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At first, this post is going to seem like a rebuttal to the Proprietor’s recent entry, “All is Not Well.” But things are not always as they seem, which is kind of what this post is about. It’s not so much a rebuttal as a companion piece to Andrew’s beautiful post.
For the Andrew Peterson Christmas Show at the Ryman each year, we regulars get to pick one song to perform for the sold-out crowd in attendance. What a wonderful problem. For me, the process of choosing the song for the Ryman show starts somewhere in March or April, and continues through the sweltering Nashville summer. In 2005, I still hadn’t decided what to sing when my wife Amy and I walked out onto the Ryman stage. I had recently written a song about The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe with Pierce Pettis, and I really wanted to play it, but I also had this new song called “Bluebird” that I thought would be cool. Halfway from the curtain to the microphone, I whispered to Amy, “Bluebird,” capo’d my Taylor and off we went. Turns out, you really want to give your wife more prep-time than that if you’re going to be singing at the Ryman. Live and learn, I hope.
In 2009, I picked my song about two weeks before the event. I had been trying to finish a song I’d worked on all year about Africa, but it wasn’t coming together right and my new song “With Jesus” had recently come together after months of waiting. The chorus of the song sings, “With Jesus, everything is alright.”
It’s harrowing to say and even more-so to sing, especially in the light of deep personal tragedy or global catastrophe like what we are witnessing in Haiti. I wouldn’t recommend it as a slogan for the local church plant, or even as advice to be parceled out to loved ones in times of trouble. But it is as true as “all shall be well”, and it deserves as much attention.
As I was writing the song, the chorus came first, which created a great challenge. I was singing the lyrics before I was sure if I even believed them. But this is how songs get you in trouble. They lead you down paths you’d never have taken and then leave you to find yourself out.
It is true that with Jesus, everything is alright because “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Everything is not happy, nor is everything simple or easy or understandable. But if Jesus is making all things new, and we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, we can call our hearts to rest in Him, for as all shall be well one day, so also is everything in his hands now.
This is important for me to remember because it reminds me that not only is God on the move, but he is here and he is up to something good. He is present and active in the middle of our desperate pain. I can rest because I cannot slip from his grasp, he cannot be distracted from his purpose and he can be trusted to see me through. If, in times of trial, I only ever resort to hoping in the future that heaven holds, I may miss out on the words and purposes God has for me through the present experience of my relationship with him. I may hope for heaven, but my hope is in Christ–and he’s right here.
If my daughter is reading a story and she runs to me, scared by a troubling scene, which statement is more true for me to say:
“Keep reading, sweetheart, it’s going to be OK,”
“It’s OK, sweetheart. Just keep reading.”
Is it going to be alright? Or is it alright now, in the middle of the sorrow and danger? Or is it both.
I know the end of the story, and it is powerful, beautiful, and true.
The lynchpin of the gospel is that Christ himself dwells within his people by His Spirit. His Spirit is called Counselor and Comforter, and those are things that happen in real time – not in the future to come, but right now. Part of the reason “Do not fear” resonates is, we have been given power beyond human comprehension to reflect and glorify the God of the universe today. He is with us, and he is making himself known so that Love will prevail both now and forever.
I wrote this as a companion piece to AP’s post because the Gospel assumes our participation in both perspectives, and I need more than the hope of what is to come to make sense of “give thanks in all circumstances.”
It would be loveless to preach this message via bumper sticker. But in my life, Jesus has used this truth of God’s present grace as a powerful comfort in troubled times.