Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.
-James 1:2-3 (NLT)
“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them brought out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves."
-Jesus, Matthew 5:43-45 (The Message)
I’m so frustrated I’M GONNA SING!!! Said no one ever. Except my daughter.
Last Friday my 7 year-old daughter had a day off from school and was with me while I worked from my home office. Sometimes we let our kids use a creative color-by-number app, where they select colors that correspond with a picture and then tap on each tiny section to make something beautiful. They take time to complete, which is the perfect activity when daddy really needs to finish writing a sermon (spoiler: I did not finish the sermon that day).
So she’s sitting in my office on the other chair, quietly giving commentary on literally every. single. thing. she. does. That’s genetic though, so I have no stone to throw. On this particular picture, there were 29 different colors that she had to pick to finish her bird, and dozens of sections for each color. Each unique shade took a couple minutes to complete. And she started singing her way down. All the way down. For like 30 minutes.
At one point the project started to get long and frustrating for her. She made a few mistakes that needed to be corrected. Then all of a sudden she stops and shouts out,
"Agh! I’M NOT GOING TO STOP SINGING TIL I GET IT!!!”
. . . . . .
"...I only only have three left, three left, three leeeeeeeeeft...”
Well, my work came to an abrupt stop, and I think I caught a glimpse of Jesus. That is most definitely not what I would have done to express my frustration. Sing until you get it? Letting off steam by singing my song?
What can we learn here, friends?
What if our perseverance in the midst of frustration sounded more like singing than complaining? What if it sounded more like a melody than a litany of accusations? Sometimes our songs are sad and sometimes they are joyful, but isn’t singing so much better than shouting or complaining?
As Jesus people, we live lives committed to eradicating all that breaks shalom (peace) in our world. That goes for what’s inside each of us as well as what happens in our broken world. And both of those areas can bring anger and frustration on our part when things don’t change like we want them to. It’s especially tough because there will always be broken shalom in us and in our world. We will never reach the ultimate shalom of God on this side of eternity. The task will feel never ending. It can be unbelievably frustrating.
But where is our hope? Jesus walks with us. God is at work to make all things right one day. Therefore, our exhausting work can be pursued with the grace and awareness that God is love and God working with us. We are simply making bricks that will one day be a part of God’s ultimate city. What if we whistled while we worked? What if we lived with the conviction that we were not going to stop singing until we get it? That might just transform us and change how the world sees the people of Jesus. We are working on unfinished pictures. We’re in it for the long haul. There is beauty in the process, not just the final product.
I’m not suggesting there is no place for anger at injustice or brutal honesty during the struggle. But sometimes we act as if there is no reason to be hopeful in our world as we struggle. If our spiritual brothers and sisters could keep singing to God through various generations of slavery, oppression, persecution, and loss, then surely we can recognize God’s goodness today even as we struggle to bring God’s kingdom to bear on earth as it is in heaven.
Don’t stop singing today, even if you’re at the end of your rope. Jesus is with you.
Jesus, help me hear the music even when my heart is heavy.