Dead Men Don’t Sing
I recently heard a man say that “dead men don’t sing.” Once I got up off the floor from how that hit me like a ton of bricks, I rose reawakened to this truth: Jesus Christ is my living hope, and I am made abundantly alive in Him. It also brought me back to a time a little less than ten years ago, when God first breathed this truth into me.
When I was younger, I sang because I was told I had a good voice. That’s not a bad thing; it didn’t blow me up with pride, but it barely gave me any confidence at all. The first time I ever sang in front of a crowd I nervously sang “My Savior Loves, My Savior Lives,” by Aaron Shust. I found out years later that it was actually a hymn. It reads like this:
I am not skilled to understand
what God has willed, what God has planned;
I only know that at His right hand
is One who is my Savior!
I take Him at His word indeed:
“Christ died for sinners,” this I read;
for in my heart I find a need
of Him to be my Savior!
That He should leave His place on high
and come for sinful man to die,
you count it strange? So once did I,
before I knew my Savior!
And oh, that He fulfilled may see
the travail of His soul in me,
and with His work contented be,
as I with my dear Savior!
Yes, living, dying, let me bring
my strength, my solace from this spring;
that He who lives to be my King
once died to be my Savior.
When I first sang that song, I knew Jesus. I knew His work in my life was real, but I was (and am) a serial doubter. I go day to day with a constant question: “will I be okay?” It’s not a lack of belief that plagues me though; it’s a mindset that believes I know more than the God who says, “For the LORD your God has blessed you in all that you have done; He has known your wanderings through this great wilderness. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you; you have not lacked a thing” (Deuteronomy 2:7). Now, I know I can’t honestly compare my own sufferings to that of the Israelites wandering for forty years in a desert, battling to live, traversing heavy terrain and wrestling with God. But I can say that in my journey of worshiping Jesus, it was all I could do to bring myself to trust Him in the early years. I felt like I had the answers and yet none of them. I knew that I could live in doubt comfortably enough to call myself Christian, even if I was never really sure of who I was.
And it all came to a head at a beach retreat in 2011. I had just led worship, and I left the stage more discouraged than when we started. My faith was shot. It was dead on the floor, bleeding from the heart, and I went outside looking for answers. I had come a long way since “My Savior Loves,” and I was broken by my fears. As I sat at a picnic bench, the warm, summer wind engulfing me with every gust, my soul cried out.
“I don’t understand, Lord! I have sought You, but I haven’t found You. I have done what you have asked. What am I doing wrong? What else can I do? Please, God…”
I sat dejected and numb. I was finished. I had nothing left. I gave of myself in every way imaginable. And still nothing. Nothing saw to it that my soul was satisfied. But then I felt the wind again. It was stronger now, and grew stronger still. And out of the silence, I swear to you, I heard a soundless voice of unmatched serenity say,
“I am here.”
And I came unglued. The locks on my soul that I had so carefully mounted shattered at once. I fell open at my Father’s feet, my doubts spilled all over the floor, covered in His blood that paid the price for my sonship. And I cried. I cried a lot. And even as I type this up, I weep joyfully because of the real truth that I learned that day: that GOD—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—came running after me when all I could do was sit in ashes. He paved a way through the mire of my many compromises. He kept close to me as I wallowed in wages of death. He sheltered me from even bigger storms than those that I entered into, and He etched the road of my awakening with kindness, assuring me that I was not alone. That I was forgiven. That I was free.
And this is why I worship. Because the King of Kings has given me a living, breathing hope. He gave me not only the promise of His second coming—the most prized and beautiful day of all of our lives—but the promise of His everyday coming. I am not alone, and I get to tell Him that with every breath I breathe. And every time I get up to lead worship and stand before a crowd of God’s children—my brothers and sisters—I wonder at the abundance of God’s grace in a sinner’s life like mine, and I wage war against the enemy’s lies to tell His people that He is mighty, that He is here, and that they are not alone.
As long as He breathes on me, I will roar His praises, because I am no dead man. As He travails my soul, cutting down the dead branches with His sword of grace and replacing them with seeds of life, I am reminded of that hymn: that though I cannot understand God’s will or His plan, I know that at His right hand stands the one who is my Savior, my God, and my King. And I can be satisfied in this:
Because of Him, I am alive, I am free, and of this I will sing.