As we approach the turn of a calendar, perhaps you feel the weight of a long year. Maybe these lengthy winter nights epitomize the emotional darkness of your days.
“Afflicted saint, to Christ draw near”, you may read hopelessly for the pall of exhaustion that envelopes the way to him. Yet these very words offer light on the path, for even in writing to you I have sung them.
God has graciously given songs, especially the book of Psalms, to his people as aids in communing with him. Certainly, many anthems are authored on great days of victory (e.g., Ps 92), yet many of the psalms were written for times of distress (e.g., Ps 130).
After being betrayed, beaten, and crucified, Jesus Christ demonstrated the power of songs as expressions of prayerful trust in weakness (Matt 26:47-27:56). While bearing the unimaginable burden of the sins of all who would believe in him, Jesus uttered the words of a psalm he had likely sung in synagogue year after year (Matt 27:46).
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Ps 22:1). Christ intended the meaning of the entirety of this psalm from the cross in the same way that the first line of the hymn above alluded to the promises proclaimed in its remainder:
“Afflicted saint, to Christ draw near,
Your Savior’s gracious promise hear;
His faithful Word you can believe:
That as your days your strength shall be.”
Long before Christ cried out this psalm on the cross, God had promised to take away his judgements against his people, to strengthen them in weakness, and to sing victoriously over them (Zeph 3:14-17). When Christ was resurrected and glorified, he sent the Spirit to those who trust Christ’s finished work, which fulfilled his promise to be in the midst of his people, now the church.
Perhaps, like me, your weariness is sometimes heightened by singing the anthems of this world. Let us forsake exalting unattainable wealth, security, and romance in song. Rather, let us exalt the One who has finished the work we could never have completed. Even in our weariness, let Paul and Silas, who sang hymns in prison after being tortured, serve as our examples (Acts 16:25).
If you are a Christian, your exultant praise of God follows after what he will loudly sing over you as a member of his church, his blood-bought bride, when Christ returns victoriously.
“So, sing with joy, afflicted one;
The battle’s fierce, but the victory’s won!
God shall supply all that you need;
Yes, as your days your strength shall be.”
(John Fawcett, 1782; Constance Dever, 2018)
Singing with you,
A Member of Citylight