Sunday, August 28, 2022

"Grace for every trial"

Today Amazon delivered Joni Eareckson Tada's Songs of Suffering. It is a beautifully produced book from Crossway. I've barely begun it. But I have read Joni's "Before You Begin":
My Song in Suffering

I have lived with quadriplegia for more than half a century and have wrestled with chronic pain for much of that time. I struggle with breathing problems and am in an ongoing battle against cancer. All this makes for a perfect storm for discouragement.

Yet when my hip and back are frozen in pain, or it's simply another weary day of plain paralysis, I strengthen myself with Jesus's example in the upper room. My suffering Savior has taught me to always choose a song—a song that fortifies my faith against discouragement and breathes hope into my heart. And so I daily take up my cross to the tune of a hymn.

But not just any tune or lyrics. The song must possess enough spiritual muscle to barge into my soul and shake awake a hopeful response. It must be a hymn whose lyrics raise me onto a different plane spiritually; it must summon in me the emotional wherewithal to remember my station in life so that I can rise above my circumstances. A well-crafted song of suffering—filled with truths about life and God—has power to do that. It grinds biblical truth into our souls, like a pestle grinding powder in a crucible.

Singing songs of suffering is not an option for Christ-followers. It is not a mere invitation. When Christians in Colossae were struggling to survive under the reign of the madman Nero, Paul ordered them, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly...singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God" (Col. 3:16). When the Ephesians were being persecuted and threatened with torture, Paul commanded them to encourage "one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart" (Eph. 5:19). Paul himself takes his own advice when—bloodied, bruised, and shackled in jail—he boisterously sings a hymn at midnight, proving that spiritual songs can provide powerful ammunition for embattled Christians! (Acts 16:25).

Life is war. I wake up every morning feeling besieged by various afflictions. Nevertheless, I see myself in the choir of Levites who marched onto the battlefield in front of Jehoshaphat's troops, singing, "Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever" (2 Chron. 20:21-22).

In the morning, I tune my heart with a hymn. And at night when pain keeps me awake, when I cannot reposition myself and I don't want to bother my husband a third time, when my mind is so foggy I can barely put two sentences together in prayer, I lean on Scripture. But I also lean on stanzas of great hymns I've memorized over the years.
All the way my Savior leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread;
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me on the living Bread.
When my weary soul may falter,
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo, a Spring of joy I see!
Joni Eareckson Tada, Songs of Suffering: 25 Hymns and Devotions for Weary Souls, Crossway, 2022.

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