A few weeks ago I was introduced to the word ‘Earworm’. It sounds like a medical condition (and maybe there is such a thing!) but the context in which this word was used was actually a musical condition.
According to Wikipedia an earworm is…
“…a piece of music that sticks in one’s mind so that one seems to hear it, even when it is not being played…”
I wonder what the phrase is for when you can’t get a lyric from a song out of your head?
A few weeks ago during our Sunday morning worship service, we sang one of the most famous hymns in recent church history; namely, ‘What a friend we have in Jesus!’. It’s a hymn Annie and I know by heart; in fact, many times around our meal table we have sung the first verse as our means of giving thanks – and the more people we have around the table, the more opportunity for manifold harmonies! It’s a hymn in which we would say we are ‘well versed’. But as the Lord is teaching Annie and I more about His Sovereignty in recent months, one line of that hymn sticks in our mind like an earworm. And not unlike an earthworm, which enriches the soil, we have found that this one little earworm has really helped enrich our understanding of an aspect of God’s sovereignty.
‘…O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear…’
If God is completely in control and has a plan for our lives (indeed a plan for all mankind) that cannot be thwarted (Job 42:2) neither by sin, mistakes, bad judgement, sickness, tragedy, the devil’s schemes or anything else at all either that we do or someone else does to us, then what good or difference does our active involvement (e.g. in prayer, in bible study, in obedience of His Word) make?
Well, as that earworm reminds me, it makes a huge difference!
It doesn’t make a difference to God’s plan (His plan cannot be thwarted!) but it makes a huge difference to my experience of that plan; it’s the difference between me experiencing or forfeiting peace and needless pain.
Jesus said that following Him would be difficult. He taught it, He demonstrated it, He told His followers to expect it and endure it with strength and hope that He would give:
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” – Matthew 16:24
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
And His followers believed it, experienced it and taught it too:
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. – 1 Peter 4:12
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, – James 1:2
For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have. – Philippians 2:29,30
So, as Christians, pain and persecution, are par for the course (so to speak) that God’s plan accommodates and uses for our good. But there is such a thing as ‘unnecessary’ pain. There are times when as Christians we forfeit peace and instead take on pain which is quite frankly, needless.
Here’s my simple way of trying to explain that and bear in mind, like me, it’s a work in progress!
Imagine (or recall) a single significant event or time period in your life in which God takes (or took) you – for the sake of keeping this generic – from point A in His plan for you to point B. There could be a lifetime or a decade between the two points, a day or just an hour. If you had the ability to rewind that period and experience it twice – the first time where you neglected prayer and God’s Word on the journey and the second time where you were dependent on it – you’d always arrive at point B; but one of those journeys would have forfeited God’s peace and added needless pain, the second would have endured the journey – however difficult – with incredible experiences of His peace, without needless pain and resulted in greater glory to God. And just imagine the very different outlook and perspective you would have for the next leg of the journey (point B to point C!) depending on how you travelled point A to point B!
Like any illustration, I am sure this one falls short in some way (feel free to comment!), but there is a sense in which it encapsulates at least something of what that hymn writer was saying. God is in supreme control irrespective of our active cooperation; but our active cooperation is what will make the difference between peace and needless pain.
This has given Annie and I a wonderfully practical and liberating framework in which to traverse between points in our journey with the Lord. It’s heightened our passion for prayer and God’s Word. It’s like heavenly music in our ears as we walk the hard road of this broken and fallen world. The soundtrack of our lives right now is that God is Sovereign!
There’s a point A and a point B in every day – probably in every hour! It’s good to come before the Lord each day and say to Him:
“Lord, we don’t know where point B is going to end up today but we know You do. We also know that we don’t want to traverse it with needless pain; we don’t want to forfeit a moment of peace. Please keep us close to You. Give us a greater desire to pray in all things and to listen to Your voice today more than any other voice in our lives. Please give us the desire to trust and obey You. Thank You for the wonderful truth that as we do this, not only will we experience greater peace in place of needless pain, but You will also receive greater glory!”
Yours, somewhere in between point A and point B but with Jesus,