how can all be well? (the lullaby of thanks)

The Syrian conflict continues; violence in Iraq escalates; instances of council tax arrears in the UK have risen by 77% in the last year; adult social care services are in crisis. In just one year a friend can lose her baby; there can be long-term illness in your family and you can have your heart broken. And the list goes on… hundreds of stories of disappointment, loneliness, violence… how can it ever all be well?

 lullaby of thanks

We’ve mentioned before on this blog that one of the questions the Sanctuary’s core team often get asked is how do we cope with looking at so much brokenness all day every day.

Do we get discouraged? And we’ve answered many times to people – and here – that no, overall we don’t.

This isn’t because we’ve got used to our daily trawl through the headlines.

We’re more affected now than we were when we started out on this journey.

The more we understand, the deeper the sadness and horror. The more we pray for an issue, nation or individual – the more we write and sing about it to help others connect – the more invested we become in it. It becomes our ‘unanswered prayer’ that the suffering continues.

To ‘cope’ with the emotions would be inappropriate. The heart of God never becomes de-sensitised to pain.

The short answer to why we don’t get discouraged is of course that we are too encouraged to be able to give up, turn around or feel overwhelmed.

And how can we be encouraged while the headlines and personal storylines keep piling up darkness or disappointment?

So many ways. Because our God is an encourager.

Today, this was the element of his character in focus and at morning worship, a small group of us discussed all the topline ways that we are strengthened on a daily basis to keep standing; keep praying; keep lamenting; keep hoping; keep creating; keep sharing the gospel; keep acting for justing; keep living by faith…

Here are just a few:

– He does miracles and answers prayers – today – and each of us have a growing stack of testimonies to stand on.

– He miraculously changes us and our hearts – so we can live in peace and joy, and make these known, despite the fact that each of us are facing disappointments, struggles, pain and ‘unanswered’ prayer.

– He gives us his Word – in entirety – but also in those special fragments that we have taken to our hearts and written down there.

– He encourages us by returning our focus to Jesus and the inspiration and example to keep going – and keep having the right heart attitude – through anything and everything that comes our way.

– He has made prayer always available to us – so even when we are at the end of ourselves we can tell him that, and bring him all the unbearably heavy burdens we are weighed down by. And when we don’t have the words? We can return to his through the Lord’s prayer and other scriptures… or our spirits can just cry out to him with no words at all.

He has made some of his eternal perspective available to us so we can see the pain will not last forever.

– And he has surrounded us with true community so we are carried with honest crying and laughter while it does.

– He has created melody and inspired so many songs which give courage to our hearts, lift our heads and strengthen our knees to stand, walk and run.

– He has given us his presence to walk with us in the midst of whatever we face – providing the comfort of his voice speaking and/or the peace and joy that come from living with him.

– He surrounds us with creation and life – beauty, vibrancy and activity – which is there reflecting his creativity if we will stop to look and take it in.

He has taught us about his life-giving discipline of thanks – enabling us to turn all these wonderful reflections of his creativity into a bank account of recounting praise which grows and grows in stature, and builds us up even as we pour it out.

Just as we’re doing in this blog now…

But of all these things we discussed today, one thing remained – The lullaby of thanks…

One of our pray-ers shared how each night as she’s tucking her children up in bed she prays for and with them, thanking God for the ocean, the desert, animals, the sound of laughter, the kindness of strangers… just on and on until… sending angels to guard his children while they sleep.

She didn’t realise she was using the ancient discipline of recounting until this morning! But she did know she was trying to build a deeply counter-cultural perspective in her children. And she also knew the effect – hyper though they might be before bed, they are invariably asleep by the end of the prayer… and then through the night.

She is singing over them the lullaby of thanks. And this is how all can be well.

How can all be well? (the lullaby of thanks)

More darkened headlines and straplines and borderlines in dispute,
While leaders sell integrity and lose all their repute
Another chorus line of storylines of the one behind the many
And each ones telling of suffering and disappointed hope or not any
One friend is crying, another lying and the third is dying before her time
And my heart is breaking, world-view shaking in this no-way reason or rhyme

But he has sown so much courage just in today for me to find
His beauty burns new for me as a thousand reflections of him remind
That his cross has done all that needs to be done
And his victory won all that still must be won.
There will be a day when there is no more injustice to mourn
And even today, glimpses of this promise are endlessly, graciously born.
So I list them – the scriptures – that are written deep in me
And again now, I find now, that in front of me again I see
All the miracles I know he’s done in headlines and at home
And the sense even now that we are never once alone.
My phone rings in a call from a friend who’s become family
And her words soothe like arms stretching right around of me.
I kneel and I smile as I remember now to pray
Using his red words and his spirit’s breath so there’s always love to say.
And on knees and feet, with keyboard and comfort I’ll find new strength to be
Part of your answer to the many, the one I stop for and even me.
Now the sunlight steals in and kisses the corner of a book
In which I’ve written a thousand reflections that laugh and dance –  “he is good!
And I can hear it – always hear it – singing over distant islands and hearts right here
The lullaby of thanks that silences my fear.
The lullaby of thanks that settles my soul.
The lullaby of thanks that confirms – Jesus, thank you – all is, and will be, well.

P.S. If you’re interested in the power of recounting and cultivating a heart-attitude of thankfulness, there are many things you could read, including A thousand gifts.

But the best thing you could do would simply be to take up a pen and paper and begin your list… as a song-writer recently wrote, there are ‘ten thousand reasons for my heart to find’ –  It’s amazing what you can walk through with a soft, aching heart when you are feasting on the courage he has put in front of you to discover.

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