But not always. In fact, at times I haven't felt like singing.
I have been impatient, frustrated, rebellious, and stamping my feet like a pouting child. I didn't sing a happy song while I walked through some dark and fearsome valley or through some fire or while nearly drowning in some flood. Like the captured people of God who were carried away to Babylon in ancient days, I have sometimes asked how I could be expected to sing when my heart is aching and my tears are flowing. I've “hung my harp on a willow tree” and no song crossed my lips.
Sometimes I've been confused when God is silent to my prayers and seems to overlook my urgent needs. When His hand doesn't seem to be moving on my behalf even when I've called out to Him in desperation. Nevertheless, through long experience, I perceive that God doesn't blow trumpets to announce His plans in advance for the life agenda of His children. He promised that His plans for me are good and not evil, to give me a future and a hope. Without fanfare His plans simply unfold like the petals of a beautiful flower—silently and fragrantly and according to His perfect timing—for His pleasure and for my happiness too. With the patience of His eternal Fatherhood, Abba God has put up with me through the long life He is generously granting me. He comforts and assures me with His eternal, unchanging, unconditional love when I misunderstand His guidance.
Hindsight is revealing. It is as if I were blindfolded and yet walking with my hand in God's hand, trusting Him to guide me over the rough places, avoid the detours, and draw me on to reach His predestined goal. In my latter years I haven't wanted to keep walking uphill; it is too tiring. My feet drag and my energy flags.
I've even suggested to the Lord that it might be time for me to retire. But His loving silence seems to remind me that "retire" rhymes with "reach higher!" He always encourages me to press on the Upward Way, to desire More, to stretch my spirit, to seek to draw closer to Him.
Looking in life's rear view mirror now, I'm beginning to understand how all the experiences the Lord brought me through were meant to position me step by step into the place and circumstances in which I find myself now at the summit of my life. I would never have dreamed where God's guidance would take me, but it has been all good!
A hymn familiar to me from my youthful years as a Christian by Fanny J. Crosby, the famous songwriter of a past century, expresses it well:
“All the way my Savior leads me; What have I to ask beside? Can I doubt His tender mercy, Who thru life has been my Guide? Heavenly peace, divinest comfort, Here by faith in Him to dwell! For I know what-e’er befall me, Jesus doeth all things well...This my song through endless ages: Jesus led me all the way!”
When I first sang that song as a teenager looking down the misty and idealistic corridors of time to seemingly endless years of unknown adventures, I could not imagine what “all the way” and “what-e’er befall me” could involve. With youthful trust I simply put my hand in the hand of Jesus to “lead me all the way.” He has been faithful! He has never left me or forsaken me. Now at the summit of life with the mature trust of years, I put my hand in the hand of Jesus to “lead me the rest of the way.”
And that is a good reason to “take my harp off the willow tree” and sing!