Music has always had a special way of speaking to the depths of my being. Something about the heartfelt lyrics penned by the saints of old who have gone on before leads me to stop dead in my tracks and hear their words new each time. No matter what season I am walking through, dry or fruitful, I am encouraged.
I think what makes them most gripping is the fact that the words come from a deeper pain or sorrow that they have experienced or walked through during their walk with Jesus.
For example, Horatio Spafford’s “It is Well With My Soul” was birthed from a complete tragedy when he lost his youngest child to pneumonia and in the same year lost most of his business due to the Chicago fire of 1871, and then, to make things worse, he lost the rest of his four beloved children at sea. Yeah, he lost a whole lot and still, he sang praises to God and had enough faith to say, It is Well With My Soul.
Wow, oh that we would have similar faith to stand strong in the midst of our trials and remember that though we may be “hard pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down” because of the great power and love of Jesus Christ we are “not crushed, not in despair, not abandoned, nor destroyed” but rather we are carrying the life that Christ gave us when He championed our hearts at Calvary, proclaiming victory over every sin and every trial we ever endure (2 Corinthians 4:8-12).
Furthermore, I want to take a moment to be real and raw with you. You and I both know that it is so much harder said than done to live in this victory. As our assignments pile up, family tragedies surprise us, or a relationship that means the world to us takes a negative turn, we suddenly forget that we have access to complete peace. Our natural response is to puff our chest up and say ‘I’ve got this’ but no sooner than we say this: do we realize we actually have no control over the situation and in reality when we try to fix things ourselves, there is a downward spiral of chaos.
This has been my story over the last month. Situation after situation where I am faced with a heavy burden or complicated trial, and time after time, instead of asking God for help, I load up my packsack across my shoulders, and though it continues to create raw blisters upon my neck, I add to the burden. I throw in another task, another assignment, another weight that I know I cannot weather alone, but I place it upon my shoulders nevertheless. I trek along my path, just barely making it and I raise my fist up to the sky upset that God has given me such a heavy load. Bitterness plants its roots deep in my soul making me feel alone and left out to dry. I cry out, “Where are you, God? I thought you were supposed to take the yoke of my burden? And here I am crushed under the weight of them instead.”
Can you relate?
How foolish I am, how shallow my faith, that I would be as bold to challenge the truth that God does not see me in my anguish or that He doesn’t long to transfer the weight off my shoulders onto His. We humans are so prone to wander into the thought that we can do it alone and that we need nothing or no one to help us out. Our pride and insecurities lead us into the trap of self-reliance. They lead us away from the fact that Jesus accepts us just as we are, broken and needing of a Savior.
The words of Charlotte Elliot in her hymn, “Just As I Am” remind me of a great truth. She writes, “Just as I am, though tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt; Fightings within, and fears without, O Lamb of God, I come, I come!”
She is honest in her inability to do life without Jesus. We should be just as quick to recognize our utter dependence upon Jesus and His wonder-working power.
Rest in His promise that says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
So take heart, friends. You can come to Christ with your blistered back and lay all the weight at His feet. Let Him mend your heart. Come to Him with your emptiness expecting to be filled. Though guilty and sinful, Christ welcomes you with wide open arms, just as you are.
words and photo by Joy Johnston