How Shall We Sing The Lord’s Song In A Foreign Land?

by Kristen Gilles

in Exhortations And Musings

"By His stripes, we are healed" - Isaiah 53. Art by Alan Vales

"By His stripes, we are healed" - Isaiah 53. Art by Alan Vales

How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? I don’t remember reading this verse before, but when I read it this week I was jarred as it so closely reflected the nagging question lingering in my heart for the last few weeks:

By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there we hung up our lyres.
For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors demanded songs of joy, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? — Psalm 137.1-4

I have wondered where the song of the Lord in my heart has gone. I’ve had no desire to sing or play or compose a song. No, I’ve been downtrodden, anxious, afraid, and just like the writer of this Psalm, I’ve found myself tormented and taunted by my enemies seeking to destroy my life. I’m left grieving the loss of better days.

Here I’m unable to silence the constant whisper of my enemy, “Where is your song of joy now, Kristen? Can’t you find a voice to sing in the midst of these trials? Sing a joyful song about your Lord if He is sovereign over your life! Why have you no desire to sing, Kristen? Have you forgotten the Lord’s song?”

And accompanying these taunts are the guilt and shame of having so easily hung up my harp on the banks of Babylon’s waters. Why have I lost hope? Why have I forfeited my song in the night? Why are my lips sealed and my voice indifferent to songs? Why are my fingers frozen, uninspired to make music? And all in the two weeks of preparation for leading worship at our newest campus launch and shortly thereafter at a women’s retreat for another church. Why am I mute and paralyzed?

I am a foreigner here. This world is not my home—I was not made for Babylon. But on this foreign soil, I’ve searched for and found some comfort in what is familiar and constant, at home, at work, in community, at church. And I’ve leaned too heavily upon it. However, in the last few weeks, my constant, comfortable, familiar and predictable world has turned on its head again. And I’m left trying to pick up the pieces and make sense of the brokenness beneath my feet as I face what appears to be the greatest challenge of my life.

But I feel completely out of place, useless, helpless and alone. Yet I’m still a wife, a step-mom, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a co-worker, a songwriter, a worship leader, and most importantly a believer in Christ.

Yes, I still belong to Christ. I may be attacked by Satan, but I am not removed from God’s watchful eye, from his sure grip and faithful care. I may feel like I’m failing in every role I’ve been given, but I’m not forsaken in my failure. I am upheld constantly by God’s unfailing grace at work in me through the life and Spirit of Christ which has overtaken me.

This is the same grace that saved me and called me to new life in Christ. This is the same grace that inspires every song in the night I’ve ever heard and sung. This is the grace that enables my voice to sing and my fingers to play the songs of the Lord. This is the grace that equips me to believe and sing even when I cannot see or understand why I’m in this place of brokenness again. This is the grace that calls me to rely upon Christ’s finished work of redemption on my behalf.

Why shall I sing the Lord’s song in this foreign land?

“I give thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing Your praise; I bow down toward Your holy temple and give thanks to Your name for Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness, for You have exalted above all things Your name and Your word. On the day I called, You answered me; my strength of soul You increased . . .

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You preserve my life; You stretch out Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and Your right hand delivers me. The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not abandon the work of Your hands.” (Psalm 138)

How shall I sing the Lord’s song in this foreign land? My God gives me songs in the night. He gives me a voice to sing and increases the strength of my soul. The Lord IS my strength and my song and He has become my salvation!

Oh Jesus, my Savior, My Song in the Night

The rest for my soul, the strength for my fight

To You, O Lord, in affliction I call

By day my comfort, by night my song

{ 1 comment }

Hannah Smith October 17, 2013 at 9:01 am

Thanks so much for writing this. The Spirit has used these words to encourage my heart that it can rejoice in the promise of the Kingdom that is coming and the Kingdom that is around us. He is so good to us.
“I may feel like I’m failing in every role I’ve been given, but I’m not forsaken in my failure.”

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