I have had the song "On the Willows" from the musical Godspell stuck in my head for days now. A verse in my current Bible Study, The Way of Discernment, made me think of it, though once I fully recalled the song, it was unrelated to the verse I was reading.
The lyrics are:
"On the willows there, we hung up our lyres
For our captors there required
Of us songs and our tormentors mirth,
Saying, 'Sing us one of the songs of Zion.'
But how can we sing, sing the Lord's song in a foreign land?"
This song is taken from Psalm 137. Over and over again, the Hebrew people were placed in captivity in other lands. We find the Babylonians demanding joyful singing from the Hebrews, but they refused and hung their instruments on the surrounding trees instead.
I wonder if the Babylonians were drawn at all to the faith of God's people. What made them ask for singing? Was it for their own entertainment? Were the Babylonians mocking them? Did they want to know more about Zion? Did the Hebrews miss out on an opportunity for evangelism by refusing?
In a way we are all in a foreign land. We were made for heaven, not for this world full of pain, oppression, and hunger. But aren't we supposed to sing anyway? I know in my darkest of moments, it was music of worship that provide the greatest sense of peace and a vision for my next steps. Music also helps us remember our history, our covenents with God, His words to us. Music is one of our greatest teaching tools. I'm not saying it's always easy, but some of my most meaningful experiences with God have come when I am knealt before Him, offering what I can.
We are at a place in our story where there is a lot of uncertainty. We don't know what will become of our jobs, our security, or our nation. I think it is essential that we continue to sing even through our pain.