This unusual time of lock downs and staying clear of each other has caused us all to do some thinking about the good old days. The days of hugs and handshakes, eating out, buffets and potlucks, going to church together, singing, seeing grandchildren, celebrating special occasions, and enjoying the everyday events, have all but disappeared.
We long for life to ‘get back to normal’ … in the face of hearing some of the “experts” say this is the ‘new normal.’ They say it will never be like it was. However, that’s what they said about the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic…no more concerts, no more church, no more schools, or dances,….no more fun. (Google ‘Spanish flu headlines,’ and you will think you’re reading today’s media.)
About the time we start to see ‘normal’ out there on the horizon, along comes social unrest to accompany social distance. We witness violence, fires, graffiti, and destruction in nearly every city. There is an attempt to dismantle much of the structure, history, and culture of our country. It’s a bit like sawing off the limb we are sitting on. We definitely need to improve areas of society, but tearing down and burning it all doesn’t seem to be a very effective way to accomplish that.
It is very tempting to look back, or look forward, and wish away the “unpleasant present.” We may think that the time to praise God should be put on hold. Maybe when things settle down, we’ll begin to praise again. For now, we just ask for health and safety as we all hunker down and try to survive. I recently saw that the use of the word ‘unprecedented’ is itself unprecedented. It’s easy to believe that this is all unprecedented. However if we interviewed Christians who lived (and died) during past pandemics, or riots, or persecution, they might not agree.
The Apostle Paul, encouraged us to rejoice continually. He wrote those words while he waited in prison…to be executed. Think about Roman prison cells for a moment or two. Running water? Toilets? Electric lights? TV? Probably not. Paul was telling believers (and himself) that we should rejoice right now, not after the problems are solved.
One of the songs that the East Valley Chorale has been singing for the past year is the familiar hymn, “My Jesus, I Love Thee.” The lyrics of this hymn were written by William Featherstone, a teenager. He wrote the song in 1864 (right in the middle of the US Civil War.) It was the only hymn he wrote…in fact he died prior to his 27th birthday. I couldn’t find the cause of his death. But, given that he was so young, it’s probably safe to assume it was a bit unusual. He didn’t write any other hymns.
Here are the third and fourth verses of the song:
I’ll love Thee in life and I will love Thee in death.
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath.
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
“If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus ’tis now.”
In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright.
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow,
“If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus ’tis now.”
Notice that both verses relate to what’s on his brow….death-dew, or a glittering crown. That’s certainly at both ends of the spectrum of experience. (By the way, if you read the second verse, it also refers to a brow—Jesus’ brow wearing a crown of thorns.) Each of the four verses ends with the exact same phrase…”my Jesus, ‘tis now.”
Featherstone concluded that, regardless of the situation, the time to express our love for the Lord is right now. From the start of our walk with the Lord, right through our last breath, we are to love Him.
May we each express our love for Jesus daily. We should not wait until things get better, when there is no more sickness, and no more unrest, and we’re all singing again.
Let’s praise Him right now. It’s the only time we can be sure about.
1 I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
2 Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.
Sandra Rodriguez says
Wonderful article with great insight on how calamity and doom cycles. God is not surprised nor perplexed! We will praise Him in and through all things and trust Him. Thank you, Bruce.
Thanks, Sandra. I’m so glad that God is not surprised or purplexed…you’re exactly right. Yes, let’s praise Him now, as you said.
Ben Livesay says
Thank you for the uplifting, encouraging message. The time is now to praise the Lord. Praise Him today and every day, no matter the situation you are facing. For He is worthy to be praised. Amen
It’s tempting for me to wait for a better day. Yes, He is worthy to be praised…right now. Thanks, Meghan.
Well said Bruce. Thank you! God is always in the present and always worthy of our praise! He tells us to give thanks in all things and thanksgiving is a powerful spiritual weapon against the evil one!
dianne darke says
Thank you Bruce for sharing your thoughts. The words you said were very true. I was also greatly inspired by the newspaper articles that formed the background for your article. It’s so easy to think that life will never return to normal….and will we ever have church and singing again. But when you realize that 100 years ago, exactly the same situation was faced, and people and the world recovered, then you realize that Ecclesiastes Chapter 1, verse 9 is so relevant “What has been done, will be again; what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun”. One day, we will return to “normal”, and will sing God’s praises in church and in choirs.
Dottie Rogers says
What a great reminder. Saints through the ages have witnessed to the Lord’s faithfulness, and many have left us their testimony in song. Thanks for sharing this one.
Bruce Cochran says
Thanks, Dottie for taking the time to read and respond. You’re exactly right. Many of the hymns we enjoy were written in the midst of difficult situations.