Even Christians Sing the Blues3
"And I'm so happy, so very happy
I've got the love of Jesus in my heart..."
"It was there by faith I received my sight
And now I am happy all the day!"
Did you grow up singing songs in church about how happy you were? I recall singing such songs when I was younger, and I remember feeling a genuine sense of happiness. After all, I was surrounded by friends and family, my belly was full, my heart was content, and there was nothing to make me doubt what the Bible was telling me.
At some point in life, that changes. For many of us, even with a sincere faith we cannot honestly say that we are "happy all the day." Even if we worship in a context that uses upbeat music with positive words that lift our spirits, the emotional high eventually wears off. Sometimes we feel like we're on the outside looking in, wondering why everyone else is "So happy, so very happy." It might even be enough to cause us to question our assurance of salvation. "If I don't feel happy with Jesus," we wonder, "do I even have Jesus at all?"
Perhaps we need a different songbook.
In studying the Psalms with some of my brothers at TCPC, we have noticed that many of the Psalms (and we've only gone through the first 13 of them!) start out on a note of sadness. "How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever (Psalm 13:1)?" "Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble (Psalm 10:1)?" "I am weary with my moaning, every night I flood my bed with tears (Psalm 6:6)." These are not the Psalms we decoratively cross-stitch and display in our living room. These are not the verses that make it onto bookmarks and greeting cards. And sadly, these are not words we usually include in our worship.
The Psalms were the songbook of ancient Israel, inspired and given by God to his people to direct their thoughts of him. God's people in the Old Testament worshiped him, singing their joys and singing his triumphs. But, led by the Spirit, they also sang their anger, their frustration, their confusion, and their sadness. Worship helps us see our sadness and fear resolve into salvation at God's hand. In worship we remind ourselves that God is faithful. In worship, we are reminded that our security is not founded on feeling secure. In worship, we are challenged to rejoice, even if joy is an act of faith.
Does that mean we should stop singing happy songs? By no means. On Sunday morning, I stand shoulder to shoulder with my brothers and sisters and uphold the command to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). And there will be weeks where I ask a happy brother to mourn with me in song. And there will be weeks where a sister who is grieving will share in my joy as we sing together. And that is what honest worship looks like in a community that believes and lives out the gospel.