel, it’s this psalm that reaches through the pages of my Bible and punches me with the conviction of the Holy Spirit, right in my selfish face. I need this type of radical intervention when the songs I’m singing aren’t the new song of Christ’s atoning work on the cross. No trial is large enough to take my eyes off the glorious gift of Christ’s righteousness.

What do I do when I don’t feel like singing?

If the gospel is indeed good news, and I’ve received it, then shouldn’t my emotions and behavior reflect the great truth I’m confessing? If my beliefs and my behavior don’t match up, I must examine whether or not my heart has ever been truly captured by the glory of the Lord and his marvelous works of salvation through Jesus Christ. Or, have I been merely feigning love for my Creator all along?

Whether I’m tempted to cry out like the Israelites or I’m confessing ambivalence to the Lord, I begin by begging him to help me love him more. I am honest about my disinterest in reading his word and obeying his commands. I ask him to change my heart until I love and delight in reading and responding to every word from Genesis through Revelation. I want to sing the new song of the gospel, but I need the continuing work of the Holy Spirit to do so.

When I am desperate to feel the Lord’s presence and my earnest desire is to worship him through heartfelt rejoicing, I continue to pray and seek him through the reading of scripture. These verses become my constant prayer:

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.

He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, 

and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.

He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. 

Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.”

-Psalm 40:1-3

Confessing my need for God’s mercy and rescue exposes deep layers of the self-reliance and pride I’ve worked to conceal. May God continue to lovingly reveal when my hope is not in the cross, but in my good reputation, my wisdom or knowledge, or my feeble attempts at holiness. Come Lord Jesus and remind me of the guilt and shame you’ve rescued me from. Fill me with gratitude for the salvation I’ve received. When the songs I sing are fraught with discontent, may I run to Christ and Christ alone – where my song shall ever be “my only boast is you.”