In certain other genres of Christian music, a steadily growing stream of songs focus on asking questions of God. Why did God permit a tragedy? Why must we go through a trial? Why hasn’t He come back yet? Why does He allow pain and suffering?
In those circles, artist quotes like these are so commonplace that they are cliché: “These songs come from a painfully honest place, an authentic place. Sometimes I don’t have all the answers.”
There is, of course, an element of truth to this. Sometimes we don’t know why tragedies happen. But we know that God knows. We know that God will still work things out for good. We know that death was conquered at Calvary. We know that every day brings us closer to the Second Coming, when this, the last enemy, shall be destroyed. And we know that in these in-between times, the God of the Mountain is still faithful in the valley.
Southern Gospel doesn’t have an unreasonably optimistic view of the world. Our genre’s songwriters are authentic and painfully honest about the trials and tragedies that shake and shape our faith. Yet they don’t stop with questions. They affirm, with Paul in Romans 8:18, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
Southern Gospel songs view the trials of this life through the contexts through which a Christian ought to understand trials—looking back to the Cross, currently to God’s faithfulness, and forward to Heaven.
Let’s look at two recent examples. Brian Free & Assurance’s “Never Walk Alone,” noting especially verse 2:
You came here as a man
I know You understand what it’s like to walk these roads
My problems don’t compare
To that crown You had to wear
Still You take them as Your own
Because of all the blood and tears You shed.
I will never know that kind of loneliness
Your Spirit never leaves me
Even when I’m hurting
I don’t have to bear that burden on my own
You carried all the pain and buried all the shame
When You made that rugged tree Your righteous throne
Because of You, I’ll never walk alone.
Of all the Southern Gospel artists facing severe trials right now, you would have to put the Perrys at the top of the list. Look at the title track of their latest album, Through the Night:
I don’t understand this burden, Lord; how long must it last?
I have prayed and thought that surely, by now, it would have passed
Oh, I know Your joy will come in morning’s light
Still I will praise You through the night while this trial perseveres
I will raise my hands to Heaven and praise You through my tears
‘Cause You are never less than faithful though Your hand is not in sight
So my broken heart will lift its voice and praise You through the night
I have seen Your hands of mercy move a thousand times before
So I can trust that You are working in this trial, Lord…
These lyrics, and hundreds more, are painfully honest. They are authentic. They don’t sugar-coat trials. But they don’t stop there; they also look to the Cross, to God’s faithfulness, and to the promise of the Second Coming.
It is authentic to ask questions. It is not authentic to ignore the answers and the promises Scripture gives.
That is why I love Southern Gospel music.