A friend of mine died of cancer on Monday morning. She was 24 years old.
There is something wrong with this world.
We know it, deep in our souls. When we see a 24-year-old young woman on hospice care, we know it. When we hear of refugee children drowning in the Mediterranean Sea as they try to find a safe home, we know it. When a marriage falls apart, when a child dies, when a man is beaten on the street—something inside us says, “This isn’t how it is supposed to be.”
Everything is broken.
It’s one of the basic truths we learn in Morph. This world was created by a loving, just Creator God. And it was good. And then, when sin entered the world, and death through sin, everything was broken.
Weeks like this, I see it.
2014 was labeled “the year of outrage” by Slate magazine. I keep thinking that 2015 should be labeled the year of lament. It’s not just personal loss that I’m facing. Everywhere I look I seem to see the brokenness of the world playing itself out at the cost of human life. And there are moments when the broken state of the world threatens to overwhelm me.
God gave me a good memory. Words that were planted in it many, many years ago still rumble around in it. My parents helped fill it with good words, true words. Scripture memorization in my home started when we were quite young. I attended AWANA and learned even more passages. When we lived in Hong Kong for a year, my mom built memorization into my homeschool curriculum, psalms and poems and songs. I participated in Bible quizzing in middle school, stuffing even more good truths deep into the recesses of my memory. I’ve had a long chapter of scripture printed out and sitting in my car for the past five years, and I regularly turn to it, trying to commit it to my memory—which is no longer quite as sticky as it was when I was in elementary school. Beyond Scripture, I’ve also got the lyrics of songs (if you put it to music, I will likely never forget it) jammed in on top.
When I begin to feel overwhelmed by the brokenness of the world, it is the words stuffed into my brain over all the years that rise to the surface. The words of scripture voice my lament, and they remind me of the eternal truths that stand outside of my experience. And the lyrics of songwriters who speak to my soul echo the truths I remember from scripture.
“My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, ‘My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.’ Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:17-23)
Well sometimes my life
Just don’t make sense at all
When the mountains look so big
And my faith just seems so small
So hold me, Jesus, ’cause I’m shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace
-Rich Mullins, “Hold me Jesus”
“I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.” (Ps. 121:1-2)
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” (Zeph. 3:17)
And we kneel in the water
The sons and the daughters
And we hold our hearts before us
And we look to the distance
And raise our resistance
In the face of the forces
Gathered against us
And we dream in the night
Of a king and a kingdom
Where joy writes the songs
And the innocent sing them
-Andrew Peterson, “Carry the Fire”
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (Jn. 11:25-26)
I can’t sleep
There’s too much weighing on my mind
But there’s a bird out there
Still singing in the dead of night
Like it knows there’s a season
When the sun’s gonna set
But the story isn’t over yet.
-Andy Gullahorn “Grand Canyon”
“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:54-55)
“He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Is. 2:4)
I look around and see the world and the truth we learned in Morph, that everything is broken, seems obvious. But there is another truth we learned in that study: that this world was created and called “good” and it has been and is being redeemed, bit by bit, promise by promise. And one day, it will be restored—the promises of redemption finally consummated.
And when I remember that, one more song comes rolling through my memory:
Don’t you ever wonder why
In spite of all that’s wrong here
There’s still so much that goes so right
And beauty abounds?…
Now I can see the world is charged
It’s glimmering with promises
Written in a script of stars
Dripping from prophets’ lips
’Cause I can see it in the seas of wheat
I can feel it when the horses run
It’s howling in the snowy peaks
It’s blazing in the midnight sun
Just behind a veil of wind
A million angels waiting in the wings
A swirling storm of cherubim
Making ready for the Reckoning
Oh, how long, how long?
Oh, sing on, sing on
-Andrew Peterson, “Don’t You Want to Thank Someone”