In the Adkins household, we are besotted with Sandra McCracken’s music, especially her two hymn albums The Builder and Architect (2005) and In Feast or Fallow (2010).  (Check out Sandra’s hymnody website:  http://www.newoldhymns.com/.)

I could gush about so many tracks from these albums; “Thy Mercy, My God,” “The Love of Christ,” “Sovereign Grace,” “New Wonders” and “980 Anne Steele” are some of my favorites.

One very meaningful contribution to the church is “Eighty-eight” from In Feast or Fallow.  Sandra wrote the song after reflecting on Psalm 88.

Rains, how they fall
On the righteous and the wicked
Without reason that my eyes can see.
And grace, how it falls
As it will, as He wills it
Without counsel, as he wills it, free.

For the good
Hurts so bad, pain and tears are my food

Lord how long, Oh how long
Will you hide from me?
Will you hide from me?
Will you hide?

Several months ago, a very gifted brother at my church took upon himself the difficult task of preaching Psalm 88.  It’s often classified as a lament psalm, in which the psalmist expresses his anguish to God.

Psalm 88 is unique among lament psalms, in that it lacks a resolution.  So often, laments in scripture will conclude with a reminder of God’s faithfulness or an exhortation to rejoice in God.  Psalm 88 shows that sorrow has legitimacy in the complex of Christian emotions.

Sandra McCracken is right:  “honest joy and honest grief are both recorded in the prayers of God’s people throughout church history.”

But, is honest grief a characteristic of the church in the West?

If the art we produce and consume is admitted as evidence, we would concede that honest grief is rarely part of the conversation in evangelical circles.

So few examples of honest grief exist in the contemporary Christian music marketplace.  I really appreciate the exceptions to this trend, including Mark Schultz’s “He’s My Son.”

I fear that this generation’s hymn writers are too disinterested in honest grief.  What will be the impact on evangelicals who are immersed in strictly contemporary worship formats?  Will we be a generation of Christians who gloss over grief under the aegis of “trading our sorrows”?

Sandra’s comments are well-worth our attention:  “We need to speak honest prayers to God, which can be heard over the nice-ness and theological tidiness of our church culture.”

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