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How long to sing this COVID song?

October 15, 2020 | Jim Keena

Life during the COVID era is the pits! We find ourselves stuck in a place we’d rather not be, for longer than we’ve wanted to stay. And to some degree, we’ve all lost something, from the loss of a loved one to the loss of handshakes and hugs. Compounding this sense of loss, there’s no clear end in sight.

Waiting Patiently

So, what do we do when we’re stuck like this? Reading Psalm 40 is a good place to begin. It’s a song written by David, after God lifted him out of a pit.

I waited patiently for the LORD;
     he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
     out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
     and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
     a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the LORD
     and put their trust in him.
— PSALM 40:1–3 (NIV)

When David was stuck in a pit, he did three things, he waited patiently, cried deeply, and sang a new song.

First, he “waited patiently for the Lord” (Psalm 40:1). This type of waiting is neither a passive twiddling of our thumbs nor taking matters into our hands. Waiting patiently, during this pandemic, is actively resting in God’s faithfulness and anticipating his rescue.

Years ago, Andrew Murray wrote a brief meditation titled, “In Time of Trouble Say.” After being stung by harsh criticism and enduring physical pain, he wrote:

In time of trouble, say, First, He brought me here. It is by His will I am in this hard place; in that I will rest.

Next, He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace in this trial to behave as His child.

Then say, He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow.

And last, say, in His good time he can bring me out again. How and when, He knows.

Therefore, say, I am here (1) by God’s appointment, (2) in His keeping, (3) under His training, (4) for His time.

That’s a picture-perfect description of waiting “patiently for the Lord”.

Secondly, David cried deeply. When stuck in the “mud and mire” of a “slimy pit” David cried out and God turned toward him. Verse one reads, “he turned to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1b). David didn’t silently suck it up, he poured out his pent-up pain and confusion.

Praise and Lament

Recently, while out for a walk, I wept. My tears were triggered by the domino effects of the Covid crisis. At the time, I was listening to the song “40” by the rock band U2. Interestingly, the lyrics are nearly verbatim the opening lines of Psalm 40, but its chorus is borrowed from Psalm 6:3, when David asked God, “How long, Lord, how long?” As a result, the verses of U2’s song are praise, but the chorus is a lament. This makes the song so much truer to life, because we too sing both. We sing songs of praise and lament.

The live version of “40” closes with thousands of concertgoers singing “How long…to sing this song?” And as my voice joined theirs, I cried out to the Lord. It was as if I was singing, “How long to sing this Covid song?” It was good to give voice to my sorrow and to know that God heard my cry.

Life After the Pit

Finally, David sang, “a new song…a hymn of praise to our God” (Psalm 40:3). Psalm 40 was written post-pit, after he was rescued. David’s hard times inspired a new song. He developed a newfound perspective from being “lifted out of a slimy pit” and being set “upon a rock” (Psalm 40:2).

And I believe most of us can recall great lessons learned after being stuck in a pit. And while we never want to go through it again, we’re better having been there. We have a new song to sing.

David’s hardships deepened his love for God. And afterward his praise led others to “put their trust in him” (Psalm 40:3).

So, what do we do when we’re stuck? Wait patiently, weep deeply, and sing God’s praise!

Jim Keena

Professor of Pastoral Theology and Church Relations

The Rev. Jim Keena was senior pastor of the Evangelical Free Church of Bozeman from 2008 through early 2020, when he joined the […]

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