One of the biggest lies that we could believe as Christians is that we will not have dark days. Having a God who is bigger than we could imagine, trusting in His good and sovereign plan, and looking toward His heavenly home does not mean that we can avoid the effects of sin and brokenness in this earthly home. The truth is, we are sad. We grieve. We face disappointment. We bring about failure. We are in pain. We suffer—just like every other human being on the earth.
But what are we to do with all of the sadness and brokenness?
Perhaps, how we respond to suffering is a marker of the Christian life, and of a sincere faith in Jesus. I have grown to love old hymns for how openly and honestly they deal with the entirety of the Christian walk. They are raw. They are gut-wrenching. They do not only sing of God’s love and His praises, but they unleash some of the most human emotions, struggles, and sufferings. They encompass fully what it means to be a Christian—to sin, to struggle, to suffer, and to sing of our Savior and Redeemer in the midst of it all.
Recently, my church has sung an old eighteenth century hymn called “Be Still, My Soul.” Just as I have been reflecting on these questions of suffering and brokenness in the Christian life, the lyrics of this old song have brought a new taste of assurance and comfort, the promises of our good God. Take a look at the lyrics with me.
Be still, my soul, the Lord is on your side
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain
Leave to your God to order and provide
In every change He faithful will remain
In the midst of sin and pain, we are to still our souls. We are to bear the burdens with patience, in the model of our Jesus who took everything on the cross, who suffered more than we could imagine to set us free from our own suffering. We are to leave our worries, our cares, and our sorrows to the God who is sovereign over them, and who is always, always faithful.
Be still, my soul, your God will undertake
To guide the future as He has the past
Your hope, your confidence, let nothing shake
All now mysterious shall be bright at last
Our souls can be still because God is the one at work in our lives, and even in our suffering, to make a way for us every day—every day that has already gone and every day to come. We are to be ever and always confident in our God, for our hope in Him is something solid and sure, even though our understanding may fall short this side of heaven.
Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in the vale of tears
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart
Who comes to soothe your sorrows and your fears
Be still, my soul, your Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away
Even facing the reality of our deepest fear—even in death—we are reminded of the love of God, who sees our suffering and wipes those tears. The Lord takes our fears and our sadness from us, and it is in the darkest valleys that we come to know most sweetly His love and care. The Lord himself is greater than anything in this life we might lose. Be still, our souls.
Be still, my soul, the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored
The most glorious promise of them all—that one day all suffering and pain will be no more in eternity. We can struggle to bear the weight of suffering now, in this earthly life, to become more like Jesus, as we look toward and hope for the day when all is made right.
Hymns like this one are endlessly beautiful for how they sing so truly our emotions and still reflect to us the very promises of Scripture. Each one of the truths sung here is promised to us over and over in God’s good word, and this same refrain, be still, is sprinkled throughout the Psalms.
We are continually reminded that in the midst of life’s sufferings and sadness, we can let our souls be still. But that doesn’t mean it will be easy. We are free to grieve. We are free to struggle. We are free to grapple with the reality of brokenness. But in it all, we are not left to handle it on our own. Instead, we can bring it all to the Lord, leave it at His feet, and rest. And we can be still, knowing that we are in His good and strong hands.