She lay there frail and motionless. The signs of life were faint. Every so often we could hear a breath struggle to leave her aged body. Her daughter sat in the chair next to her, surrounded by her own children and family, holding her mother’s hand in her own. As some of us from our church gathered in the small Hospice room, we all understood that this would be the last few hours of her life.
What do you say in a time like this? Words are often so inadequate in these types of situations. It’s hard to say anything comforting without sounding trite or shallow.
But we had not come there to speak. We had gathered to sing.
They were songs we had sung often – many of them hundreds of times since we were young. Yet ripped from a Sunday morning pew and placed into the room of a dying woman, these songs gained incredible significance.
We sang hymns about faith, joy, love and the end of our time on earth. We sang about the confidence we have in God’s love and the beautiful life that awaits us on the other side. Tears filled many of our eyes – tears of joy, of pain, of sadness and of fear.
And yet during the songs, the tears would often subside. The songs would quiet our hearts.
After most of our songs, the woman often let out an audible sigh. We joked that it could have been an “Amen”, but it was most likely the emotion and peace that was felt from being sung over in her last hours. Perhaps it was the sound of fear leaving her.
I was reminded of the beautiful words in Zephaniah:
The picture I always had from this verse was of a young mother singing over her baby as she rocked him to sleep. This is a beautiful picture and most likely very appropriate.
But the fears of an infant are not deep. As we age, our fears grow stronger with experience and knowledge. And fear surrounds us near death because of things unknown – the mystery of the afterlife – and things known – our mistakes, failures and regrets.
Death and fear are intrinsically connected. And not just for the one facing death, but for all of those left behind.
From now on, whenever I read this verse, my mind will recall an old woman on her death bed hearing words of love & grace being sung over her.
Most of that chapter in Zephaniah deals with God’s judgement – the scattering of people and the downfall of the proud. It’s a picture worthy of fear. But then this verse comes – God taking delight in us, calming our fears and rejoicing over us with singing.
This doesn’t describe people who are just slipping by judgement or barely making the cut. It is a picture of celebration – of a great father calming the fears and doubts of his children.
“You are worthy. You are beautiful. You made it because you are mine.”
And God sings these things over us. You don’t sing over those you tolerate. You only sing over those you delight in.
God’s songs drive out our doubt and fear.
And that’s what this little band of singers did for their sister in Christ on this night. Our God-songs drove away not only the woman’s doubts and fears, but even our own.
She had run a good race. She had fought the good fight. And it was enough because she was God’s daughter. He still takes delight in her.
So today may your fears and doubts meet their end as you hear the love of God being sung over you with gladness.
Because you are his.
And he delights in you.