Theology in a New Key: “Held”

June 13, 2017
Natalie Grant’s song “Held” (written by Christa Nicole Wells) has always held a special place in my heart. In this haunting ballad, Grant takes her listeners inside the agonizing emotional and spiritual struggles that accompany loss. It opens with the following punch to our collective solar plexus.

Two months is too little
They let him go
They had no sudden healing
To think that Providence would
Take a child from his mother while she prays
Is appalling

Never could I have imagined that my wife and I would be thrust into a tragedy that is all too similar to these words. And never did I imagine that we would find so many walking the same road that we now walk.

No grief on earth is like a mother’s grief. Nothing even comes close—except the grief of a father. In those moments, we find that our grief is compounded by inner turmoil that it almost inevitably produces. On the one hand, we know intellectually that we live in this world, that this world is broken, and that its brokenness will most likely touch us in some way. On the other hand, we also know that we have sacrificed a lot to follow Jesus. It seems “unfair” that we “who have died to live” should have to endure this pain, too. Why shouldn’t “we be saved from nightmares?”

It is precisely in the midst of this emotional and spiritual ambiguity that we meet our Savior. Yes, we are safe in the arms of Jesus, but that doesn’t mean what we think it means. Things that are “sacred” to us—perhaps even things that are “sacred” to God—will be torn from our lives. And, yet, we will “survive.” Why? Because God loves us and is holding us together.

This promise, profound though it is, is not good enough for some. It is not hard to understand why. No one, not even God, can promise to right all the wrongs and soothe all the pains of this life. When that fact becomes crystal clear to us, it is all too easy to look elsewhere for something to numb the pain we feel—and that something is often “bitterness.”

But turning to bitterness actually keeps us from finding the hope and the healing that we are longing for. If we persist in our faith—if we cry out to God in our desperation and lay before Him the anguish of our hearts—then we receive two precious gifts. First, God opens our eyes to all the good that is around us and that is still part of our lives. Second, God opens our eyes to the future. God reminds us that we will not always be mired in the morass of grief. Rather we will see the transforming power of God bringing beauty out of what was brokenness.

It seems appropriate that we close our time together this week with more words from “Held.” They are hard words, but I think that they are worth the difficulty, for in them I think we find the heart of the New Testament’s message on suffering.

If hope is born of suffering
If this is only the beginning
Can we not wait for one hour watching for our Savior?

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