The Value of Hymns in Faith and Life

My three-year-old granddaughter recently discovered a rarely opened cabinet in the basement and explored in wonder. She noticed pictures of fairy tale characters, animals, and animated objects she recognized, but when she opened the cases she found only shiny round disks.

“What are these, Nana?,” she asked with curiosity. She had no idea what a DVD was.

In our on-demand world, we hardly use them any more. The same can be said for cassette tapes. I can recall painstakingly recording my favorite songs onto cassettes for use in my car. Now, I just hit “liked songs” on an app and get the music I want instantly. I no longer own a cassette tape player and have gotten rid of all those “mix tapes.”

Those cassettes were filled with hymns, many of which I memorized by singing them repeatedly. I still love the songs they contained–songs that take me back to a time when the lyrics seemed to be written for just what I was going through. Somehow, they seem to apply to my situation today as well.

Hymns have an enduring quality that lift my eyes to see that Christ is as near to me today as He has been in the past. I love how current artists are recording hymns, sometimes with an added chorus or different tune, but still containing those timeless truths.

We could make a game of it, couldn’t we? “Name that Hymn” could provide just a line or two of a lyric and the contestant would have to name the hymn it came from. Try it now (answers below):

  1. “The waves and wind still know his voice who ruled them while he dwelt below”
  2. “I am finding out the greatness of thy loving heart”
  3. “’Tis an ocean full of blessing, ’tis a haven giving rest!”
  4. “And as He stands in victory sin’s curse has lost its grip on me”

Perhaps you have tunes running through your mind after reading just a line of the song. And often it’s linked to a memory of how that song met you and lifted your drooping head or hands.

In Songs of Suffering: 25 Hymns and Devotions for Weary Soul by Joni Eareckson Tada, Keith and Kristyn Getty write:

“Throughout the Bible and throughout the history of good hymnody, we see that the songs and singing of the church are essential to all of life. They are the sound of our future. They gather in and they send out. They search the soul and they lift up. They teach the word and shape our prayers. They give courage to fight and guide toward green pastures for rest. They are deep wells and high mountaintops. They are a place to bring our children.”

Psalm 96:2 also says, “Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day” (ESV, emphasis mine). These hymns can help us wade through the trenches of this life and press on with faithfulness until we reach the end.

It is no coincidence that Jesus found refuge in Psalms—Israel’s hymnbook—even as He suffered on the cross. How do we know that? He quoted from the Psalter as He was taking His last breaths. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” is from Psalm 22. “Into your hand I commit my spirit” is from Psalm 31.

As Jesus quoted a line from these hymns, we can imagine how it brought to mind the rest of the psalm both to Himself and all those watching His passion. Psalm 31 says,

In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;
    let me never be put to shame;
    in your righteousness deliver me!
Incline your ear to me;
    rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me,
    a strong fortress to save me!

For you are my rock and my fortress;
    and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;
you take me out of the net they have hidden for me,
    for you are my refuge.

Into your hand I commit my spirit;
    you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

We can picture Jesus’s bloodied body and strained breathing as He prayed these hymns and took refuge in the Father while He was laying down His life for His people.

How can we follow in Christ’s example, entrusting ourselves to the Father’s care? Even in the face of great affliction or adversity we can sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19)!

Joni Eareckson Tada is known for singing hymns. On Haven Today this week, she is featured singing, “Jesus, I am Resting, Resting,” with the Haven Quartet. The recording was made several years ago, and though her voice is not as strong today, her confidence in “the greatness of God’s loving heart” has not dimmed.

In her recent book Songs of Suffering, Joni writes of the strength and hope she has found in singing hymns as she has lived with quadriplegia for more than half a century.

“The song must possess enough spiritual muscle to barge into my soul and shake awake a hopeful response. It must be a hymn whose lyrics raise me onto a different plane spiritually; it must summon in me the emotional wherewithal to remember my situation in life so that I can rise above my circumstances. A well-crafted song of suffering–filled with truths about life and God–has the power to do that. It grinds biblical truth into our souls, like a pestle grinding powder in a crucible.”

I hope you will enjoy hearing hymns sung by the Haven Quartet and learning about some of the stories related to those hymns this week on Haven Today. It might feel like pulling out a mix tape of old favorites, or they may be completely new to you. For all of us, I hope they lift our hearts and cause our mouths to overflow in song, “Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever” (Ps. 118:1). And no surprise–we will be singing songs of praise to God in heaven (Rev. 4:8-11, 5:9-14: 7:10-12; 11:15-18; 12:10-12; 15:3-4; 16:5-7; 19:5-8)!!

Answers:
1. Be Still My Soul
2. Jesus, I am Resting, Resting
3. O, The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus
4. In Christ Alone


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kate Sunday has been a pastor’s wife and women’s Bible study leader in the western suburbs of Chicago for over thirty years. Her husband, David, is a teaching pastor at New Covenant Bible Church and President of WordPartners. She has three adult children (two are married and her youngest is getting married this month) and one sweet granddaughter. Kate is currently a student at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon, working on a Master of Arts in Ministry and Leadership.


All About Jesus Hymns (CD)

A good hymn has the power to catch your ear, warm your heart, and fill your soul with truths about God and His Word. Haven’s 90th anniversary album All About Jesus Hymns seeks to inspire this through foundational anthems of the Christian faith, including “Softly & Tenderly,” “How Great Thou Art,” “I Surrender All,” and more.

Allow the familiar voices of Steve Ragsdale, Paul Sandberg, Truitt Ford, and other vocalists through the years to lead you to Jesus in a deeply personal way. This hand-selected collection brings together 20 of the Haven Quartet’s greatest recordings in a new 90th anniversary album that includes a commemorative booklet on Haven’s rich legacy from 1934 to the present day.

This commemorative album includes an accompanying booklet featuring the rich history of Haven Ministries! Go back in time with photos of First Mate Bob, the Haven Quartet, Charles Morris, and more.


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