Recently, I learned some devastating news about a dear friend while Bethany Dillon’s song Hallelujah was playing in the background. As I listened to the lyrics, I found myself choking back tears. In the song, Bethany Dillon sings Whatever’s in front of me help me to sing to hallelujah. I don’t know about you, but when trials come along my first thought is not always to sing hallelujah. I could pretend to be a perfect Christian and say that when life knocks me in the teeth my immediate response is always to praise God. But let’s be honest, I’m not perfect and that is not always my first reaction. Sometimes my first reaction is to feel angry, scared, disappointed, sad…you name it.
Dictionary.com defines hallelujah as “a shout of joy, praise, or gratitude” and “an exclamation of praise to God.” If you think about it, most people associate this exclamation of praise and thanksgiving with a response to something good. But the idea of maintaining this attitude and posture of praise no matter the circumstance seems to go against our human nature and requires a great deal more of faith, maturity, and optimism on our part.
When you take something away from a toddler that they really want, how often do they look up at you and say, “Thank you so much. You are the shiz-nit!”? Unless you have an angel disguised as a child, the answer is probably never. Instead, they are much more likely to throw a tantrum and shed some tears. They don’t stop and think: My parent loves me more than anything in this world and they have a plan that is bigger and better than anything I can imagine; therefore, I’m going to respond with a heart of gratitude because I know they are all-loving, no matter how much I want this toy right now… (Side note: if your kid does respond this way, then I will gladly babysit any time you like!) The truth is that their little toddler mind only sees what they want in that moment. They have no thought of a wider perspective, a bigger picture, or a greater purpose.
How often are we like that toddler? How many times would we rather throw a pity party, complain and only see the negative in things? Judging by what I often see around me (be it on people’s Facebook statuses or in conversations), I think the answer is that people choose that route way too often. But what would happen if we chose to sing hallelujah instead? What if, like Bethany Dillon’s lyrics, we genuinely asked God to help us sing hallelujah no matter what we were facing?
Disclaimer: I do NOT think this type of response means suppressing our emotions or pretending to be fine. For years, I thought that’s what this meant and that’s a big part of how I ended up with an eating disorder. Instead, I think that we can be real with God about what are feeling and still make the choice to praise him, no matter the circumstance. This is one of the things that I love about Psalms. This book of the Bible is filled with writings by David in which he lays out the raw emotions of his suffering, wrestles with difficult life questions, and still chooses to praise God through it all.
So why would I still choose to praise God in the most difficult moments of life, during those times when it seems the absolute worst has happened, on the days when all I might feel like doing is collapsing into a ball of tears? The answer lies in what he has already done for me, what he has already done for you, and the promise that resides in his love. Christ suffered unbearable pain, went to the depths of the grave, and conquered death so that we could have a glorious ending to our painful stories. He promises that one day every tear will be wiped away and that death and sickness will be no more. In the meantime, he calls us to hold steadfast to his love while he vows to carry us through even the darkest storms.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared… I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.‘ And the one sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!’…”– Revelation 21: 1-5
For this reason I will choose to sing hallelujah.
(Song & lyrics can be found at https://kims88.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/hallelujah-bethany-dillon/)