Though the blossom on the fruit tree fails

In his opening statement in the Protestant Future debate/conversation last week, Carl Truman made this observation about Christianity in the west, especially in the United States.

Christianity, at least in its traditional, orthodox forms, is about to see itself politically and socially marginalized in America in a way unprecedented in history. Central to this is the way in which same sex marriage has come to function both culturally and legally. Recent judicial rulings and the appropriation of the idioms of the Civil Rights movement have effectively shut down intelligent discussion on the issue in the public square. This will change everything for Christians. It is one thing to be regarded as intellectually foolish for believing in the resurrection of the dead; it is quite another to be regarded as morally dangerous for believing that marriage is to be between one man and one woman. Societies generally tolerate idiots, allowing them to go about their daily business unhindered. Peddlers of hate typically have a harder time. Conservative American Christians must realize not simply that they are no longer kingmakers in election years; they might soon not even be regarded as legitimate members of society in many quarters.

Though this still has a ways to play out, I completely agree with his analysis. And what do times like this call for? Among many other things, they call for the psalter. They call for songs that do not shy away from trial and heartache in the seemingly forsaken land, time, and culture we live in. We’ve had plenty of stadium praise anthems produced in the last decade. As others have pointed out, we need songs of lament and songs of hope that come from a dark place, not a shiny and easy place.

As I’ve been contemplating this over the past week, I’ve been listening to a newer collection of worship music put together by Robin Mark. Many people are familiar with his successful Revival in Belfast album and songs from about 15 years ago, but he’s largely dropped off the map since then. So much so that after extensive Googling, I could not actually find the lyrics online to most of his newer songs. This one in particular, titled ‘At the Dawning’ is an especially good example of what I’m talking about. The chorus draws on Habakkuk 3 and declares trust in God and hope for the future in spite of apparent death around us.

At the dawning of the day
and when evening shadows fade
I’ll raise my song of praise

May you number me among
Those whose faith and hope were strong
and declare your name in trial

For you said these days would soon draw near
when the hearts of men would fade with fear
And you call your servants to stand firm
and gain eternal life

Though the blossom on the fruit tree fails
Though the fields and vines lie barren still
Yet will I rejoice in you oh God
For you are my delight

Hope when the fields are barren around you is something that doesn’t come from worldly wisdom or reasoning. It comes from the Holy Spirit. This is what we have and this is what we can ask for more of when it seems not enough. Things might not be so easy for us as Christians in the west in the coming years, but our hope is in the Lord, not in our own ability to affect change through our resources or cleverness. I think we as evangelicals will need more songs like this.