Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. James 5v13
I like this Scripture because it is so realistic: James was always so practical. It is when we are happy that we want to sing, not when we are sad! I felt guilty in church for many years about ‘not feeling like it’, particularly because I was trained as a worship leader to make the choice to praise God ‘because He is worth it’ and to bring that ‘sacrifice of praise’ especially if it seemed to cost me everything to do so. I know for many years I encouraged others to put aside their own feelings, stand up and ‘enter in’, with the resulting judgements passed if anyone went against the flow! Of course it is true that praise – even just lifting up your voice, taking a deep breath and simply singing something – does make you feel better. And the Lord is so gracious He will come and meet us as we activate our wills and attempt to put aside our feelings and fears, engage with the Spirit and draw near to Him. A corporate time of worship is one of the most encouraging things there is… as long as you do ‘enter in’! As my husband always says, “the Holy Spirit only goes back three rows”, ie the keen ones at the front are the ones who get the benefit!
So, I don’t deny what I was taught, that praise does help us ‘enter into His courts’ (a Scriptural principle!), see His greatness and love and open us up to His touch. But I am grateful that I also now know, as on a card a friend sent me some years ago, that ‘God loves us when we sing – and when we don’t sing’.
When we are in trouble, yes James, we can pray, cry, groan, beseech – and rest in love and mercy. When peace comes and hope again starts to rise at the answers and the grace that are given from heaven, the sight and touch of God that turns our ‘mourning into dancing’, the gifts and blessings that make life happy – then let’s use the outlet James prescribes for our joy, to bring the thanks and glory to the Giver and Comforter, ‘declaring the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light’ (1 Peter 2v9). Out of personal faith, peace and wellbeing the grateful song can truly rise from our hearts, a true testimony and witness of His salvation – and not just a song up on the overhead that was someone else’s experience and expression written down 10 years ago!
I waited patiently for the Lord, He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me up out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord” Psalm 40v1-3
Today I’ll be at the piano again, not fumbling my way through beginners pieces, but this time using the (very loud!) instrument of my voice, something I can actually do! I’m having my first singing lesson for a few months and its ‘proper’ singing: I’m learning operatic arias and loving it! I’ve been silent (silenced?) for months: after years of leading others I lost my song. Just like David (just 2 psalms after the quote above) I well remember when I used to lead the procession to the house of God, but I’ve been through a long season of pouring out my soul in tears and sighs. So just singing again – singing anything! – has been a relief and blessing, an expression of life and creativity.
You know, I think I may even pick up my dust-covered guitar again soon and try that new song that is beginning to rise in my spirit…