Singing Is the Language of Joy

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Youth for Christ, Sri Lanka

In a recent season of prayer, I realized that I had become quite overwhelmed by the challenges and disappointments I face. I wondered, Am I really helping those whom I am counseling and mentoring?

I was remembering the many failures I have had in my ministry. I live daily with the question as to whether my attempt to get Christians in Sri Lanka to derive all their behavior from the Bible is a losing battle. I also struggle with my own weaknesses that hinder me from being an effective servant of God. I ask myself, Is it time for me to relax and enjoy a restful retirement?

I realized I needed to get back to focusing on the most important things in life. So, I decided to switch from intercession to praise, and I went to the piano to sing some hymns.

Injections of Truth

About every two weeks or so, I spend my prayer time praising God through singing hymns. I took my favorite hymnbook and proceeded to sing at the piano.

I randomly started off in a section of songs rejoicing in the security we have in Christ, and the Lord began to minister to me. I kept getting injections of biblical truth through these songs:

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.
Be still, my soul; your best, your heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
–Katharina von Schlegel

Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace,
Over all victorious, in its bright increase;
Perfect, yet it floweth fuller every day,
Perfect, yet it groweth deeper all the way.
–Frances R. Havergal

Peace, perfect peace—
In this dark world of sin?
The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.
–Edward H. Bickersteth

No one understands like Jesus;
He’s a Friend beyond compare.
Meet Him at the throne of mercy;
He is waiting for You there.
No one understands like Jesus
When the days are dark and grim.
No one is so near, so dear as Jesus;
Cast Your every care on Him.
–John W. Peterson

Fairest Lord Jesus! Ruler of all nature!
O thou of God and man the Son!
Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honour,
Thou my soul’s glory, joy and crown!

Jesus is wonderful — so wonderful that all our challenges, disappointments, and weaknesses pale into insignificance. So wonderful that our hearts leap for joy over him.

Always, yes always, the main fact that influences our attitude is Jesus. And he is the same yesterday, today, and forever. No wonder singing is so important to Christianity. John Wesley said, “Singing is as much the language of holy joy, as praying is of holy desire.”

We are on a journey that will culminate in the consummation of the wonderful salvation we experience here and now. We look forward with eager anticipation to the day we will see Jesus. But until then we remain joyful because the one we will see face to face one day is already overwhelmingly wonderful to us.

My heart can sing when I pause to remember
A heartache here is but a stepping stone
Along a trail that’s winding always upward,
This troubled world is not my final home.

But until then my heart will go on singing,
Until then with joy I’ll carry on,
Until the day my eyes behold the city,
Until the day God calls me home.
–Stuart Hamblen

Is this escapism? Are we avoiding our problems by focusing on Jesus when we are disappointed, rather than focusing on the problem itself? No! We are preparing ourselves to face the problems with the right attitude. When the peace of Christ does not rule in our hearts (Colossians 3:15), we act in ungodly ways.

  • We can panic, resulting in foolish reactions.
  • We can compromise, resulting in disobedient reactions.
  • We can get too discouraged, resulting in timid reactions.
  • We can become bitter, resulting in ungracious and hurtful reactions.
  • We can be without forgiveness, resulting in a block to experiencing God’s love.
  • We can let problems overwhelm us, resulting in gloomy, joyless attitudes.

But inspired by the vision of Christ, and empowered by his love in our hearts, we persevere in sacrificial service to find godly solutions to the problems we face.

Revel with Me

We are at peace while we do that because the most important thing in our lives is this: Jesus is wonderful. He is bigger than all the challenges we face. He is right there with us, helping us along and giving us his sufficient grace. So, may we remember to stop often from our feverish activity to savor the Lord Jesus Christ and the salvation he has given us, with all its benefits.

Wonderful grace of Jesus,
Greater than all my sin;
How shall my tongue describe it,
Where shall its praise begin?
Taking away my burden,
Setting my spirit free;
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.

Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus,
Deeper than the mighty rolling sea;
Higher than the mountain, sparkling like a fountain,
All-sufficient grace for even me!
Broader than the scope of my transgressions,
Greater far than all my sin and shame;
Oh, magnify the precious Name of Jesus,
Praise His Name!
–Haldor Lillenas

Oh, that we would never move away from a life of childlike reveling in the love of Jesus.

And by the way, the day after that overwhelming morning when God rescued me through song, I felt as if he suddenly impressed upon me an encouraging truth: my failures in ministry are partly responsible for whatever depth there may be in my ministry. Failure drives me to think, to theologize, to confess failure, to battle for the best ways to help people, to battle in earnest prayer, and to battle for patience and, most importantly, to depend on God’s grace.

My failures have taught me so much more than the few successes I may have had along the way.

is the teaching director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka. He served as the ministry’s national director for 35 years. He is the author of eighteen books, including Discipling in a Multicultural World, and lives in Colombo, Sri Lanka, with his wife. They have two adult children and four grandchildren.