Better than a hallelujah?
Amy Grant recorded a song a few years ago written by Sarah Hart and Chapin Hartford titled “Better Than a Hallelujah.” In the chorus she sings, “We pour out our miseries, God just hears a melody. Beautiful the mess we are, the honest cries of breaking hearts are better than a hallelujah.” Throughout Scripture God has told us we will experience hurt and pain, the result of living in a world that has been scarred by sin. He has also promised to sustain us in the midst of it all. Through his prophet Isaiah he proclaims to us:
“But now, this is what the Lord says – he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.’”
Because of his presence with us, we will be kept in the midst of what troubles us. We will not be kept from troubles, but our hearts will be kept in peace by God who will be present with us in and through it all. Do these promises of God’s presence keeping us mean we skip through life carefree and happy all the days of our life? No. Do those of us who feel the sting of life in a fallen world and grieve and long for the perfection of the kingdom somehow have a deficient experience of God’s peace? No.
There is a sense of incompleteness that makes us long for the fullness of God’s kingdom to finally break in upon us and bring total healing. We experience God’s peace now as we take a posture of faith, the posture of heart that fully grasps the reality of God’s peace, God’s presence, yet longs for the fullness of his kingdom to come.
King David models this posture of faith for us in the 13th Psalm, where he begins by crying out, “How long, o Lord? Will you forget me forever?” As he wrestles through the troubles he faces, and God’s apparent absence, his faith in God’s promised presence with him enables him to conclude the psalm with, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.” As one author says, “The life of the psalms is messy life where pain and joy, self-knowledge and self-doubt, love and hatred, trust and suspicion break in upon one another, overlapping and competing for our attention.”
Better than a Hallelujah? Yes! Our loving heavenly Father longs to hear whatever is on our heart. No pretense in his presence. He delights in the posture of faith that does not have all the answers, but trusts his promises and longs for the arrival of his perfect kingdom. “We pour out our miseries, God just hears a melody. Beautiful the mess we are, the honest cries of breaking hearts are better than a hallelujah.”