What Can Miserable Christians Sing?

Got your attention with that one, didn’t I?

I first heard this provocative question while listening to Mark Dever’s latest audio offering entitled, False Conversions: The Suicide of the Church on the 9Marks website . Good stuff as always from him. You can listen to the audio here.

Honestly, I don’t remember the context in which he brought up the question, the title of an article by Carl Trueman. But it caught my attention because some voices have chirped in my ear lately (more than usual and all well meant) about some aspects of our worship music at OGC. Now we certainly want to be open to feedback about our choices in corporate worship so as do the best we can in coming before the Lord in singing and praise, but I find this an excellent occasion to toot my colleague’s horn in one very important respect.

I appreciate A LOT of things about our chief musician. Among them is the range of emotional identification in the songs he selects that includes lament. I suspect he takes his cue from a number of things in that regard (if you know the man, you know exactly what I mean), but especially the fact that the psalms in Scripture, the Bible’s own hymnbook, consist much of lament, longing, grief, even downright agony. Life is like that. For many, loss and the pain that accompanies it, make up a good bit of their life experience at any given time. What do suffering saints sing then when they come to church? Not that there isn’t room for them to hope in the triumph of the resurrection and the truth of the gospel. But shouldn’t they/we be able to embrace and engage the minor key songs of worship life along with the major, especially when trials assault and afflict?

Trueman argues we should, we must, make room for such as these, especially given psalmody and the nature of its content as well as the consequences of limiting our selections to only the upbeat and happy kind of tunes. He writes:

A diet of unremittingly jolly choruses and hymns inevitably creates an unrealistic horizon of expectation which sees the normative Christian life as one long triumphalist street party — a theologically incorrect and a pastorally disastrous scenario in a world of broken individuals. Has an unconscious belief that Christianity is — or at least should be — all about health, wealth, and happiness silently corrupted the content of our worship? Few Christians in areas where the church has been strongest over recent decades — China, Africa, Eastern Europe – would regard uninterrupted emotional highs as normal Christian experience.

You can read the rest of his article here.

Believers mired in misery must grow to be sorrowful yet always rejoicing (2 Cor. 6:10) to be sure. Jesus promises us His brand of joy independent of circumstances as we abide in Him (John 15:11).

But the Man of Sorrows who wept in the face of great grief (John 11:35) must have sung from the Psalter and entered into lament when the seasons of life warranted it.

And so must we.

4 responses

  1. Thank you!
    Grateful for a pastor and a chief musician who assemble their respective presentations with sober-mindedness.

  2. Too many so-called worshipers are bound to a very distinct sound, pattern, or theology of music that does not encompass the entirety of worshiping God. I am very glad to be at a church which attempts to have everything point back to God, and then recognizes the entire counsel of Scripture when looking at God! Artlessness in worship eventually leads to an unhealthy and incomplete view of God. While I think we do great on this, that is also why it is important to be constantly available for refining. Good work all the way around!

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