I grew up attending a little Baptist church in Paducah KY singing hymns like “When We All Get To Heaven” and “Blessed Assurance” every Sunday.
Then when I was about 12 years old a guy showed up with a guitar teaching us songs that were verses from the Psalms like “Thy loving kindness is better than life” and “His banner over me is love” set to music. In recent years I’ve loved having great worship songs like “I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever” and “Open The Eyes Of My Heart” to proclaim together with my brothers and sisters with our voices and hands raised. I’ve always loved singing songs about and to God…songs that help us declare and remember what is true.
But in May of 2008, when we walked through the “valley of the shadow of death” as our youngest daughter went to be with Jesus, something happened in my heart that caused songs of declaration and particularly the Psalms to become something very different to me.
As I began to try to take the first steps with this new unthinkable weight on my shoulders and this devastating sadness in my heart I felt like I was sinking into a “black hole” of grief, confusion and pain. And so I made a decision in that moment and many moments that would follow…I took what felt like might be my last breath and I sang, whispered and sometimes screamed, “Blessed be the name of the Lord…you give, you take away…blessed be Your name.” Then I’d sing “It is well with my soul.” Even though nothing in my circumstances at the moment seemed “well” I chose to believe and declare that what God said was true, that He is God and He is good. And as I did I literally felt like God’s hand was pulling me back up and away from the “black hole” of fear and hopelessness, breathing oxygen back into my lungs and hope back into my heart.
Over and over, I’ve had to repeat this process…declaring, “I will trust you and I will praise you God.” I began to see the Psalms in a new light and realize that so many of the life giving declarations found there actually follow a deep time of confusion and pain. Psalm 13 is one of many places where David cries out to God, “How long, O Lord” and then in the next breath declares, “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord.” Romans 4:20,21 tells us that Abraham grew in his faith AS he gave glory to God, fully convinced that He was able to do what He had promised. His faith grew as he engaged his heart in worship, believing what God had promised. He worshipped and believed!
These songs have come from my own experience of the life-giving and heart-saving power of declaring and proclaiming the truth of God’s goodness, love, power and sovereignty. My hope is that many will find in these songs the promises and truths of God’s word that they can anchor their hearts to, and declare when the gentle breezes are blowing as well as when the tsunami waves and hurricane force winds are raging.
God is God, He is good, He has conquered death and the grave, He has taken away our sin, His word is alive and true, and we belong to Him…
So with every breath that He gives us, let us Worship and Believe!